Can You Run a Marathon Without Proper Training?

Q I registered for a marathon several months ago, but my training has not gone exactly according to plan. I had to travel for work, then got sick, and also managed to sustain a minor running injury; all of which prevented me from following my training schedule. My longest run to date has been one 22-kilometre run. I typically average about 32 to 40 kilometres a week so I feel conditioned but not specifically trained for the marathon distance. Now the marathon is just four weeks away. My question is, should I go ahead and do the marathon anyway? – RICK


A This is a great question and one that, unfortunately, other runners are probably struggling with right now too! My advice is not to do the marathon based on the amount of training you describe to date. I don’t know the specifics of your training or your running background, so while running the marathon “anyway” might be possible for you to do, it is still not advisable.

What I know for sure is that it is important to respect the distance and your body. The marathon is a very long way and should not be taken lightly. It pushes the body to its’ limits and, for most of us, beyond our normal limits. For example, on average, our glycogen storage capacity is about enough for most runners to run 24 to 32 kilometres. With training and proper diet we can enlarge this storage capacity to fuel a distance of about 29 to 38 kilometres, which is still not quite long enough to fuel a full marathon, so we push beyond our limits to complete the distance.

Runners should enter races adequately prepared to meet the demands of the given event. Yes, you may be able to get through the race and cross the finish line, but at what cost? Is it worth risking injury or having to stop and pull out?

So what are your options? Some races allow you to defer your entry to the next year so you don’t lose your entry fee. You may be able to switch to a shorter distance, like a half marathon, because based on the training you described, it sounds like you are well prepared to run a half. Or, sometimes, for a small fee, you are able to pay to transfer the race entry to someone else. Also, some races are offering “race insurance” in the event you are unable to make it to the race, you can obtain a refund.

All the best to you!


Coach Marathon


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