Bad Runs and Taper Traps

I’ve had a really great 12 weeks of training. I’ve gotten faster, I figured out how to breathe better, I found my stride, and I haven’t been in as much pain as I have for every other half I’ve done. I can pretty honestly say that I’ve never felt more ready for a race, mentally & physically.

And then I decided to do back to back hour+ runs 7 & 8 days before my race.

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In my head it seemed like it was important to get in the mileage, which at its core, is correct. But from the moment I got out of bed this morning, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. My legs were heavy, and tight, after one of my fastest 6 mile runs ever yesterday.

And then I stepped out to run, and thought “it’s really humid” only to realize it wasn’t just humid, it was a steady mist. But I powered on. I was feeling really good for the first few miles, I was running up ramps and over bridges, a little slow, but I felt pretty strong.

And then on my way back down a ramp, I started to notice a twinge behind my left knee. I ran another half mile, and it was not just a twinge, but a dull pain. So I stopped. And in less than 20 seconds decided 4.5 miles was it for the day rather than the 8 I’d planned to do.

For the first half mile of the1.5 mile walk home I was beating myself up. And then it hit me:

I haven’t had my bad run. Oh thank God, this is it!

I probably could have run further, but I didn’t want to chance that my pain would turn into an actual injury, rather than just a little pain. I also know that missing a few miles this week is not going to undo the last 11 weeks of training, and the 12 weeks of training for my April race before that.

I came home and did a quick Google search and found this great article from Runner’s World on Taper Traps. I fell into 3 traps: cramming, phantom pains and panic attacks.

According to Runner’s World, the weeks before a race is stressful, so we naturally look for coping mechanisms that have worked in the past. Enter cramming. Who hasn’t crammed for a test, or a big presentation? And in those instances, it worked. Runner’s World cautions that in running, it only causes harm. You run the risk of exhausting your body, and running a worse race than if you just followed your plan.

Phantom Pains
During a taper, your senses are heightened to anything that feels abnormal. Runner’s World notes, you have more time on your hands, so you start to notice things that you would have considered normal during peak training. In reality, its your body using that down time to recover and repair.

Panic Attacks
Having not ever been a bride, but knowing lots of them, the weeks leading up to a wedding are filled with worry about every new freckle, bad hair day, nail chip, raindrop, you name it, it gets overblown. For runners, every important race we run has this effect on us. I’ve run through pain far worse than I felt this morning, but because the race is in 7 days, didn’t want to chance it. Walking home I kept feeling it get worse, when in reality, its a tight hamstring, as you cool down and keep moving, that is exactly what happens. Runner’s World connects this with a typical fear of the unknown or lack of confidence. I’m not new to halfs, but I’ve never run in Chicago, and I want a PR more than I’ve wanted anything in a long time.


How often do you have bad runs during a taper?
Have you fallen for any Taper Traps?
Best advice for my final week of taper?

7 thoughts on “Bad Runs and Taper Traps

  1. My best advice for taper is to try and relax and don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do (meaning this is not the week to finally try something crazy like an aerial yoga class – don’t tempt fate!). I usually have at least one really bad run per training cycle/taper. The best you can do is just accept it and move on. If you’ve done the work (and you have!), you should be fine on race day.

    1. Thank you so much! Definitely trying to stay positive, and think about the hundreds of good miles over the last couple of months. It seems to be working 🙂

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