How to taper with two races on the schedule

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Joe asks: I'm training for a marathon in October, but I am also running a half marathon in August. I was wondering how to taper for the half in the midst of my marathon training. The half marathon is a training race, not a goal race, but I still want to make sure I'm not completely flat from marathon mileage. What would you recommend? 

It's good you know your race priorities and recognise the difference between “goal races” and “training races.” Doing a race in the middle of marathon training can be a very good training technique.

This training fatigue simulates the feeling of the last few miles of the marathon and helps you become accustomed to running on tired legs, which builds mental toughness and confidence as well as fitness. 

A half marathon is a great time to do a marathon goal pace run, and if you nail it then it’s a real confidence booster. Practice taking your nutrition and hydration during the race as you will during the marathon, too. Frequent racing helps you develop a prerace routine - like what to eat race morning - and how to deal with race nerves. It’s also nice to have crowd support, aid stations, and a medal when you finish your “training run.”

Even though this half marathon is not your priority race, doing a mini-taper for it should not derail your marathon training. 

Here's your mini-taper plan:

  • Two weekends out from the half, do your longest marathon-training run to date. Keep your weekday mileage the same that week.
  • One weekend out from the half, run six to eight miles to taper.
  • Race week you will run four miles on Tuesday at goal marathon race pace. You can include a warmup and cooldown period, too, but keep total mileage to six miles. Run three miles easy on Thursday, with a short warmup and cooldown for no more than four or five miles. Don’t do anything else until race day.
  • Race Day: 13.1 miles at goal marathon race pace.
  • After the race, assess how you feel to determine your mileage for the upcoming week. Give yourself recovery time as needed. It's okay to keep these weekday runs short and easy. Doing two short, easy-paced runs during the week of three or four miles is adequate the week after the half.
  • The weekend after your race, run six to eight miles at an easy pace as a longer run. Then, the following weekend you should be ready to resume your normal marathon training.