How to Run a Marathon When You’re Undertrained

Before I start, let me just say that I do NOT think you should purposely not train adequately for a marathon. In the ideal world, everyone should train appropriately and for weeks in preparation to run a marathon. But sometimes, as we all know, life gets in the way and training gets bumped to the side.

So with that initial disclaimer out of the way, now I will tell you how I was able to run a marathon injury-free without a lot of training – in the hope that it may help someone else if he/she ever faces a similar predicament. Again – I’m not encouraging you approach running a marathon in this manner. Just saying, worst case scenario, here are some things that helped ME. These tips may not work for everyone, but I think they helped me finish my fourth race in one piece.

Here we go with my tips for the undertrained:

  • Run Consistently: Even if you can’t manage to stick to your training plan in the least and it’s pretty much a joke to reference it at all, you should still try to run as much as possible. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to run 40-50 miles a week, but there were definitely a few weeks in the 30 mile range. Basic idea – even if you can’t train to the level you want, you should be running. I would NEVER encourage someone who hadn’t been running at ALL to try a marathon. You need a base. My base was 240 miles.
  • Get in Some Long Runs: So for this marathon, my longest “long” run was only 16 miles. That’s not long at all. For my last marathon, I ran a 20 miler and 22 miles. But I did get in a few long runs this time around: 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 miles – that was the extent of my long runs. But imagine if I hadn’t at least run those?!! Get in as many as you can. That’s the basic point here.
  • Eat Well: Even though I hadn’t been running a TON over the past four months, I can say that I’ve been eating very healthy. I was probably watching my foods even more BECAUSE I wasn’t running. I knew that if my activity level went down, my weight could go up. So I was careful not to overeat, and to be sure that most of what I was eating was natural, not highly processed, lower in fat, etc. All that good stuff. I don’t care what people say – what you eat DOES matter when marathoning. I went into this marathon at a good weight, and knowing that I had nutrition on my side.
  • HYDRATE: I took hydration to a new level with this race. Early in the week before, I was sipping on coconut water and hydrating like CRAZY. Then a day before the race, I started using nuun tablets in my water for an extra boost of hydration and electrolytes. I also took a nuun tablet in my water the morning of the race. Hydration was never an issue for me during this race.
  • Go Slow & Take Breaks: I fully admit that I am that girl that busts out from the starting line at full speed, fueled by adrenaline and excitement, feeling invincible and ready to eat the marathon for breakfast. This time around, I was NOT that girl. I knew I needed to start off slow. And while my first few miles were still a little faster than what I had intended, they weren’t insane. They were manageable. And I continued to keep it slow. And then finally, when things got really tough at the end, I walked. It was a first for me, but my main concern was to finish the race and finish it injury free. I knew that walking would help get me there. Slow and steady and breaks when necessary. That is perhaps my best advice to someone feeling under-trained.
  • Don’t Stress: Lastly, try not to stress yourself out (and potentially psych yourself out) before the race. Yes, so you’re not as trained as you’d like. Well there really isn’t much you can do about it now. So if you’ve made the decision to run the race, then don’t second guess it or freak yourself out. Remind yourself that if things get really bad, you always have the option to stop completely. A DNF is not the worst thing in the world – your health is certainly more important. Stay calm, keep your head in a good place and just run it as best you can.

 

 YAY happy finish photo! And then after you’ve finished the marathon (undertrained perhaps), my final piece of advice is to foam roll, stretch and rehydrate like crazy!! After doing that, I was pleasantly surprised to not feel that sore the next day.

And that’s it. Those are my fairly obvious and not-so-groundbreaking tips to help someone undertrained run and finish a marathon injury-free.

What about you? Have you ever run a race with fewer miles logged than you would have liked? What was your secret for survival?

 

 

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