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Running a marathon is a huge milestone for every runner. It takes every ounce of perseverance and dedication to complete a marathon race. However, some people think that as long as they run regularly, they can run a marathon with no formal training. You can, but doing this will have consequences both physically and mentally.
Aside from a high chance of not finishing the race, running a marathon without formal training can cause knee and hip injuries, muscle strains, and fractures. The race itself will become miserable and you are more likely to hate the sport of running and have delayed recovery after the marathon race.
Ahead, we’ll look at some of these consequences and discuss a little bit about what running a marathon without formal training can do to you.
1. Your Chances Of Finishing The Race Will Be Extremely Low
If you think a marathon is just a half-marathon done twice, you’re wrong!
A marathon is a whole different beast. It’s short enough that it is doable even for new runners but long enough that even trained runners may not be able to finish it.
Jack Clancy gathered data on the number of people who signed up for a marathon and did not finish on his website. He found that, on average, 17.13% of runners who sign up for a marathon aren’t able to finish it. One marathon race even recorded a 34.18% DNF rate.
What’s more, is that most of those runners did some preparation leading up to the event. Now, imagine what your chances are if you run a marathon without training.
2. It May Result To Serious Injuries
Running a marathon without training can lead to serious injuries. According to Runnersworld.com, running a marathon without training can lead to muscle strains, stress fractures, joint damages, and can even lead you to the hospital.
A story by a guy I found on a Reddit thread talked about his friend who was a track runner back in high school. After they graduated, his friend decided to run a marathon without training. 20 years later, his friend was still having hip problems because of it, he claimed.
Another Reddit user talked about his experience when he ran a marathon without formal training. He was running 24 miles a week (which is not enough for marathon training) and his longest run was 6 miles.
Then, 2 months later he ran a marathon and got a decent time of 3:46. But two weeks after the said event, he’s still unable to run a full mile and he’s experiencing “bad pain” (that’s how he described it) in his hamstrings.
Point is, running a marathon without training will cause unnecessary injuries that could’ve been minimized if you just had formal training for a marathon.
3. You’ll Feel Miserable During The Run
There’s a lot that goes into a marathon that can only be achieved by progressive training.
One is endurance. The only way to build your endurance is to run longer in training. 26.2 miles is long and it will take about 3-6 months (depending on your current level of fitness) to build your endurance to a level that could handle those miles.
Two is mental strength. Mind over matter works, but even the strongest mind will have a hard time pushing through a marathon without first experiencing a little bit of it in training.
And three is physical strength. If your body isn’t ready, it isn’t ready.
Without training for a marathon, you will not be able to build on the three things I mentioned above and your run is going to feel miserable. This will become the longest and most painful 5-6 hours of your life (if you even finish it).
4. You Will Hate Running
Running is a very fun activity. It’s easy to do and it requires a very little barrier to entry. That’s why millions of people from around the globe love it.
But if you run a marathon without training, you will be in so much pain that you’ll probably hate the sport.
It’s much more reasonable to take it slow but be consistent. If you’ve signed up for a marathon and just haven’t found the time to train appropriately, cancel it. There’s no shame in backing down in a battle you can never win.
There are still a lot of marathon races you can sign up for. It’s better to enjoy running and accomplish things slowly and while having fun than if you try to rush for these accomplishments only to end up hating the sport.
5. You Might Offend Other Runners
If you think finishing a marathon without training is “cool”, it’s not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
People who sign up for a marathon put their heart and soul into it. For some, a marathon is more than just a race, it’s a story of triumph and overcoming what you once thought was impossible.
So imagine how it’s going to make them feel when you decided to just run a marathon without any training.
Really, put yourself in their shoes and hear the words “I was able to finish a marathon without training”. It’s like taking away the hard work they’ve put into the training by claiming you’re better than them because you didn’t need that training to finish the race.
6. Your Recovery Will Take Longer Than You Expect
Progressive training allows your body to adapt to the physiological changes so it can build strength and endurance progressively.
If you run a marathon without training, you’re over-damaging your body to the point where it can no longer repair itself normally.
It usually takes 3 to 7 days for your body to recover from a marathon race with training. Without training, it may extend from 2 weeks to a month.
Do you really have to put your fitness on hold for that long simply because you’re too sore and fatigued to do a workout several weeks after a marathon race?
By the way, I created an article about a similar topic where I go into detail about running a marathon without training. I included a brief description of what marathon training is and how it differs from other types of training. Be sure to check that out after reading this article.
How Long Should You Train For A Marathon?
The time it takes to train for a marathon differs from person to person. New runners may need more while those who’s been running for a long time and have signed up for a half marathon before may need less.
In general, a typical marathon training plan takes 16 to 20 (4-5 months). However, those who are new to running or those who’ve never run regularly prior to a marathon training plan may need 6 months or more. It is best to consult a professional coach that can provide you the right training and plan for your first marathon race.
Running a marathon without training is a horrible idea and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In fact, I recommend that you build your races gradually if you’re a beginner. Start with the 5k races up to a half-marathon before you consider training for a marathon.
That way, you can build up your strength and endurance progressively. It also allows you to learn more about yourself, how you pace and what areas of fitness you lack. It’ll give you the best chance to do well in a marathon race.