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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Here’s to never being average!
Thanks for reading,