How I ran a marathon without training…and why

astro marathon How I ran a marathon without training...and why

Yep, I ran a marathon.

And, yes, I ran an marathon without training for it a single day.

In fact, looking back at my training journal, the most I ran all at once in the last couple months (maybe year or more) was the occasional mile sprint.

However, that didn’t stop me from running 42,194.988 meters or 26.2 miles.

The runners reading this post are scouring the page looking for my time, because if you didn’t train and completed a marathon in 7+ hours it doesn’t really count, right? Well, I ran the marathon faster than than the national average which, in recent years, comes out to be around 4.5 hours.

Not speedy by any means, but certainly not lazy. Before I go any further, let’s start with the “why?”.

Why run a marathon without training?

Collage1 1024x576 How I ran a marathon without training...and why

First, it’s on my better human quest. 

It has been on my list for a long time and I came to the realization I would NEVER get a marathon off my list, because I would NEVER train for a marathon. I just hate running too much and would never be able to give marathon training my all.

Second, and the main reason, was mental toughness. As some of you may know, the Mental Toughness Militia, is a new course coming to End of Three Fitness. I have been running a lot of people through the course to work out any kinks; and I have even put myself through it a few times.

Well, a part of the Mental Toughness Militia asks you to do something that will truly push you outside of your comfort zone. No, the mental toughness militia does NOT ask you to do something as idiotic as run a marathon without training. It something that will be monumental for YOU and you alone.

For me, this was run a marathon.

But it goes further. How can you truly make running a marathon a mental toughness test? Granted, without training, the pain to keep moving your legs and shutting down your mind is one test, but how can you make it worse, or more mentally taxing?

How about running a marathon on a 1/4 mile track?

Yea, that’ll do it.

105.5 laps, around and around in circles for over four hours. If the pain in your legs, hips and feet don’t get you, the mind-numbing boredom or running in circles just may.

And that’s how I did it, and here are the details…

How I ran a marathon without training

Marathon How I ran a marathon without training...and why

I had been debating running a marathon, without training, for about two weeks. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea, but I officially decided on a Monday that I would be running a marathon four days later, or that coming Friday. I had the day off work and it was Veterans Day weekend so I had more than an average weekend to recover.

It was perfect.

When you officially decide you are going to run 26.2 miles and only have four days to prepare there isn’t much you can do, but I focused on what I could control.

First, I decided no more workouts until the marathon. I wanted every muscle, joint and ligament to be in 100% shape before the marathon. That was my decision, but I ended up running 5,000 meters two days before just to see what running felt like…remember I don’t do a lot of it.

Nutrition

Second, and the biggest part, was focusing on nutrition. I monitored my water/electrolyte intake and I was sure to get at least a gallon, each day before the marathon. I also started taking about 4-5 grams of fish oil a day along with consuming a lot of healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado. That was pretty much the plan until the day before.

The day before the marathon I consumed a lot of liquid and healthy fats but about 18 hours out I started to add in a lot of complex carbohydrates, a.k.a. carb-loading. I primarily did this through potatoes and I even had some pasta, but not much, right before bed.

I was up early the next day and consumed 20 ounces of gatorade, a protein shake high in complex carbohydrates and fat, and that was it!

I had to be smart during the race (run) too. I didn’t want to get behind on nutrition during the run so my plan was to consume something every three miles. Even though this was not an official marathon race, we did set up a table with plenty of water, gatorade, bananas and power gels. I was sure to snag a banana and eat it on the run every couple of miles. I switched to power gels towards the end and drank water and gatorade throughout.

Running

The actual marathon wasn’t too bad.

It wasn’t until about mile 17 that it was just painful. If your knees aren’t trained for that kind of beating, they will let you know. Primarily my hips and knees ached during the run.

My body, without regular run training, seemed to be conditioned for a half-marathon. I kept a very consistent pace at about a 9-minute mile and was able to finish 13.1 right at the 2 hour mark without any complaints whatsoever.

The last half went in waves, and the pace slowed and quickened, at times. There were three mile stents where I hated running in circles with every fiber of my being, then there were long periods of feeling great and gliding right along.

Recovery

Lastly, I had to recover as intelligently as possible.

Within 30 minutes of the end of the run I was in an ice bath, which helped a lot. I consumed massive amounts of whatever food I wanted and rested. A few hours after the race I got up and walked for 30 minutes just to keep my legs moving.

I kept consistent with healthy fats, protein, fish oil, liquids and carbs.

My legs weren’t too sore the day after it was just my knees that were in pretty bad shape. I rowed 2,000+ meters each day after the marathon to keep my legs moving and I could immediately feel the difference after rowing, it would bring me back to almost normal.

It wasn’t until four days later (the day of publishing this) that my legs were pretty much back to normal and my regular training schedule could resume.

Why you (maybe) shouldn’t run a marathon without training

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I don’t think many people are chomping at the bit to do this, but I have to have talk some of you out of it.

I can’t say I would recommend running a marathon without training to anyone.

People die every year from heart attacks during marathons, and according to this study, untrained novice runners can even suffer damage to their hearts for up to three months after the race.

So it isn’t smart.

Just so you know where I am coming from…I don’t consider myself untrained. My heart is in great shape. I regularly participate in very intense exercise and weightlifting. I generally workout 4x a week with 8 training sessions (twice a day). Those mile sprints I mentioned at the beginning are normally done below the 6 minute mark. Also, if you are into CrossFit, to give you a small frame of reference in a ‘running’ WOD, I normally complete Helen (3 rounds of run 400m, 21 KB swing at 50 lb, and 12 pull-ups) in 7:30-7:50.

So, if you are reading this and think you want to go give 105.5 laps a try tomorrow and you haven’t worked out too much recently…maybe save it for another day.

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Here’s to never being average!

Thanks for reading,

Jerred

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Hey, I'm Jerred Moon and I write about: proven methods to get stronger, faster and harder to kill; tips, tricks and DIY projects for bringing fitness to the home front; and ways that food can help you recover, cure disease and better fuel your brain.

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  • Nana

    😘you r such an inspiration!

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Thanks!

  • Adam Baratz

    Hey man,

    This is awesome. I find myself in a really similar place. I’m in great shape, but haven’t gotten around to training for a marathon just yet. I’m really impressed that your body didn’t feel completely destroyed at the end of the ordeal!

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Well it felt pretty torn up, but not near as bad as I thought it would be. Thanks for the comment Adam!

  • Claude

    That’s insane. I have no experience in marathons, but I’ve always believed it took months of preparation, even for experienced runners. Wow. Im pretty sure you’re a cyborg.

    No. I take that back because it disregards all the work you’ve put into your fitness. Amazing story and inspirational.

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Haha thanks Claude, I definitely didn’t feel like a cyborg.

  • Eddy Lindenstein

    This sounds so similar to last December when I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon with no training. I mapped one out and finished in just under 1 hour and 45 minutes- my breathing was good throughout- no soreness during the run itself. My hips were killing me for about a week afterwards.

    People I know that run 5k’s kept saying it didn’t count because it wasn’t at a sanctioned race and I didn’t get a t-shirt; I love that you did this on a track!!

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Haha it counts! Nice work man! We will make our own shirts lol.

  • Kyle Goodrich

    Fantastic article Jerred, I’m always looking forward to your next

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Thanks Kyle!

  • Garrett

    One of my favorite articles of yours that I’ve read! Definitely inspired me to be even more mentally tough in my workouts as well as in all other areas of life!

  • Dustin

    I just did this today. I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon this morning after absolutely zero training. I have never run a race, and definitely never run 13.1 miles. Two months ago I ran 3 miles, but other than that I just run whatever is in the crossfit workouts I do about 3 times a week. Today I ran a 2:11 and felt fine. I am pretty sore now that I had a nap, but I expected that.

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Nice work Dustin!

  • Nicki Chambers

    I am so happy to have read this! I am signed up for a half marathon on Saturday (which I have known about since January) but I went for a 10miler yesterday to train for it and couldn’t do any more than 4miles! So I am bricking it! I am generally quite fit, having completed the Insanity bootcamp in January and February this year, as well as two – three crossfit classes per week. I have also completed a number of 5k races and a 10k race (time: 1 hr) last summer so I am praying some form of muscle memory fueled by adrenaline will take over! Any advice for Saturday however would be appreciated!

    • Nicki Chambers

      Finished it in 2hrs30!!

      • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

        Sorry I didn’t get to you in time for advice, but great work at 2:30!!

  • Andy Smith

    Thanks Jerred. Yesterday I ran the Manchester Marathon (UK). It was my third. This year, due to illness and a sprained ankle in February, I haven’t been able to train. My last run was in November last year. I didn’t want to miss out though so followed your nutritional advice. I loaded up on omega 3 fish oil, coconut oil (horrible!), electrolytes and gatorade for 4 days prior. I then feasted on potatoes, pasta and protein shakes in the 18 hours before. On the day of the race I followed your recommended intake of L-Carnitine, Green Tea, Coenzyme Q10 and Ribose. Not to mention a couple of paracetamol and ibuprofen!
    It worked! I reached 13 miles in 2hrs 5mins. The pace dropped off a bit after that, had a boost at 18 miles and then I coasted in from 21 miles. Finished in 4hrs 50 mins.
    Enough can’t be said for mental toughness. I was really pumped for this.
    Stiff legs and weird lime green pee today, but so chuffed I didn’t bail.
    Have signed up for newsletter, however, I don’t plan on entering such an event again being that physically under prepared! Got a couple of Tri’s coming up, and fitness regime starts this week-end.
    Thanks again.

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      You’re crazy Andy! Thanks for sharing that story man, really awesome!

  • http://iamprojectbeastmode.com Project Beastmode

    In my last year of university I was in Germany on a study exchange and a friend I met from Mexico convinced me to sign up for the Frankfurt marathon, which was only 8 weeks away. I started running every time I went on a weekend trip (including running back and forth across Liechtenstein), but I had no idea what I was in for until race day.

    I was aiming to break the 4 hour barrier, but decided to start in the pack of those aiming for 4.5 hours, just to be safe. I was so proud to finish a fair bit ahead of my goal, only to find out my friend who did not seem to train at all (and when I say no training I mean he wasn’t even going to the gym) finished 7 minutes ahead of me after having been up until 1 am at a Halloween party.

    I asked him how he did it and he told me, “It’s all heart.” He then later referred to me as, “You sea level people.”

    I never thought I’d train for a marathon, but after running one I saw all the mistakes I made both in race tactics and training. After running one, has your mind changed? I think mine may have. I’d like to try one again with more than the goal of just finishing.

  • http://www.deadat30.com Russel Blue

    Congrats mate! I managed to run my first one without any training just recently, and it was a massive struggle! However even though I’ve ticked it off my list, it’s spurred me on and made me want to do one properly and get a decent time! Here’s how my challenge went down – http://www.deadat30.com/challenge-marathon-zero-training/

  • Eddie

    One should comment that though 105 laps on a track would indeed be mentally tough, it simply does not acct for the elevation climbs that a true boston qualifier marathon does. Perhaps (arguably) easier on the mind then a 1/4 mile track, your knees WILL know the difference lol.
    Still, as a verified marathoner, I tip my hat to anyone bone headed enough (I mean this affectionately) to take on a 26.2 mile challenge, regardless of the circumstances.

  • Joyce

    Hi, thanks for this article..actually been looking through if anyone had run a marathon without much training. I’ve never ran a marathon and the last half I’ve completed was 15 years ago. Decided to run a full once in my life and I’ve signed up. Its in Aug this year. Although I had a training plan but not sure if i’m able to stick to it. This article encouraged me and I’ll try my best to adhere to the training plan, and my aim is just to finish the race…

  • Sihle Mthethwa

    I’ll be running the Comrades marathon on 1 June 2014. Last time I had proper training was in February as got an ankle injury. I didn’t want to pull out because I had qualified for the ultra marathon and I had told myself that I will run.

    The marathon is about 56 miles and I’m hoping to finish in about 10 to 11 hours. I have been doing a lot of stretching over the past few weeks and I have changed my diet. If I finish, this will be the craziest thing I have ever done.

  • Jazhielcit2

    I ran the San Diego rock n roll marathon this 2014. I’m 22 y/old 5’11 @ 230 pounds. I did absolutely no training. I rarely go to the gym. I took the challenge after a coworker said I couldn’t do it. My finishing time was 6:22. So it is doable without training. ***IMPORTANT:My only recommendation it to break-in your shoes.*** I learned that the hard way, my feet started hurting @ mile 16 because it was the first time i had run with them. So i highly recommend breaking them in. Other than that, it was a fun event.

  • Meowmeowmeow

    I have to say this makes me feel a little better about my upcoming half in Vancouver, BC, on Saturday. Generally I’m an avid trainer but the last few months have been chaotic, not to mention I had a procedure that caused me a lot of pain every time I tried to exercise for three weeks up until this week. Not my first half marathon, but definitely my first without trying. Still hoping to get under 2 hours. Thanks for the confidence!!

    Chelsea