*DISCLAIMER: This is a really terrible idea and you have to be a few crayons short of box (like me) to actually run a half-marathon with no training. But if you choose to pursue this wildly ridiculously course of action here is how to not die on the course, which with no training, is the only measure of success.*
Back in February, I signed up to run the Marine Corps Historic Half-Marathon. It was my first half-Mary last year and I was determined to rock this course. My head was filled with thoughts of “I will PR this beast” “I will own this course” and “I will run 5:30 min/miles and become an elite runner as destiny intended”. Obviously, going from a steady 10-10:30 min/mile to a 5:30 min/mile was completely achievable (SPOILER: it’s not) and all I needed was a beautiful, color-coded training plan (and also a new body, one that is designed for elite running and not persistent shin splints).
So, I made my beautiful color-coded training plan. I purchased shiny new running shoes. I hoarded Gu and Gatorade in preparation for long runs. But, somehow those long runs never took place. Barely any runs took place. Despite taping my color-coded plan to both the fridge and my wall at work, I simply never ran. Two or three teams a week I would make a half-assed effort and get my sorry butt out the door for 30 mins, or I’d lift a few paltry weights for 20 mins. But that was it. No speed training, no long runs, no cross-training. Nada. My motivation had escaped me and was now cleverly disguising itself. Without any motivation, I was too lazy to look for it.
Suddenly, it was the day before the half and I found myself with a color-coded training plan, a snazzy pair of shoes, plenty of Gu, and zero training. My longest run since Marine Corps Marathon in October was 6 miles. I couldn’t recall what a track looked like as I hadn’t been near one since the previous summer. And my runner’s legs were starting to resemble cankles.
Now, I could have used that lovely little thing called a brain and decided not to run this half-marathon. Attempting a half with no training sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Not so, said a stubborn little voice in my head. What’s the big deal, the voice whispered, you’ve run a marathon before the half is nothing! And so I found myself at the starting line of MCHHM with zero training under my belt, working hard to hyperventilate and/or pretend I was simply a spectator who had gotten lost in the corrals. 13 years later (at least that’s what it felt like to my untrained legs) I crossed the finish line, collected my medal, and downed a beer in record time (the perfect recovery fuel). I also declared myself an expert in running half-marathons with no training, and I will now impart all of my acquired wisdom to you lucky readers who stumbled here by accident when you searched for actual half-marathon training plans:
1) Have previously run and properly trained for a half-marathon. Seriously, if you have never trained for a half before, or you are just a few months into running, STOP READING AND DO NOT DO THIS. Half-marathons are hard with proper training, they are even harder without training and they are impossible if you are a newbie and have no training.
2) Wear good shoes. Not good-looking shoes, but shoes that you have been fitted for. At a running store. Run in them several times before the race. You will seriously regret this otherwise.
3) However slow you think you should go, go slower. With no training, you are not going to be able to maintain any kind of “good” pace. You’ll be lucky to finish the race without crying uncle. No matter how competitive you are, you will not be winning any ribbons when you haven’t done any training. So give it up and just run to finish
4) Along with the go-slow approach add, do not wear a watch. If you wear a watch you will look at the time. If you are looking at the time you will try to go faster. If you try to faster you will die. Don’t die. Don’t wear a watch.
5) For all of us goal-obsessed people (unite!), set goals, but do not set one single time goal. Seriously, do not. Or I will come find you and kick your ass for you. You haven’t trained for this so time goals are not an option. Set goals like: I will count the number of squirrels I see on the course. Or, I will take pictures of the most ridiculous shirts I see on the course. See? Great goals to try and achieve, everyone wants to count squirrels, exciting stuff.
6) Drink water, lots and lots and lots of water. The day before, drink water like it’s your job. Drink some more water the morning of the half. Although you might want to stop drinking a little before the race, don’t want to be one of those people caught peeing in the bushes. Try to drink a little bit of water at every water station. Alternating Gatorade with water might also help. Everyone knows winners drink Gatorade (losers drink Powerade).
7) Walk up the hills. Just do it. Your legs are already going to HATE you the next day, don’t make it worse by trying to run up the hills.
8) Run with a friend who has also done no training so you can whine to each other about how you have done training. Honestly, this was probably the reason I finished the half because I had a good friend running with me who was in the same boat. Instead of thinking about how much everything hurt, we just bitched about how little training we did. Distractions are the best.
So, hopefully everyone has a few more brain cells than me and would never actually run a half-marathon without training, but just in case, these fool-proof, completely scientific bits of advice will get you through.