Yep, I did that. I ran a half marathon without prior training. Looking back, it seems like a crazy idea and I can't believe I actually did that! But it is possible! Whether you're crunched on time or life just got in the way, you can still run in that race you signed up for!
I ran my first half marathon last spring and absolutely loved it. Grant and I trained together and followed a 12 week training plan to the exact mileage. We knew we were beginners and so we assumed this was the best way to do our first race. We ended up well prepared for the race--Grant finished under two hours and I ran all thirteen miles without walking. I was so proud of myself and loved the whole experience.
The same race had early bird sign-ups this past September (7 months prior to the race) and we got a great deal. But when time came to start training for the race, there was always something that seemed to come up (mostly stress from school). Erika and I would run a mile or two at the gym each week, but that was pretty much the extent of my running.
There was one exception: I worked night shift one night and woke up the next afternoon with the biggest motivation to go running. It was weird--I'm never motivated to run, especially for fun. It was cold outside, but I bundled up and just went running for enjoyment. I ran until I got tired and finished right at 6.2 miles. This run gave me a boost of confidence--If I could run a 10k without any trouble, training for a half marathon would be cake!
I kept procrastinating training, finding shorter and shorter training plans for half marathons. I was surprised to find that there are training plans for any amount of time! I finally decided on a four week training plan and started it. Later that week, I got a cold and the training process halted.
And then, it was race week. And why start training on race week?! I figured I better save my legs! I decided I was just going to do the half without any real training, and if I had to walk most or all of it, that was fine with me. My goal was just to finish.
The race started, and I was immediately tired and out of breath. It felt impossible to run twelve more miles. After mile 5 or 6, I gained some confidence and began to feel better. I had gotten in my groove and was feeling pretty good. At mile 8, my feet started to hurt. And after that point, the pain just began to radiate up my legs. By the time I got to mile 12, every area from the soles of my feet to my hips was so painful. I tried walking, but it was equally aggravating. I was just getting stiff, so I figured I might as well run.
And I finished the race, feeling great. Even without training, I was able to hold a 12 minute mile, which is slower than my first race, but much better than I was expecting.
So I definitely don't suggest running any distance races without proper training, but if you do find yourself in the same predicament as I was, I've compiled a few tips that got me through my race. These tricks kept my energized and motivated, despite my lack of endurance.
Follow a Run / Walk Pattern
I chose to run the majority of the mile and walk a smaller portion. I didn't track my distance or time, but I imagine it was running 3/4 and walking 1/4 of each mile. I also walked through every water station in order to catch my breath and rehydrate. This was just a nice little break every few miles--plus last year I tried running while drinking water and ended up choking! So just walk and use that time to rehydrate and catch your breath.
Every 3-5 miles, it's good to refuel with sports beans, Gu, fruit, etc. I chose sports beans, because that's just what we had (thanks Mom!). I hate the taste of them but it's important to take in calories and carbs while you run in order to avoid the wall. The only thing with fueling, is don't try anything you haven't before, unless you're fearless against the upset stomach.
Focus on the People
In order to keep my mind off the pain of running (and how much I absolutely hate running), I paid attention to the people surrounding me. I noticed what everyone looked like, what the back of their shirts said, what conversations they had. I also tried to read every sign and posters people held on the sides. This kept my mind busy and even made me chuckle a few times.
The great thing about listening to music while you run is that it can distract you. In order to get the most out of the distraction technique, I waited as long as I could before I needed the music. I waited until I was absolutely miserable (around mile 8) to turn on the music and distract me. I personally turn the volume up as high as it will go, that way I can't hear my thoughts or breathing. Use whatever kind of music you like--whatever distracts you as well as gives you positive energy!
Listen to Your Body
Running any long distance without proper training can be dangerous, so listen to your body. If something hurts or feels off, stop and see one of the healthcare tents. If you can't catch your breath, just take a walk break instead of passing out. If you feel sick, do what you need to do. And if your health is in jeopardy, just stop the race. No medal is worth your health and safety. So listen to the messages your body gives you because they're usually pretty important! I was lucky not to have any major issues with my run, but I did pay attention to when I felt out of breath or tired and I responded with my body's best interest in mind.
So I finished my second half marathon--this one without prior training. Of course, it's always better to train and prepare your body for any strenuous or long-distance activity. But these are the five techniques I used to complete the race! My time wasn't nearly as good as my first race and I definitely had a harder time, but I was overjoyed that I was able to even finish the race.
What other tips would you suggest? Have you ever run distance races without training? Be sure to share and subscribe to see our latest updates and blog posts!