How To Taper For A Last Minute Race

How To Taper For A Last Minute Race


When I ran that last-minute 10K in May, I started thinking about how to taper for a last-minute race. That is, if I’m even supposed to taper?

Not everyone sets up and plans a race calendar every year.

Most people don’t even train specifically for the races they register for, even when signed up in advance.

And then there are plenty of people who randomly decide to register for a completely last-minute race. Like why not, right? Nothing wrong with that.

In any of the above scenarios, what do you do in the days leading up to a last-minute race or a race you didn’t train to run? Do you taper? Should you limit your mileage? Change what you eat? Take an extra rest day or just do what you normally do?

I immediately asked Laura to talk about this topic because I think it’s an important one to cover, one I have yet to really see it discussed in blog posts or fitness articles.

Sometimes you just want to run a race on a whim, but that doesn’t mean you go into it blind without preparing just a bit in the days leading up, right?

Thanks to Laura for always answering my questions and sharing her expert running coach insight with us here on the blog!

How To Taper For A Last Minute Race

^I used a picture from a last-minute race that I ran a few years ago!

Summer is the season of 5Ks, 10Ks, fun runs, and small local races. The benefit of these races is both their abundance – you can find one almost any weekend – and their availability – you can often register through race morning. You can wait until you know the weather forecast before signing up – but what does that mean for tapering for a race?

Let’s look at how you would taper for a last-minute race. This scenario assumes you decide to run the race the week before you race it, thus leaving you with only a week to sharpen up for peak performance. 

The Shorter the Race, the Shorter the Taper

While marathons usually require a three-week taper and half marathons a two-week taper, the 5K and 10K do not require as much of a taper because of their shorter distance. You can taper down your mileage slightly in just the week leading up to the race and still feel rested and ready to race for your last-minute 5K or 10K. 

With any taper, you do not want to drastically change your routine. Don’t skip runs this week leading up to your race, as that could render you sluggish on race day. Instead, slightly reduce your intensity and volume throughout the week so that you are sharp and race ready come the weekend. 

In terms of volume, this will vary based on your individual fitness, so aim to run slightly less than normal. For example, instead of doing 6 miles, do 4 miles. Keep your final run before the race very short – about 30 minutes – and easy. 

Do a Scaled Workout Earlier in the Week

Rather than doing your normal Tuesday tempo run or track workout, scale back your workout slightly to taper for your upcoming race. The slight reduction in intensity will allow your legs to feel fully recovered by race day without leaving you feeling flat. 

For example, if you normally do a 3 mile tempo run on Tuesdays, scale this workout down to 2 x 1 mile at tempo with a ¼ mile jog in between. Both the reduction in volume of hard running and dividing the work up into shorter intervals reduces the intensity of this workout. You can see more ideas for race week workouts here. 

Minimize Strength Training

The week before a race, scale back your strength training. Skip the heavy weights or demanding Barre workouts and opt for shorter core strength sessions before a race. The extra rest from not strength training will further aid in recovery before the race. Rather than your legs feeling heavy from squats, you will feel an extra pep in your step on race day. 

Don’t Drastically Change Your Diet

There’s no need to carb load or to do a caffeine fast before a 5K or a 10K. Don’t drastically change your diet during the week of a race; eat your normal, nutrient-dense foods. If you are prone to GI distress during this race, this may be an exception to this rule: you might choose to avoid any irritants such as spicy foods or high fiber foods in the couple of days leading up to the race. 

Don’t Compare Your Finish Times

Racing a last-minute race often means your training looks slightly different; you may not have done as much mileage or the same sharpening workouts as you would for a race you planned further in advance. As a result, you may not run a PR – and that’s okay! Don’t compare your race times under different circumstances. Focus on running your best for this day. 

[bctt tweet=”How to taper for a last minute race with tips from @thisrunrecipes #running #run #runner #fitfluential #races #fitness #runchat #runningtips” username=”cookiechrunicle”]

How often do you choose to run last minute races?

What do you do in the week leading up to a last minute race?

Author: The Cookie ChRUNicles

Hi! I'm Meredith. Join me while I run and cook my way through single motherhood. It is always an adventure trying to teach my 12 year old son the benefits of an active lifestyle combined with healthy eating while of course, still leaving room for dessert.

4 thoughts on “How To Taper For A Last Minute Race”

  1. Thank you for having me guest post! I usually tend to plan out my races in advance, but sometimes a last minute race is tempting if I don’t have anything else on my calendar.

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