Before we get started, we are not condoning running a race without training for it! Running any distance is a serious business that takes time, dedication and commitment. But the fact is, thousands of you will rock up to race start lines across the country (and the world) this year and attempt to run races which you did not train for.
From not training enough due to life commitments, to trying to cram the miles in at the last minute, to doing zero training whatsoever, there are many reasons why people won’t be prepared for a race they still intend to run. The most important thing is ensuring that you are in good health, and if you really must insist on running the damn thing, that you do it the safest way possible.
If you literally can’t run a mile and lose your breathe merely from walking too fast, have a serious think about whether or not this is a good idea. There is no shame in NOT starting a race if you simply aren’t prepared, so drop out now, sign up to a future event and stick to a god damn training plan. The risk of seriously injuring yourself is REAL.
Now we’ve got the serious stuff out the way, here are some tips for running (and finishing) a race you’re not entirely prepared for!
OK so obviously you're not prepared, or you wouldn’t be reading this, but there are a few things you can do now to ease the pain. Start by liberally applying Vaseline all over your body, and mentally visualising yourself completing the race.
Then order a large pizza, and put the said pizza next to your pyjamas and comfiest slippers and leave them right by your front door, along with a six pack of beer and some pain killers. When you get home after your race and have to crawl through the front door, you will thank yourself for this precious gift.
Be honest with yourself
If you haven’t trained for the miles ahead, the chance of achieving any sort of time goal is dramatically reduced, so forget about the clock, leave your fancy watch at home and endeavour to simply finish it. Running for a long time is stressful enough without putting time constraints on yourself that you’re not going to be able to keep. Take the pressure off and focus on having fun instead.
Dress up like a banana
Runners are incredibly sympathetic when it comes to fancy dress, so if you did absolutely sod all training, stick a ridiculous costume on and hit the road. The chafe factor will be dramatically increased, but so will the cheers from the crowds, and come race day they will be invaluable. We will forgive anyone if they’re dressed like a giant banana/chicken/octopus, so wear something daft and you can travel as slowly as you like and people will still cheer for you.
Your slowest pace? Halve it. Go so slow children and chickens walk quicker. Trust us, you’re going to need to conserve every ounce of energy you have, so take it slow for the first 3/4 of the race.
Do not weave
Weaving around other runners or walkers will use up essential energy reserves and having done sod all training, frankly you just don’t have much to spare. Aim to continue forward in a straight line and conserve your energy. You’re going to need it for the final mile.
Walk walk walk
Many people who have trained hard for the race you're about to try and wing will still take walk breaks, so cast aside your ego and prepare to walk a significant chunk of the race. This is perfectly OK and you’ll probably still enjoy the day. Just stick to the side of the roads so that runners who have trained hard can get past. Factor in walk breaks every mile. And dance breaks. And don't forget to sing!
Just don’t stop
Walking is fine, slow running is fine, dancing is fine, crawling on your hands and knees is fine, just make sure you do this in a relentless forward motion.
Eat and drink
Bring as many jelly babies and energy gels as you can cram in your tights and continue to stuff your face for the entire race. You’re going to need that sugar hit to get you across the finish line.
Find a friend
Be it six miles or 26.2 miles, if you're on your own it's going to feel like a very long way, especially if you haven't done enough/any training. Find a likeminded runner to chat to or persuade a friend to run/walk at your pace and the day will go a lot (OK a bit) quicker. Together you can laugh about what a couple of twits you are and how you're grossly ill-prepared for the day ahead.
Listen to your body
Can’t run for more than a few minutes? Walk. In serious pain? Drop out. Forcing yourself to run when your body feels like a bag of smashed crabs could lead to serious injury, so always err on the side of caution. Medals are cool, but having a working body is cooler.
As your body starts to hurt, your mood starts to plummet and your energy seriously starts to wane, you probably won't feel great about your life choices when you reach the final miles. Try and recall why you signed up for the race in the first place, focus on the positives and enjoy the day. There aren't many situations in modern life when total strangers cheer you in the street and will you to succeed, so harness some of their positivity and power on through.
Do it again
Just kidding. Don't be a plonker. Next time follow a bloody training plan. Here are some great ones and they're completely free.