How NOT to train for a marathon.

I have learned a lot during my first experience with marathon training. It didn’t go as expected but I think that is true for anyone who attempts to run their first marathon. I did a lot of things right but I also did a lot of things wrong. I injured myself half way through training and had to take about a month off to recover. It was devastating and humbling but it made me look back on what I had done up until that point and see how and where I went wrong. I have found that marathon training is all about doing the little things. Running is just the beginning… the rest of training is what takes the most time, energy, and dedication. 

How NOT to train for a marathon:

1. Don’t stretch or foam roll.

Stretching is just what lazy people do when they don’t want to run anymore. If you lay on the ground for five minutes then place your foot against the wall and stretch your calves for 17 seconds each, you’re good. Even if every runner you meet tells you to stretch, they have all just fallen into the stretching cult… don’t buy it. 



2. Make a schedule, but be an eager beaver and jump ahead.

You’ve found a beginner schedule that works for you but you are starting off with an easy 8 miler on the first Sunday? But you’ve run half marathons before and those are longer? It’s ok to jump ahead in your schedule. Over achievers are cool and will obviously run faster marathons. If you are working up to 16 miles, but it is your birthday and you are turning 21, by all means go for a 21 mile run. 


3. Hydrating on the run is for losers. 

You want to feel fresh and well hydrated on a long run? That is just ridiculous. It is winter and cold and you probably won’t lose that much sweat on your two hour run anyway so don’t bother taking water. Plus, those hydration belts? Nerd alert. 

4. Don’t take rest days. 

Rest is for the weak. You can rest when you are dead. If you want to be a real runner you must run as much as you can, cross train your ass off and don’t take rest days. If people start saying that you are addicted to the gym or that you are wearing yourself out, it just means you are doing it right. How else will your body be ready for a marathon if you don’t stress your muscles and cardiovascular system all day ‘er day?


5. “Easy” pace? Easy is not a word in your vocabulary. 

A recovery run at “easy” pace, no thanks. Each run must be faster than the last. If you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower and that means you will never be able to finish a marathon. Run each run like its your last, your Garmin doesn’t show you new records for slow “easy” runs now does it?

6. Compare yourself to others. 

How else will you know if you are doing this whole “running” thing right. We are all humans so we can probably all run the same speeds and distances. It just takes training. If your friend runs wicked fast, you should be able to too. They probably don’t take rest days either. Running is a sport all about winning, you don’t just compete with yourself for fun, that is what kids with “participation” ribbons say… you compete to win. If you’re not first, you’re last. 

7. Ice is for injured people.

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation… that is merely for a first aid course. Ice is for injured people… or hockey players. Ice baths are for crazies, your muscles may appreciate it, but if you tell people you are icing they will assume you are injured and make fun of you. 


8. Don’t strength train.

You don’t want to look like the hulk now do you? Running or strength training… it’s one or the other. Leg day before a run day… think again princess. If you have an hour at the gym, you should spend 59 minutes and 33 seconds on the treadmill, and 27 seconds “stretching.” You don’t use a strong core for running now do you? 


9. Run your long runs fast. 

Your training plan says 60-90 seconds slower per mile than your race pace… but that is just for people who don’t like to challenge themselves. If you are going to be running a RACE, your body should know how it feels to run fast over a long period of time. Run each long run as fast as you want… 17 miles at close to race pace… DO IT, it will go oh so well. 

10. Recovery is a myth.

Your body will be able to handle as much as you throw at it. Run faster, run more, cross train like there’s no tomorrow, and try to schedule yourself for an eight hour shift after every long run or hard workout. Being on your feet all day and not letting your body recover, especially after long runs, will pay off in the end. Recovery socks make you look cool but who has time for those. Obsessed is the word the lazy use to describe the dedicated. 


It is important to be able to look back and cry laugh at our mistakes. I have learned so much from this process and although getting injured kind of broke my heart (and my glute muscle), it was a major wake up call to all of the “extra” things that are required for marathon training. I realize now that I can’t just go out and run. I have to strength train, warm up, ice, take rest days, cool down, stretch, foam roll, do core work, run at a slower pace for some of my runs, hydrate, and nourish properly. The biggest lesson: Don’t take being able to run for granted, appreciate it 🙂


Disclaimer: I hope it is obvious, but I am not actually advising you to follow all of these steps for marathon training. In fact, do quite the opposite.

13 Comments

  1. This is a fantastic post Kris! You’ve learned more than I did my first time around; I think I’m still guilty of a few of those things. The other one, that I learned the hard way, is to start the marathon at the pace you planned on – not the adrenaline filled super pace you’ll want to run for the first 5 miles when the gun goes off. Only 3 more sleeps!

  2. I’m not a marathoner yet, but I totally relate to this. I always feel like I’m slacking if my runs aren’t progressively getting faster, and I feel like I’m not getting a good workout if I take it easy haha. Great post, and good luck in the marathon! 🙂

  3. That “easy” part really hit me haha. I’m really bad at taking runs “easy” because I get a little sad if my times are longer than usually ):

  4. My favourite blog so far…. we all learn from our mistakes.. still learning. Good on ya, Kris!

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