How to Finish a Half Marathon When You Haven’t Trained

It isn’t a trivia fact I’m particularly proud of, but I’ve completed two half marathons now with very little training. A sprained ankle (the first one) and laziness, I mean a busy life, kept me from my intense training routine the second time around. The most I ran before either marathon was six miles, less than half the total distance. So why do it? Because running that far makes it totally appropriate to eat and sleep as much as you want after the race.

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Just kidding.

It’s the incredible sense of accomplishment from crossing the finish line.

Here’s my secret to making it to the finish- be stubborn. Let me explain.
Step 1:
Hopefully you have at least registered for a half marathon that a) starts early in the morning or b) a lot of your friends are running. Both A and B make for the best case scenario but either A or B still increases your chances of finishing dramatically. Early in the morning is best because frankly if you are groggy for the first 3 miles the race will go by a lot faster. Friends and family are helpful because they help quite literally pull you along and will smile even when it takes you five hours to finish the half marathon.

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Step 2:
Be stubborn. Sure, it may have taken me twice the time it took you to finish, but I had severe diarrhea during the race and had to pull over seven times. (Ok that part unfortunately is true, but you see where I am going with this- let nothing stop you). Motivate yourself- when you get to mile nine and you’ve hit the wall, remind yourself that if you’ve made it to mile nine you WILL finish. I try to choose someone near me at mile nine and tell myself that we will finish together. I don’t let that person get too far ahead of me and more often than not I finish ahead of them, yup I’m competitive and stubborn.

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Step 3:
Bring sport beans/gu/concentrated electrolytes. I like the sport beans because I can pretend like I am eating candy. Just like a five year old I am motivated by candy, or err sport beans. Only two more sport beans before I finish this mile…

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Step 4:
Walk when you have to. When you get tired, and you will… remember it is ok to walk. Shuffle if you have to instead of jogging, but keep the body moving. If you stop it is all over. At the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon I could barely run at the end I was SO tired. But I kept moving like a snail. And like that little engine that could I made it to the end and even had some energy to sprint (thank you sport beans!)

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Step 5:
Visualize something else. I try hard not to focus on time or how much distance I have left. Miles 5-8 are the hardest for me so I try to think of something else. I imagine myself swimming towards a boat in the far distance; I make up a story about someone running ahead of me and focus on keeping up with them, or (nerd alert!) I try to list out all the prime numbers from 1 to 1,000 and reward myself with a sport bean.

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Hopefully you’ve done a little bit of training before the half marathon and aren’t going in completely unprepared. If you are completely unprepared skip 1-5 and go directly to step six- pray before you run.

About Jillian

I'm an adventurer and a fun loving spirit. I'll do almost anything once for the experience, well within reason. I love mountain biking, hiking and swimming. I compete in adventure races, but I'm also a complete nerd and love to read. I try to live my life without regrets, in the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. "

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