Taper For The London Duathlon 2012

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Muscles of the front of the leg.
Muscles of the front of the leg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, it’s time to start tapering for the 2012 London Duathlon in Richmond Park. That means training less whilst keeping a degree of intensity going. If you do that you WILL go MUCH faster on race day…maybe 22% faster. That’s quite a lot.

Unusually I’ve pasted in an entire page from brianmac.co.uk (good site) rather than giving a link to it. This is because many of you will not follow the link and the information is VERY interesting for those of you about to taper.

My Summary of Brian’s page:

  • Fun distance and shorter – 7-10 day taper
  • All distances 2-3 week taper.
  • Introduce 1-2 additional rest days in your taper
  • Reduce running/cycling mileages to 80% of what it was.
  • Do anticipated race-pace intervals. Or slightly slower if you are a good athlete (as you are more likely to be able to hit true VO2 max intensities).

So with that in mind adjust your final few weeks of training.

Now we also look at the FINAL week immediately before your race. This should be different from what you have been doing. Here’s what I would do with sub-target race pace sessions, where RP=Target Race Pace, note that none of these are intended as brick sessions so you could do run in morning and bike in afternoon to further aid the taper..

Day 6 100% Rest

Day 5 Bike 5×90 sec@RP 3RI

Day 5 Run 5×120 sec@95% RP 3RI

Day 4 Bike 4×90 sec@RP 3RI

Day 4 Run 4×120 sec@95% RP 3RI

Day 3 Bike 3×90 sec@RP 3RI

Day 3 Run 3×120 sec@95% RP 3RI

Day 2 100% REST

Day 1 98% Rest, or very minimal efforts


RI = Rest Interval. 3 minutes OR LONGER to get a full recovery.

Please note that these are what I would do. We are all different. Your taper certainly shouldn’t be much harder than mine. Remember you are aiming to noticeably reduce your training load so if these sessions are at all hard for you recover for longer between intervals or do less of the activity periods. The speed should be right as it is your REALISTIC TARGET RACE SPEED for the end of upcoming race.


Most endurance athletes accept that tapering before a competition is beneficial, but few understand why.


A trial was conducted back in the 1990’s by a group of Canadian researchers at the McMaster University in Ontario (Shepley et al. 1992)[1]. The trial was conducted for a one week period, with a group of experienced endurance athletes who all run approximately 50 miles a week in training. The athletes were split into 3 groups, with each group working a different training program for the week. At the end of the week, the performance improvement for each group was checked.

The results were as follows:

GroupTraining program% reduction intraining
% improvement
1No training100%0%
218 miles (easy running)64%6%
36 miles (500 metres sessions at max effort)88%*** 22% ***

As it can be seen from the table, group 3 achieved the best improvement in their performance (22%). In addition group 3 enjoyed four advantages over the other groups:

  • More glycogen in the leg muscles
  • Increased density of red blood cells
  • Increased blood plasma
  • Increased enzyme activity in their leg muscles

Similar tests have also concluded that as well as achieving the above advantages there is also an improvement in the neural system. The result is that the athlete has an improved ability of a better rested nervous system to control and co-ordinate better rested muscles at faster running speeds. These are all very desirable in an athlete’s preparation for a major competition.


What to do

If your total mileage is less than 50 miles a week and your event is less than one hour then:

  • taper for 7 to 10 days
  • reduce the total mileage by 80%
  • training intensities high interval sessions (90% VO2max)
  • reduce frequency of training by 20%

If your total mileage is greater than 50 miles a week and your event is greater than one hour, then taper for 14 to 20 days otherwise use the same strategy.

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