Personally I would run 8 miles as my long run the week before the HM
Tapering is important in marathon training, not so important for half marathon training. In a marathon there is a danger you can run out of muscle fuel (glucose) and hit the dreaded wall and tapering counter acts this 2-3 weeks before the race. In a HM the danger of hitting the wall is non-existent so tapering isn't necessary. Having said that having a lighter week before a HM race works for me, I feel fresh and ready.
Just don't fret over tapering as a beginner or experienced runner. If you get the mileage under your belt (which it looks like you have) then have a rest week doing lighter mileage the week before you'll be fine.
RicF I totally agree about what you said about elasticity and this is why distance runners and fast runners should think twice before dedicating time to static stretching.
Static stretching makes tendons and muscles more flexible and LESS elastic. The advantage to having stiffness in your legs is that they are more elastic - why is this a good thing?
As the muscles/tendons in your legs are stretched during a run the muscles and tendons snap back, releasing energy like a spring. The more flexible the muscles and tendons become through stretching the less they snap back and so the less energy released
- this is why coaches recognise dynamic stretching as a good thing and not static stretching - dynamic stretching is always done while you are moving and (in the case of running) mimics those running movements rather than stretching tendons and muscles in a static posture.
Another Steve Magness article here explains it far better than I can, but you get the idea. If you keep stretching a piece of elastic, the less it will spring back over time - and you should think of your muscle/tendon as a piece of elastic which releases energy - energy needed for running
Having said all that static stretching can be used for other things - when you get cramp in your calf during a marathon (usually about mile 20 for me) then a minute or two of gentley stretching the calf can be a race-saver (I usually find a curb and do calf raisers) - the thing about static stretching is that if you do it A LOT you are reducing the elasticity of your leg muscles and tendons which is counter-productive if you like to run fast or long distance when you need all the energy you can muster.
So I use static stretches for cramps and sometimes sore calfs etc. But nowadays I don't stretch routinely every day (almost never) and that is key with this issue - don't stretch, stretch stretch because it will do more harm than good!
Vello you absolutely right - dynamic stretching is beneficial as opposed to static stretching. My wifes wrote a page for our site on dynamic stretching which we haven't published yet - it needs editing and stuff but you can have a peek here and let me know what you (all) think. Feedback always welcome:
Have you always done static stretches before your runs?
Not ready to give up on stretching yet, no matter what the experts say?
Then it is safer and more energy efficient to do dynamic running stretches.
By doing dynamic rather than static stretches you won’t be compromising your running efficiency. Also you won’t be leaving yourself open to the risk of short term injury, which research has shown can occur in people who just stopped doing stretches all at once
Another bonus of doing dynamic running stretches rather than static is that they save time because you can do them as you walk or jog slowly during your warm-up (walk for at least 4-5 minutes before you begin stretching)
Always keep in mind not to hold the stretched limb in position - as you would a static stretch - dynamic stretches are done in a continuous movement.
Don’t force the stretches, start slowly and with small movements, then build up momentum as you repeat the reps., this way you will increase your range of movement safely and gradually and avoid injury
A word about warm-ups
Make your warm-up running specific, I know this may seem like a no-brainer but I have seen runners doing all sorts of things to warm-up, things like jumping sideways and skipping on the spot!
Now don’t get me wrong jumping and sidestepping are great… if you are a tennis player, but as a runner you really want to be moving forwards
So the best way for a runner to warm-up is to walk, going from slow to brisk or to jog slowly, this way you warm the specific muscles you will be using when you run
Dynamic running stretches
Here are some dynamic stretches which are running specific for you to include in your warm-up…
Butt kicks – quads and hip flexors
As you walk along during your warm-up bring your back heel up and try to kick your bottom, do 10 reps each side, don’t worry if you your heel doesn’t actually connect with your butt
Speed up to a jog and do 10 more each side
Try to stay leaning forward slightly and bouncing off the balls of your feet as you get faster
Walking high knees – glutes, quads, hips, shoulders and lowerback
As you walk along lift your knee as high as you can and rise up onto the ball of the opposite foot
You can either swing your arms with your elbows at a right angle or you can use your arms to pull your knees in when they reach their highest point, this gives a little extra stretch to the glutes and hips
Do 10 each knee
Running high knees – glutes, quads, hips, shoulders and lower back
Staying on the balls of your feet with your arms swinging and elbows at right angles, run along bringing your knees up high in an exaggerated running motion
Do 20 each knee
Walking lunges – glutes, hamstring, hips and calves
Start as you would going into a normal lunge but carry on forward taking long strides and dipping down into the lunge position
You may find it hard to keep your balance at first but don’t worry this will get easier with practice
If you try barefoot lynn find a nice pavement to run on. When you get to 2-3 mile stage include some rougher/stoney tracks - your feet adapt. Trouble with running on grass is that your foot won't learn how to land properly. If you run on pavement etc. your feet will soon tell you off if you do it wrong - resulting in a softer landing and on the forefoot.
If you choose grass for the sake of getting out there barefoot fair enough but as soon as possible switch to hard smooth surfaces - your bones in your feet become stronger and stronger from the impact a harder surface provides and as long as you are gradual (increasing your distance by no more than 1/8 mile every other run say) your feet will adapt nicely. Same common sense rules apply though, if your calluses are tender after 24 hours back off and don't increase. Same applies to bone aches, if they persist back off until there gone, then increase. I find the best strategy is if your feet are sore a day after a barefoot run either repeat the distance you did last or reduce it until the soreness has gone THEN increase 1/8 mile. (your first barefoot run should be no more than 1/4 mile)
Remember if you try this to do it at the end of a normal run, take things from there