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Slow down and run faster

Tapering will help you improve your race times

Runners sprint from the starting line at the start of the Run for the Schools races in Iowa City in 2019. This event offers 5K, 10K and half-marathon - plenty of races to try and get that person record. (David Harmantas/freelance)

For many serious runners, fall is “PR season.”

Spring has it’s Drake Relays road races, summer has the Fifth Season 8K, Bix 7 and Midnight Madness. Fall may not have some of those big-time local events, but there are plenty of races every weekend.

Plus you’ve worked in the heat and humidity of July and August and maybe put in some high mileage, too, during some early morning runs when it’s a bit cooler.

Ean Caskey of Lisbon (left) and Brett Rosauer of Iowa City chat during the 2018 RUN CRANDIC marathon as they pass through Swisher on Highway 965. This marathon hopes to return in 2022. (The Gazette)

Now the weather staying cooler, the humidity is easing and those morning runs are more enjoyable and getting easier.

It’s time to race - and race fast.

But how do you get ready to set your “personal record” in a 5K, 10K or even a marathon. Fall is, after all, marathon season for many runners, too.

Here are some tips on how to taper - get the needed rest so you’re ready to race and maybe race faster than ever before.

“Most marathon plans tend to follow the three-week taper, meaning you’ll be running less and recovering more during those final 21 days,” an article in Runner’s World notes. “And for some runners, that just sounds counterintuitive.

Runners depart from the starting line for the inaugural Run CRANDIC Marathon in Cedar Rapids' New Bo neighborhood in 2018. If you’re planning a fall marathon, you should plan on tapering three weeks before the race date. (The Gazette)

“But if you skip the taper, you might just be setting yourself up for some problems, both in the race and for recovery down the line. Here’s everything you need to know about how — and why — to taper for a marathon.”

For many Runner’s World is the bible for training and racing. Here is what they write about getting ready for that marathon:

Week 1 - “The taper begins the day after your last long run of about 20 miles, three weeks before the marathon. The taper starts gradually, because this training still ‘counts,’ and a dramatic drop in workload isn’t necessary yet ... stick with the same basic running schedule you’ve been following, just decrease your total mileage from last week by at least 20 percent. You should also avoid running extremely hilly courses, hill repetitions or speed workouts, which can cause the kind of muscle tissue-damage you want to minimize during your taper ... weekday training should consist of one medium long run of eight to 10 miles, one marathon-goal-pace run of four to six miles, one non-running day, and two runs of three to five miles ... Your weekend long run ... should be a 12- to 14-miler at the same pace — not faster — as the previous week’s 20-miler.”

Week 2 - “You’re halfway between the agony of your last 20-miler and the ecstasy of the marathon. Rest truly replaces training as the most important element of your race preparations ... Your mileage this week should be about half to two-thirds the amount you ran during your highest mileage week. Almost all your running should be slow — about one-and-a-half to two minutes slower than marathon goal pace — except for a two mile run in the middle of a midweek four-miler at marathon goal pace.”

Week 3 - “Beginning on Monday, do no runs longer than four miles. And when you do head out, remember that these jaunts are more for your head than your body, because training has little effect this week. Almost all running should be at one-and-a-half to two minutes per mile slower than marathon goal pace — except a Tuesday two-miler at marathon goal pace, sandwiched by one-mile jogs. ... Three days before the race, run just two to three miles easy. Then, two days before the race, don’t run at all. On the day before the race, jog two miles to take the edge off your pent-up energy so you’ll sleep better that night.”

If a marathon is not in your plans, but faster times are, here are some easy tips for a 5K or 10K from

“Tapering isn't just for marathoners,” the article notes. “In fact, one recent study showed a huge performance benefit when subjects tapered for a 5K.”

5K - “Cut your normal mileage in half the week before your 5K race, but maintain some intensity. Early in the week, run four 400-meter intervals at your 5K goal pace with a 200-meter jog between repeats. Later in the week, jog two miles, then run six or eight 100-meter strides at 90 percent of maximum speed. Run easy the other days.”

10K - “Same as 5K taper, except run your 400-meter repeats at your 10K goal pace.”

Half-marathon - “Start cutting your mileage two weeks before the race. The first week, run 75 percent of your normal mileage; the final week, run 50 percent. The first week, run four 800-meter intervals at your 10K race pace with a 400-meter jog between repeats. The final week, run four 400 meters at 5K race pace with a 200-meter jog between repeats. A few days before the race, jog two miles, then run six to eight 100-meter strides at 90 percent effort.”