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Spur of the moment half marathon

Fields and a pathway

Running 13.1 miles with no training…

Throughout the course of this blog post I’m going to talk through why I ran the half, the advantages and disadvantages I had going in, what I learnt about my mindset and why the whole thing was a completely stupid idea.

I should also say at this stage that I don’t think I achieved anything extraordinary but what I did do is push myself mentally and physically and I took myself outside of my comfort zone, whilst doing something I hate.


Why did I do it?

It’s now been 3 days since I did the run and I have been asking myself the same question ever since! My joints are struggling, I did it with a bad ankle which I can now barely put weight on and my legs are really sore.

However when I set out on the run I did have good intentions, I basically decided the day before that I was going to run a half marathon to actively seek out discomfort. The desire to do something hard came about due to a book I’ve recently read:


Can't hurt me book

I was talking to a good mate about books a while ago and he said he’d read this one but caveated it by saying “that guy is an absolute psycho”. I’d argue that David Goggins is part psycho and part genius and I’d recommend his book to anyone.


David Goggins is a guy that has essentially pushed his body to it’s physical limits on countless occasions (read more about his achievements here). He has put himself through military selection processes multiple times and always excelled, he’s broken the world record for pull ups in 24 hours (4,030) and has taken part in and won countless ultra-marathons. The man is a beast and widely regarded as one of the toughest people on earth.

A big part of his philosophy is pushing yourself to your breaking point and beyond physically in order to strengthen your mindset which is why I wanted to do a half with no prep or training beforehand.


Factors which would impact my performance

The run was really hard and I did have to push myself through it, but there were a few advantages I had heading in:

  1. Overall activity levels – I had hardly done any specific running training before but I’m pretty active generally – I walk the dog pretty much every day and weight train multiple times per week.

  2. Energy reserves – I eat roughly 3,200 calories per day at maintenance with a lot of those calories coming from carbs. Even though I didn’t “carb load” heading into the run, I do eat a hell of a lot of carbs all the time, I am always technically carb loading!

  3. Conditions – the route was flat and the weather was decent on the day (a bit too hot for me but it could’ve been worse).

There were also a number of points which counted against me heading into it:

  1. No training – in the month before the run I had run 3 times covering 7 miles in total. It is pretty common practice to build up to at least a 10 mile training run before taking on a half marathon.

  2. Injured ankle – I had played football pretty regularly up until 6 weeks before the run when I damaged the ligaments in my ankle. I took some pain killers before I ran which helped with the pain but I could feel it throughout.

  3. Lack of experience – I was so underprepared that I had to stop and Google how far a half marathon was during my run…

  4. Weight – I’m not massive by any means but at 88kg, I’m a bit heavier than most people you see doing endurance running. I once did a 5k in under 20 minutes and that was made easier because I was 10kg lighter than I am now – throughout the half I could definitely feel the extra weight!


How it actually went

To summarise – it was absolutely horrible.


Calories

After starting I tried to go as long as I possibly could without looking at my watch. I didn’t want to check the distance I’d covered because I thought I’d end up looking every couple of minutes and that would have been demotivating. The first time I looked at my watch I can remember I was 4.34 miles in and I was hating every minute by then.

It seemed to take forever to get from 4.34 miles past the halfway mark but when I got halfway through that felt like a bit of a landmark which spurred me on a bit.

At about mile 10 I was really struggling and felt like if I had stopped to have a break then my legs would’ve seized up and I wouldn’t have been able to continue on. The last 3 miles or so were a complete battle, it was only when I got to 12.8 miles when I knew I was actually going to be able to finish it.



The time wasn’t important to me but I had in my head that I was roughly aiming for 2 hours, so to finish on 2:02 was pretty much where I thought I’d land. I was less worried about the pace and more worried about running quickly enough to finish before my legs completely cramped up.


What the run taught me about mindset

I didn’t tell anybody that I was going to do a half marathon before I left which meant no one would know if I didn’t get it all done. I was only accountable to myself – which I think was important.


Quote

I was doing the half for myself rather than anybody else or to match a time etc. I had genuine intrinsic motivation to get through it and get it finished.

I honestly felt like stopping at 4.34 miles and the rest of the run was a battle of mind vs body. There are a number of things which helped me to finish it:

  1. Mental wins along the way – I kept trying to give myself little check points to work towards (halfway through, 10 miles, landmarks along the route etc.). When I reached a check point that helped me to feel like I was making progress.

  2. I had a clear reason to finish – every time a little voice popped into my head and asked “why are you doing this?” I had an answer for it, that purpose kept me going.

  3. A belief that we’re stronger than we think – one of the things that “Can’t Hurt Me” has taught me is that we’re all capable of more than we believe. At about mile 10 I was still moving almost solely to prove to myself that my body wasn’t finished even though my mind was telling me that I couldn’t go on any further.


Final thoughts

3 days after the run I can genuinely barely walk, I’ve currently got ice on my ankle and I am definitely not recommending that anybody attempts a half marathon or any other physical challenge without having trained for it. To be clear – this was a stupid idea!

It would have been much better for me to build up my runs to be able to tackle a half marathon for a number of reasons. For example I would’ve recovered much more effectively and my time would’ve been faster.


This was the equivalent of having not bench pressed in a while and then going to the gym and trying a one rep max before having warmed up properly… What I did went completely against the principle of progressive overload, which is something I constantly bang on about with my clients. Progressive overload is key to getting results and if I’d followed that framework I would have got a much better outcome.

I’m not telling anybody to follow my example here in terms of going from 0 to 100 that quickly. However, I would definitely recommend reading Can’t Hurt Me and I believe that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and doing things you don’t enjoy is key to building a stronger mindset.


Next time you feel like you’re at your breaking point and your mind is telling you to stop, just remember that we are wired as humans to take the path of least resistance. Just push yourself to do 10% more, then 10% more again and soon enough you’ll be making some serious progress and smashing your goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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