How can you run a marathon without training? That's a foolish question! It would be best if you didn't attempt to run 26. 2 miles/ 42 kilometers without engaging in some form of physical training. It's also vital that you check in with a physician to ensure you are in the proper health condition to complete a marathon.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let me tell you about the marathon I ran on Sunday without following the recommended 16-20 week training schedule or getting clearance from a doctor!
Two weeks ago, I learned about the Run in Paradise race. A friend sent me a WhatsApp message about the 42k, 10k, and 5k options. I read that the marathon, 42k, began at 3:00 AM on Sunday, September 5, 2021.
The combination of running a race in the middle of the night with only two weeks to prepare sounded like just the opportunity I needed to test my courage and fitness level.
After my second Chicago marathon in 2009, I retired from long-distance races. The pain from running 26 miles was unbearable, and my goal of qualifying to run the Boston marathon felt unreachable. Then in 2010, 2012, and 2013, I celebrated the birth of my children.
Becoming a father encouraged me to reconsider my previous decision.
I wanted to experience the feeling of having my children cheer me from the sidewalk as I pushed my physical limits in one more race. Seeing a parent run a marathon can encourage children to make healthier lifestyle choices. Years passed, my family and I moved abroad, and the marathon goal became a "one-day" thing.
You know, “one-day I will do it.” Do you have any "one-day" goals?
Witnessing the impact of the covid pandemic pushes many of the “one day” excuses from my vocabulary. With the number of deaths among people of all ages, I am intentional about making the most out of my remaining time on this earth.
If there’s anything we want to do, we must begin today to take steps toward achievement.
With that reignited awareness of the shortness of life, I laced up my Payless running shoes and hounded the Run in Paradise organizers to allow late registration. While waiting for a response, I found an intermediate marathon training schedule from Runners World and followed the workouts for weeks 15 and 16. Finally, three days before the race, I received approval from Run in Paradise to pick up my participant packet on Saturday.
Here are three things I did before, during, and after Sunday’s marathon.
1. I jogged every week. No, I did not follow a 16-20 week training schedule per the recommendations of the marathon experts. However, since May, I have been running 10 miles on Tuesdays and another 13 on Saturdays. After learning about the marathon, I added 30 miles in one week and subtracted 8 miles the following week to prepare. I also trained capoeira, practiced yoga, and lifted weights throughout this period.
2. On the eve of the marathon, I ate two full plates of pasta and rested. Thanks to my amazing wife, our family dinner happened much earlier than usual. I did not get in bed as early as I planned because I wanted to finish the documentary Spirit of the Marathon and the movie Rocky II to receive double doses of inspiration. Nonetheless, I was under the covers by 6:00 PM for a 12:45 AM rise!
3. I pre-loaded myself with carbs, mindfulness, and meditation two hours before the race. At 12:45 AM, I woke up, prayed, and wrote in my journal. Then I ate a bowl of pasta with an avocado sandwich. After that, I meditated for twenty minutes. Thirty minutes before leaving home, I listened to motivational audio clips and edited a capoeira instructional video.
1. The race began at 3:10 AM, and I started strong. Many long-distance running coaches recommend beginning fast, then easing into your stride, and ultimately picking up your pace at the end. Unfortunately, I started too quickly due to the excitement and adrenaline. I paid for it at miles 19 and 21 with hamstring cramps.
2. I learned to appreciate the darkness, stray dogs, and police! I ran alone on pitch-black roads; the silence and lack of lights produced a surreal surge of fear and courage. Stray dogs barked, and a couple began to chase me. Thankfully, the motorcycle police assigned to patrol the course steered the dogs away from my legs.
3. In realizing that covid kept most spectators indoors, I became my biggest cheerleader. On many of the 26.2 miles, I grunted, screamed, and encouraged myself with positive self-talk (See pic for evidence). Examples of my loud verbal affirmations included: “I am strong! I am powerful! God is pushing me through this race! I am doing this for my ancestors! I got this!” Thankfully I passed my house twice on the course, and on the second lap, my wife and three kids came out to cheer.
1. After my emotional completion of the race that included my children chasing me to the finish line, I took pictures. Before and during the race, I visualized myself posing with the finisher’s medal and my family. A local friend of mine surprised me at the finish line and also took a picture with us.
2. I needed to see if I had energy left in me, so I did a backflip. After every one of my long runs, I always trained capoeira, which included kicks, dodges, and acrobatic movements. After the marathon, it only felt right to flip, and I landed it without a problem.
3. Before heading home, I soaked in the saltwater of the Fort James beach. I stayed in the cool water for about fifteen minutes to stretch and recover. It was the best thing I could do for my aching muscles and to slow my body down after this physical achievement.
See my sprint to the finish line, the family picture, and celebratory backflip in the episode below:
Please, don't follow my example. You should train appropriately before attempting to run 26.2 miles. I plan to do the marathon again next year with friends and using one of the Runners World recommended schedules.
I set a goal of completing the race in less than 4 hours without stopping. My official time was 4:02:07, and I placed 4th among 24 runners. At mile 21, I paused for about 30 seconds to stretch a muscle cramp in my hamstrings. Otherwise, I kept moving the entire time.
How did I develop the mindset to run a marathon without following a proper training schedule? You can find bits and pieces of your answers to that question on my blog and inside my books.