How to hack a marathon if you aren't a runner

Posted by Andrew on January 9, 2011

This post is not a recommendation for you to try to do what we did. Thanks, hope you enjoy!

A few years ago I ran the San Francisco marathon without training and finished it in 4 hours and 28 minutes. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I did this, then when they do they then start thinking I’m an idiot. I did do it, and maybe. The part of the story that I don’t normally share is that my friend Tyson also ran the marathon that day and finished in around 5 and 1/2 hours. To me his run, though an hour longer, is probably more impressive of a feat.

Everything started on a Tuesday evening in Livermore, CA where Tyson and I were both working as interns at LLNL. We were shooting pool with 2 other interns and one of them mentioned that he was going to run the San Francisco marathon that coming Sunday. I am not sure if there is a possible logical chain of events between his comment and the point that Tyson and I were registering for the marathon and buying running shoes at the Expo the day before it, but it happened. What was logical was that Tyson (now a nuclear physicist) and I decided that we needed a plan for how to finish the marathon. This is where Tyson’s story gets more impressive. As we started hashing things out we started by discussing our current levels of physical fitness and how far we had ever run before. Tyson had always been more into playing music than sports, so when he told me that he didn’t think that he had ever run for more than a mile before it gave me only a moments pause. This is when I actually started to feel confident because I played intramural soccer in college, was trying to run 2 miles a day to recover from a cut achilles tendon, and had once gone for a three mile run. After all we were two smart young guys, so who needs to have run longer than a mile before when you are about to run 26.2 miles. Not us.

So we talked with our marathoning buddy who had tricked us into this somehow and we came up with a plan. How to hack a marathon:

  1. Don’t plan on running the whole thing
  2. Take 4 Advil an hour before the race (Not recommended by physicians, but it’s what we did.)
  3. Take a walking break at every mile marker
  4. Eat half a banana whenever you see one
  5. Take two waters at ever water station
  6. Eat no more than 3 Gu energy packs because our stomachs didn’t like them
  7. Take bathroom breaks
  8. Walk every hill
  9. Meet interesting people and use conversation to kill the pain
  10. Put bandaids on your nipples to prevent bleeding

Because I felt as though I was in pretty good shape I decided that I would run the first 4 miles at a little slower than a 10 minute pace and then start my plan of walking for 2 mins or less at every mile marker. I mostly stuck to the plan and finished with a pace of 10:14/mile. Tyson also stuck to his regimen and we both got our medals.

That day I learned a valuable lesson, that just because something seems hard and you don’t feel prepared does not mean that you can’t do it.

Now go run a marathon.

As seen on:

The BBC - Could you run a marathon without training?

LifeHacker - How to Run a Marathon Without Any Training

Mark Remy on - Run a Marathon... on Zero Training?

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