Here is an excerpt from Ryan Hall’s book Running with Joy: My Daily Journey to the Marathon where he discusses the importance of tapering leading up to a race. This is a great book if you haven’t read it!!
TAPERING TRAINING INTO RACES
I am always amazed by the difference between what I am able to do in practice and what I am able to do in a race. I may be able to run only two-thirds of the race distance at race pace in practice. What is it about race day that allows me to find that extra third? Race-day excitement helps, but the taper is what makes up for a majority of this distance.
A good rule of thumb is to cut down your total overall volume by at least 25 percent. Andy Gerard, one of my coaches from Stanford, used to tell me that my body was used to a certain amount of volume and intensity of workouts, so rather than completely eliminating workouts, I just needed to scale them back. When I was getting ready for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, instead of running 10 by 1000 meters in a workout, I would run 8 by 1000 meters. This helped keep my legs from going stale before the race, which can often happen with too much rest.
When designing a taper, as with so many other things in running, you may be tempted to think more is better. Training for a marathon, my volume gets very high, so I might reduce my volume as much as 50 percent or more on race week. However, for those running less than 75 miles a week, I recommend experimenting with a 25 percent reduction. Like most aspects of running, the taper is highly individualized and will require some experimentation and tinkering.
Many people completely cut their speed and tempo workouts during their taper, which is exactly the opposite of what they should do. Taper week is a great time to do extra drills and easy strides to get the legs firing. On race week, make sure to continue the workouts you are accustomed to. Just make them shorter.
Tapering presents a huge mental challenge. When I am months away from the year’s biggest race, I picture myself floating through runs and workouts on the last week before the event. These fantasies rarely materialize. To fight the temptation to question my fitness, I remember that the way I feel on a particular workout is not as important as all the training I’ve done in the months before race week.
Excerpt From: Hall, Ryan. “Running with Joy.” Harvest House Publishers. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.