Is tapering necessary?

taper madness

Autumn is prime race season for the northern hemisphere. You can find a marathon every weekend somewhere in the United States from March until October, but during September and October there is probably two and sometimes three to choose from. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, especially runners.

Autumn temperatures are perfect for running. Watching the leaves shift from green to orange, red, and yellow is not something you should miss. Even the earthy smell of the damp earth and newly fallen leaves is wonderful.

Running trails triples this effect and adds the soft spring of the ground along with the sighting of wildlife who venture a little farther down the mountains.

autumn trails

As much as I love this time of year, there is one part of it I struggle with, The Taper. I hate cutting back my miles before a race. I hate it because I’m antsy and feel like I’m the energizer bunny. I hate it because I feel like I’m missing out on one of the greatest times of year to run by cutting my miles back in preparation for a race.

There is a lot of debate about whether or not a taper is necessary especially for shorter distances. I realize “shorter distance” is a relative term so let’s clarify it as distances shorter than what your body can recover from within 24 hours. For some people this will be a 5k or 10k for other this can be as far as a marathon or even a 50 miler.

A ton of research shows the benefits of tapering, however, many ultrarunners clock their fastest times and win races without a taper. Maintaining your regular schedule and reducing the intensity rather than miles could be the happy medium or maybe those ultrarunners are just anomalies. Ultrarunners are crazy anyway, right?

Here is a short video by a cross-country coach who calls the taper into question. Click Here.

I understand the reasons behind tapering and they make logical sense to me. In fact, I’ve always done some type of taper and I advise my runners to taper before events. The only thing I’ve noticed when I do taper is my muscles are not as loose on race day. It takes a little longer to get into the zone.

The only way to settle this matter is to ditch the taper or minimize it. I’m done with my races for this year and will be reeling in the winter with relaxed long distances. Of course, I’ve planned out most of my races for next year, so we will see how it goes and I will keep you posted on the results.

Is there anyone out there who has experimented with not tapering before an event? And if you have at what distances?

Run Happy, Run Free!