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Running a half marathon without training – Tips from an Olympian

We have all been there! Whether being a half marathon, 5k, or marathon, at some point we “have to” line up on a race without much or any training. I have to warn you, it is not the best experience you will likely have, but it is possible to finish a race without training (specifically) for it. The advice I will give you will be based on your running experience and your goal for the race. In addition, at the end of this article will provide you with some general tips to make your half-marathon safer and nicer competition, even if it is your first one.

Running a half marathon with little to some running experience

If you are a runner who has run a couple of times or run from time to time, you have a good chance to run a half-marathon without a particular training program. Let’s say you have run so far at least up to 5/10k and you aim to run a half marathon. What you have to be careful of is your pace. Since you have some experience with running, you should know what pace feels really comfortable for you when you run an easy 5-10k. Think of running a half marathon even slower than that feeling because the distance will be around double and more than what you have done so far. Think about it like a nice and easy run where you aim to enjoy the surroundings. You may still need a break and walk if you feel up to it during the race. This may help you to finish your half marathon if you really struggle after the 10-15k. It’s okay to walk and let yourself catch your breath. In general, your breathing should be as relaxed as possible during the entire distance. If you feel some discomfort and cramping in your legs, don’t forget to stop at those support and use some fluids to rehydrate. It will make a huge difference and allow you to continue running.

Running a half marathon with no training and running experience

Some people do it- they decide to try a half marathon as their first race without any prior training. It is possible to do it but it might be kind of tough on your body and even mentally. If you like challenges- go for it!
If you are somebody who often hikes or do other type of cardio like biking, swimming, it may feel easier for you than somebody who is not a very sporty person. To prepare yourself, you can try a longer type of cardio for up to 2h and this is a great start to prepare yourself without running.
If you have no time to prepare, or no chance of running, your goal should be simply not to run the race but rather finishing it. This means that it is a great idea to do a combination of running and walking through the distance. Do not focus on time or pace, just try to enjoy it as much as you can. Remember that regardless of your fitness, your desire, motivation and mental state can move you forward to complete the race and feel very accomplished after your competition.

Running a half marathon without particular training for it

Let’s say you have done some 5k and 10ks but you have never run a half-marathon and you just signed for one,without having time to prepare for it. Many runners have done it, you can do it too. The goal here is to adjust your pace in a way that you can run smart and achieve a good result, without much of a suffering. There are many online calculators that can fairly well predict what time should you aiming for and what your pace should be. Check out this one that runners world provides. You can then keep a track of your running splits or even adjust your watch to “pace you” if you have some of the newest GPS watches. Remember to leave a room of at least 5 sec gap per kilometer because many factors can play a role in your race day.

General tips for all runners with none, some or no particular half-marathon experience

1. Hydrate and fuel well

This is absolutely critical because the half marathon is a no joke and it is realitively long race. You should do this prior the race and during the race. Use the hydration stations that the race organizers provide and drink some liquid every 5k if possible. If your goal is just to finish the race, you can also stop and eat a little bit on those stations. If you are following particular pace you can carry your own gels and consume them after the first half of the race. Here, I will advice you to try at least twice to do this during your runs because not everyone tolerate them well at the beginning. This will prevent you from finishing with some unpleasant GI distress.

2. Wear comfortable shoes and gear

Do not try your brand new shoes on a race day. Run with something that you have used to and it feels good on your feet. Same goes for your running gear in general. This will prevent you from having blisters or other skin issues.

3. Check the weather

You want to be as prepared as possible. Thus, always see what the race day will likely bring in order to have a good racing plan. For example, if it is too hot, you may need to hydrate more and readjust your pace. If it rainy, you may want to bring a hat with you to prevent eye irritration

4. Get some company

Bring a friend, especially if you are doing it only for fun! It is always great to have some support out there and it makes life+ running so much easier

5. Find a mental distraction

Consider listening to a music and a podcast if you are trying only to finish your race. In this way, the time will fly much faster and distract you from some painful kilometers.

6. Have a reasonable goal

Do not put too high expectation about what should happen. Relax and learn from your experience. If it is your day and you run great- awesome! If it does not go as planned- learn from it and get stronger the next time.

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