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The 19 Stages of Tapering

My post-40-miler tailgater last weekend. Putting my feet up with those tacos was worth all the taper-crazy-hard-race-work

What does taper mean? Supposedly, the taper is a period of decreased mileage before race day that’s accompanied by more rest, healthy food, time off your feet and race prep. And, no matter how zen you think you are, it’s also a time of insanity as any racer will tell you. Whether you’re running your first race or your 50th, the taper is a multi-stage period of time in which emotions tend to run wild and pieces of your personality that you may not want exposed, get exposed. Your friends and family might see sides to you that you’d rather not have them see.

Runners, however, are the most forgiving during this period of time. Like, you’re running buddy might say…

“Hey, that new running skirt looks great on you!”


“Are you tapering?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“I love you. Wanna grab a beer?”


In an effort to help you feel normal. And, to give you something to do for 3 minutes other than FREAK OUT about your upcoming race, I’ve outlined some of the stages of the dreaded taper. These can happen in any order and I’m sure I’ve missed some. Feel free to comment below and tell us your experience!

1. Confusion: When does taper start? I just finished my longest run. Is it NOW? Is it now?  Is it next week? When can I eat more? Is it now? I’m so hungry.

2. Denial: I’m not tapering, I just have like 18 days until my race. That’s all. No biggy. I’m cool. It’s not time to freak out or anything. Why is my voice so high?

3. Over-Eater: Good thing I’ll be burning like 26.2 million calories on race day. I’m just gonna eat this entire cake and not worry about it. Maybe I should wait till after breakfast.

4. Under-Eater: I’m going to run this race light as a feather. It’s humus and rice crackers for me today, thanks.

5. Hypochondriac: I have a sore throat. I bumped my toe. My toe is broken. I have pneumonia and a broken leg now. Did you sneeze? Get away from me! Don’t you know I have a race in 2 weeks!

6. Cry Baby: Dang! I used my free coffee punch card LAST week. Cry.  I should feel fortunate to be able to buy good coffee in the first place. Cry. Feel guilty. Cry.

7. Wonder Woman: Run at a crack of dawn in the dark, make breakfast, pack school lunches, work all day, whip up dinner, clean the kitchen, fold laundry, read to kids, handle kid meltdown, put kids to bed, fold more laundry, pay bills, set out running clothes for the morning, answer emails, finally remember to feed pets, find spelling homework crumpled in bottom of kid’s backpack, throw chicken and potatoes in the crockpot, panic that you were going to try and get to bed by 10:00pm, but it’s now 11:00pm. Oh, wait, this isn’t wonder woman taper stage, this is just what I do EVERY. DAM. DAY.

8. Dummy: “Mommy, where is Nebraska?” “Um, I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW! Oh, god, where is Nebraska?” What is wrong with me? “Go get the globe and we’ll look for it together, Jo–Ja–Ji—, whatever your name is.”

9. Faux Fantastic: Pulling off the faux-fantastic is  hard. It’s that big, hands-on-hips-confident-smile, ya-sure-you-betcha-wink-thing you throw at non-runners who ask you the dumbest question ever, “Are you excited about your race coming up?”

10. Bitch: Get away from me.

11. Uber-Bitch: Get the fuck away from me.

12. Newbie Runner: AHHHH, I just did my last short run and I feel like I’ve never run before! The clock has turned back. I feel like a newbie runner. Help! I can’t even run 3 miles!

13. Queen Bee: “I don’t care if you need another snack. I’m going to sit here in this Lazy-Boy for 5 minutes, that’s all I ask, 5 MINUTES and watch this cooking show! (This stage is usually followed by some version of “Guilt-Fest” stage.)

14. Melt Down: I scheduled my meltdown for the Friday before my race at exactly 10:00am. Of course, I was too busy being in “Wonder Woman Stage” to have my meltdown, but the fact I scheduled it in made me feel better.

15. Exercise-Free Exercising:  “Ooops,” I told my coach, a week out from my race. “I did a short run and now I’m biking to work which includes 8-10 miles of riding to a meeting.” “No problem,” she says, “just don’t use your legs.”

16. Guilt-Fest: I’m a horrible mother! I just spent half of every Saturday doing my long runs and I’ve missed out on hours of my kids’ growing up that I will never get back. (This stage is sometimes followed by “Cry Baby” stage or the sharing of cake from “Over-Eater” stage.)

17. Zen: I’m cool. I got this. I’m breathing deeply. I’m listening more. I’m blinking sloooowly. I’m stretching. I’m so tight I can’t touch my toes, but whatever. I got this.

18. Panic: I won’t make it. I’m not ready. I haven’t trained enough. I’ve over trained. I’ll be too slow. I’ll go out too fast. I’ll shit my pants.  I’ll panic.

19. 30-Second-Butterfly-Barf: This is final stage of the taper. You’re standing in the crowd at the starting line on race day. Everyone around you is putting on their best “Faux-Fantastic” smile. You should have peed one more time. The race starts in 30 seconds. The butterflies in your stomach have multiplied 26.2 times and you’re so nervous you want to barf. Then the gun goes off and you start to run. Yay! Taper’s over. Let’s run!

What have you experienced during a taper?

19 thoughts on “The 19 Stages of Tapering

  1. I love all of these stages. I’ve often wondered what happens to the majority of my weekend. I’m either on the saddle of my road bike or running! I’m running Eugene Half next weekend and was a barrel of nerves before my 10 mile run yesterday. I want to live in faux fantastic more often. I learned the saying “you betcha” when I moved out west and I love it. Maybe I can trick myself into believing everything is great and I’m ok. There will be trouble before my century ride next month, I can already foresee it. “Lay off of me I’m starving,” from old SNL skit.

    Great read! Keep up the good work!

  2. This is so perfect! My favorites (or most relatable) are numbers 7, 8 and 12, although #11 literally made me laugh out loud! Great post. 🙂

  3. Oh, Laura, this is SO you. And I thought I was the only one freaking out. Maybe that would be the 20th: “I am the only person on the face of this earth (and signed up for THAT race) as freaked out as I am. I am aaaallllooooonnnnne!!!!!”

  4. My wife could use this, she is training for her first marathon and is actually in her last taper. Thanks for the chance!

  5. I think you can’t forget “The Fonz/Joe Cool” – sort of like the “Fauz Fantastic”, where you act like everything during race week is no big deal, go-with-the-flow, keep the family chill and under control – trying to stay zen-like to avoid any stress related digestion issues, stress related sleep deprivation, stress related “I think I have a new injury” moments, etc…all the while keeping your taper-tantrum to yourself {and, most likely, your significant other}. Keep it easy going for everyone else in your travel party/everyone you encounter leading up to race day, because you know, no matter how hangry you get, that sandwich isn’t going to get here faster if you throw a taper-tantrum in the middle of a restaurant, at the expo, laying out your clothes, etc. Everyone is none the wiser and to your family you seem like an old pro no matter how many times you’ve crossed the start line.

  6. I am seeing this from the other side. I am not a runner, but I am surrounded by people tapering, sometimes tapering BIG TIME! So that’s pretty amusing in a way…

    But let me tell you, We, cheerleaders, also go through taper:
    – “I’m so excited, I’m so excited!!! I am not even running and I am so excited!”
    – Signs: what should we write on it… hmmm… hmmm… (this can take a very long time)
    – maybe we should find a way to see (amazing runner) in the middle of the crowd… What about a colorful T-shirt? you know, the color that nobody will wear… [note: no matter what color you pick, it will always be the color everybody is wearing!]
    – Signs: did I write the right thing?? I don’t know…
    – How should I dress? It might be cold… But then, it might be warm. What about sunglasses? Is it supposed to rain? Should I bring coffee?
    – Maybe I should put an additional alarm… What if I don’t wake up? What if I wake up too late and I miss (amazing runner-s)?
    – (on the side line, with butterfly in belly): “omg this is so inspirational… I want to cry!”
    – “I can’t see anybody in this crowd… Did I miss her/him? Did I miss her/him? It’s her/him? It’s her/him!
    YYYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! GOOOOOO!!!! YYYOOOOHOOOO!!!!” (lots of noise and jumping)
    And she/he’s gone…
    Maybe you even took a blurry picture… if you thought about taking your camera, you were able to hold the sign and the camera at the same time, and you saw amazing runner-s early enough!

  7. I can relate to all the stages! Mostly recently I have taken up CHILL. “It’s just a run with friends, what’s 3 drinks the night before?” Though I am sure a yoga class would have probably resulted in a better PR.

  8. I LOVED this! It’s ALL so true! I’m still laughing. Although, I feel like I’m in
    one of these stages everyday of my life. Thank God for running and runners! Ya just have to love it wether you want to or not..:)

  9. OMG! I lost track of how many of these apply to me! I also go into, you’re not a runner, you don’t understand! And then there’s the make a prep list and get incredibly OCD and retentive about it. Please somebody tell me I’m not the only one that does this!

  10. I totally relate to #5 where I think I broke everything and I must have the flu. I also start to get the “why did I sign up for this” feeling as well, followed by “I hope there is bad weather so if I don’t do well I have an excuse”. Then the race starts and it comes together, cause I know the faster I run the faster it’s over.

  11. #5 is my fav cause I swear everything on me is broken and I am certain I have the flu. Followed by “why did I sign up for this” and “I sorta hope it’s bad weather in case I don’t do well I have an excuse”. Then on race day it all comes together somehow, or maybe it’s the fact that the faster I run the quicker it’s over.

  12. Hi Mary! Congrats – you are the lucky winner of our BodyGlide for Her Package!! Please email me your mailing address and phone and I’ll get that to BodyGlide so they can send you the goodies! If you haven’t, they would love it if you could like them on Facebook. My email is laura@runmommarun.com ~Laura

  13. I totally relate to hypochondriac, bitch and over-eater. Everything hurts and creaks and I feel like a cow and want everyone to stay away from me. I think this “caged rat” feel helps at the start line though. Good luck!

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