The Marathon Series with Tom Hamilton – Tapering

Published: 26 Jun 2023

The Marathon Series with Tom Hamilton – Tapering

Tapering for runners is a crucial period of reduced training leading up to a race. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, tapering is essential for allowing the body to recover and perform at its best on race day. In fact, when done correctly, tapering can improve race performance by approximately 3%. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind tapering and why it is vital for runners to incorporate it into their training regimen.

The Purpose of Tapering

  • Tapering involves gradually reducing training volume and intensity before a race.
  • It allows the body to recover, repair accumulated fatigue, and optimize performance.
  • Tapering helps maintain fitness levels while decreasing the risk of injury.
  • Recommended tapering duration for a marathon is typically 2 weeks, with the most significant reduction in the final week.

Benefits of Tapering

  • Improved Performance: Tapering allows the body to replenish glycogen stores, enhance muscle repair, and optimize neuromuscular coordination, resulting in improved race-day performance.
  • Reduced Fatigue: By decreasing training volume and intensity, tapering helps reduce accumulated fatigue, allowing runners to feel fresher and more energetic on race day.
  • Injury Prevention: Tapering reduces the risk of overuse injuries by providing adequate time for the body to recover and repair damaged tissues.
  • Mental Preparation: Tapering allows runners to mentally recharge, build confidence, and maintain a positive mindset leading up to the race.

Scientific Evidence Supporting Tapering

  • A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a two-week taper significantly improved running performance in trained endurance runners.
  • Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that tapering led to improvements in running economy, oxygen utilization, and race performance in trained distance runners.

Overcoming Tapering Concerns

  • Fear of Losing Fitness: Research indicates that the reduction in training volume during tapering does not lead to significant fitness loss. The body’s adaptive responses to training are well-preserved during this period.
  • Weight Gain and Feeling Sluggish: Proper nutrition, hydration, and maintaining an active lifestyle during tapering can help mitigate any perceived weight gain or sluggishness.
  • Injury Prevention: Tapering reduces the risk of overuse injuries by allowing adequate time for tissue repair and reducing training load.

Tapering is a scientifically supported strategy that plays a vital role in optimizing race performance for runners. By gradually reducing training volume and intensity, runners can recover, repair accumulated fatigue, and achieve peak performance on race day. It is crucial for athletes to trust the tapering process, overcome concerns, and embrace the benefits that come with this important phase of training.


  1. Bosquet, L., Montpetit, J., Arvisais, D., & Mujika, I. (2007). Effects of tapering on performance: A meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(8), 1358-1365.
  2. Mujika, I., Goya, A., Ruiz, E., Grijalba, A., Santisteban, J., & Padilla, S. (2002). Physiological and performance responses to a 6-day taper in middle-distance runners: Influence of training frequency. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 23(5), 367-373.