Ask The Penguin: The Reverse Taper

Dear Penguin

I’ve never seen this one answered:
When I have completed a distance Event like a Marathon or Half-Marathon, following the training plans in your books, at what stage do you go back to training after the 2 or 3 week Rest period is over?

This would really only apply to the weekly long runs but I’ve never been sure what an on-going training distance would be.

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I’m surprised that you haven’t seen this answered. My guess is that there as many answers as there are people answering.

The traditional Rule of Thumb has been that you should take one day off for every mile raced if you’re under 40 years-old and one day off for every kilometer raced if you’re over 40. So, the math for the marathon is to take 4 weeks off if you’re under 40 or 6 weeks off if you’re over 40.

That doesn’t mean you can’t run or cross-train during that time. The thinking was that you need both a physical and mental break at the end of a long training schedule. It still makes sense.

These days, though, with people completing marathons and half marathons more that competing in them, the rules have changed some. I recommend that you do a reverse taper.

If you do your last long run 3 weeks before the event, then the taper goes like this: cut your weekly mileage in half that week, in half again the next week, and in half AGAIN the week before the race. So, on race week you run one-quarter of the mileage of your longest week.

Coming back you just reverse that process. Run the same mileage the week AFTER the race as you did the week BEFORE that race.

After the second week of the reverse taper you can assess how you feel and whether THAT mileage feels about right as maintenance mileage.

I hope this helps.

Waddle on,

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

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The miracle isn’t that I finished.

The miracle is that I had the courage to start.

John “the Penguin” Bingham

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