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3 Reasons Why Running A Marathon Without Training Is A Bad Idea

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You signed up for a marathon, but you didn’t get to train as much as you could for whatever reason. These things happen, life can get in the way, and suddenly training gets pushed to the back burner. Should you at least try to compete, or should you sit this one out? 

It may not be what you want to hear, but your best move is to sit it out and start preparing for the next race coming down the pike. Competing in a marathon takes a huge physical and psychological toll on your body and requires a marathon training plan and months of training;  racing when you are underprepared is your best recipe for an injury that could come back to haunt you for years. 

Plus, the odds of actually finishing the race are just as slim as passing an exam that you crammed for the night before (even if you are in a good shape). If you’re still considering running a marathon without training (or even a half marathon), you must know the risks. 

Long Term Injuries

The most common injuries that crop up when runners tackle a full marathon or long-distance running without proper training are shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, ligament tears, stress fractures, and runners knee (also known as patellofemoral syndrome). These issues won’t land you in the emergency room but will continue to haunt you if you don’t take the time to heal properly. 

Even after taking some time to rest after the big race, these injuries have a way of cropping back up as you start to get back into your running groove. What starts as a minor injury often becomes chronic pain, which translates to a lifetime of pain management. No one wants that. 

Not Finishing the Race

There are no participation trophies for crossing the finish line after the race is finished. If you don’t cross the finish line in time, you won’t get any credit for participating regardless of your level of fitness, and your name won’t show up on the final time charts. It’s almost like you didn’t compete at all. 

If you are a first time marathon runner/beginner runner and you aren’t prepared for the race, the odds of finishing the race in time are low. Not only can you do some real damage to your body by competing underprepared, but all of the damage you will do to your body will be for naught if you can’t cross the finish line in time. 

You’ll Hit The Wall Face First

Even elite runners will hit a wall at some point in the race. For some, it happens around the 13-mile marker. For others, it can be as far as the 20-mile marker. 

The key to finishing a marathon is to know when you hit the wall and push through the uncomfortableness and fatigue to smash through the other side. It takes equal parts physical and psychological perseverance, and if you aren’t prepared, you’ll never make it to the other side. 

With a good training schedule, you will learn what hitting the walls feels like, so you know what to expect on race day. Even if you start the race with high energy and high spirits, you need to gain coping mechanisms for hitting that wall before the big day. 

Why Walking A Marathon Is Also A Bad Idea

Running a marathon may not seem like it’s in the cards for you, so what about walking? While walking won’t take as much toll on your body as running, it still comes with its risks. 

Walking at a brisk pace without stopping for 6-9 hours can cause some severe lower back pain, as well as pain in your knees and feet. Some runners find that shin splints are more common when walking than running. 

Plus, walking a marathon means that it is insanely unlikely that you will finish the race in time, even if you walk at a 15-minute mile pace. If you walk consistently at a 15-minute mile for the entire marathon duration, it means that it will take you around 6.5 hours to finish. If you slip into a 20-minute mile, it means that it will take you around 8.5 hours to complete. 

Most marathons have a cut-off time of around 6-6.5 hours. Once the race is finished, the streets open up again, and the crowd goes home. It’s no fun to cross that finish line as the clean-up crew starts to sweep up after the party. 

Have you resolved to race anyway?

You’ve read this far, yet you are still resolved to run that race. No law forbids you from running a marathon underprepared, but there are a few tips I can lend to make race-day a little more tolerable.

First of all, banish any goal you have for the big day. Odds are, you won’t finish on time. The sooner you can accept this, the happier you will be at the end of the day. 

Secondly, you must be kind to yourself in the days that follow. Your body and spirit will likely be a bit damaged and run down. Expect major soreness.

To prevent injuries and a damaged ego from becoming long-term issues, make sure you take the time to heal back to 100 percent before lacing up those running shoes. 

This marathon recovery period may take a few days, or it can be a few weeks. 


Marathons are like busses. If you miss one, there will be another one that will come along shortly. 

Life sometimes gets in the way of a training program, and knowing when you aren’t ready and gracefully bowing out is an essential tool to keep in your toolbelt.

My advice is to sit out this marathon and start preparing for the next!

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