Completing a full marathon is something that comes with its own special bragging rights but completing one without proper training is downright crazy. A marathon isn’t just 42.2 km (26.2 miles) of pure physical endurance, it is also months and months of preparation prior to that. During those miles, your body experiences various forms of stress and levels of intensity that you simply cannot (or should not) experience straight off your couch. Not to mention it would also be against the advice of runners and doctors alike. So, can you run a marathon without training? In short, you shouldn’t even try, although the long answer might be a bit more complicated. Let’s take a look into that…
Your sports background should be one of the first things we start this analysis with. As our bodies vary a lot from person to person, our physical and cardiovascular conditioning also heavily varies. While someone who is living a sedentary lifestyle might feel it rather difficult to get up and start running, people that work physically demanding jobs are, in most cases, in good overall shape which can handle physical stress better.
Apart from demanding jobs, people that have been training heavily in previous stages of their life are also more capable due to muscle memory and overall body constitution. Someone who has played football at 20 will still be more physically fit at 25 since he or she will know how to perform under higher stress levels and will also have a better form when running. The joints and muscles of athletes or people that have practised a sport for a long time are stronger and more resistant to heavy exercising. Now, all this has a certain limit. What this means is that if you’ve trained something (even if it was on a professional level), say 20 years ago, it won’t really matter and it won’t really help you to get off the couch and complete a marathon. It might be of help when it comes to the mental aspect but it is safe to say that all physical benefits would be gone by this point.
While some people can have a certain running experience behind them, others might have avoided it no matter what they’ve trained. But do you need to be at a certain running level before trying a marathon or even training for one? The next part is about this exactly…
Running credentials required for marathon training
While there are some unverified cases of people that ran the Los Angeles marathon without proper training or nutrition leading up to it, it is advisable to get to a certain point in your running career before you start seriously considering a full marathon.
Start with testing yourself against a mile. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Getting anywhere between 8 and 10 minutes is good enough and means that you are physically fit. Now, test yourself on longer runs such as 5, 10, 15, or even 20 miles. Being able to score a certain pace is one thing, being able to maintain it is a whole other ball game. This is in the core of marathon running – consistency. Being able to consistently run a 10-minute mile is going to get you relatively close to a 4 hour time which is where the majority of the runners will finish.
If you’ve never ran seriously before, give yourself at least 6 months of introduction to your body so that your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular systems can get accustomed to this type of physical activity. This is even more valid if you have some weight cutting to do before the serious training part. Okay, but if time didn’t matter, is there still a way to finish even if it took you a lot of time? Well…
How to finish without training
If there is a way to finish a full marathon without training, it involves compromising your sub-4 hour time. If you walk briskly and try to maintain a 15-minute per mile pace, then it will take you slightly longer than 6 hours to finish the marathon which isn’t that bad, plus you will get to finish which is the goal of all this, right?
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If you are more physically fit, you might try running at a very slow pace, which can bring you closer to the 5-hour mark. Still, whether you walk fast or run very slow, there are a lot of risks involved with this monumental physical challenge for your body. Let’s take a look at some of those now…
As with any other physical stress of this magnitude, there are certain risks which can be exacerbated by the intense physical strain you go through during a marathon.
One of the worst issues of these races is that, unless you’ve been cleared by a physician, there is always a good chance you can trigger an undiscovered medical condition. Those involve the cardiovascular or respiratory systems in the majority of the cases.
Pain, muscle strains, excessive wear and tear on your joints, and a long recovery period are to be expected in almost all cases of people who try doing a marathon without proper training for it.
It is always a good idea to have some type of equipment to show you your heart’s and cardiovascular state at all times. A good waterproof fitness tracker will do just that, so consider getting one if you are seriously interested in running a marathon or training for one.
So, can you run a marathon without training? Sure, if you have some physical experience behind your back and you are in overall good shape, you might be able to complete a marathon, although you might not do that by “running” all the time and your end-time won’t be one to brag about. Still, if it is only finishing the marathon we are talking about, it is possible. Still, go through some of the potential risks before you try this immense test of the human body.