How Not to Train for a Marathon

“I think you should be a child for as long as you can. I have been successful for seventy-four years being able to do that. Don’t rush into adulthood; it isn’t all that much fun.” – Bob Newhart

One of my first articles published in a commercial magazine was The Untrained Marathon. In the article I described a program I created to train for a marathon I ran in 2008. It was an embarrassingly scaled-back, watered-down, feeble excuse for a training program compared to those I followed for previous marathons. My entire life I had been focused on finishing time. In fact, I wouldn’t register for a marathon if I didn’t think I’d finish in less than four hours. For the untrained marathon my only expectation was to finish.

The thing that drives me these days is this adolescent notion of running a marathon in my sixtieth year, which is approaching like a runaway train. Weirdly, I’m afraid if I don’t run one this year it will make it easier never to run another. I know, I’m warped.

Somehow I lulled myself into thinking I’m in good enough condition to increase my mileage exponentially, and that it won’t take much to push through that elusive threshold where you battle complete exhaustion and mental anguish and still have 10K to go. Not that I’ve been slacking. I did my first triathlon this summer, a sprint, and finished a century cycle race that included 7,000 feet of elevation climb. I just haven’t been putting in serious endurance miles on my feet.

It hit me last week when a fellow-runner told me that she is increasing her miles to train for a half-marathon. I thought about how far behind I am compared to training for past marathons. So I did the only thing I knew how to do—I went for a thirteen-mile run. I thought I’d die. This fifty-nine-year-old body isn’t what it was when I was thirty, or forty, or fifty-five for that matter. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

My message to you is not to take marathon training lightly. I’ve learned over the years that you don’t need to follow one of those rigorous sixteen or eighteen-week programs, and I proved it in The Untrained Marathon. But there is no getting around putting in the miles.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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2 Responses to How Not to Train for a Marathon

  1. Agree – from someone who ran her first marathon at age 55.


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