Tapering for the race is an important final element to a successful training program.
Unfortunately, you can ruin weeks and months of training by not reducing your training enough or by reducing your training too much.
The goal of the taper is to get you to the starting line in the best fitness and the most rested state possible.
Total mileage comes down in the last two to three weeks, mostly in the distance runs and long runs.
It is important to continue to do interval and tempo workouts during the taper, albeit at a slightly reduced volume.
Don’t change too many things - eat normally; get plenty of rest; do not try a food, diet, or carbo-loading method before the race if you have never done it before - it is a recipe for disaster.
Do NOT do “a little extra because I felt good." You should feel good, you are resting to race. Don’t leave your race on the roads on Thursday - be patient and save “that little extra” for Sunday.
If you are nursing a slight injury or are not 100%, begin to adjust race day performance goals.
Plan to bring a bag to the start with some extra clothes, a towel, a water bottle, gear for unpredictable weather, and some money (but leave the wallet, keys, etc. somewhere secure - only bring what you need to the start. If you bag is accidentally misplaced, you don’t want to be without your ID and the keys to your car/home).
What to Wear
This is an individual choice, but if it is cool, plan to have layers that you can peel off and “throw-away”: an old long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, etc. Don’t pin your number to the “throw-away” items!
If it is raining, quick-dry fabrics are a better bet than cotton and be sure to have dry clothing to change into after you finish.
Wear footwear you have regularly trained in. Now is not the time for trying a new pair of shoes.
If it is hot/humid (at 8:30 a.m., the sun is not likely to be a huge issue, but it can be warm and muggy), shorts and a light t-shirt/tank top will do.
If the weather is extreme - adjust your goal/pace. If you don’t, you will be in for a miserable run.
Have your gear bag packed and the clothing that you plan to wear laid out the night before so you can be ready to go in the morning.
When you get up, eat a light breakfast and drink some fluids - stick to foods/drinks that are tried and true and that you know won’t upset your stomach.
Today is NOT the day to try out those new racing flats, outfit, etc. Use clothing and sneakers that you have worn before and know will be comfortable.
Plan to be at the race at least an hour before the start of the race - you need to leave yourself plenty of time to pick up your race number, do a little walking/jogging/stretching in order to warm up, drop off your gear at the baggage check, make a last-minute pit stop and get to the line.
There is nothing like last-minute panic to have a detrimental effect on your race.