Horror Stories Wanted

OK if you've ever run a marathon underprepared, I'm after your experiences.

This is my 5th and my base mileage is decent (I think) but I have fallen off the wagon about half way through my training due to various reasons..

So what is the worst I can expect when I haven't been able to get those crucial long runs in?

Whats your worst experience?


  • When I did my first marathon I was woefully underprepared. I had bad IT band syndrome which had been misdiagnosed by a v bad physio (now struck off and on sex offenders register) and so I had been blissfully popping pills and collapsing in pain at regular intervals with no idea how to actually improve the situation.

    Did very few long runs - although did manage 1 x 20miles but did no running whatsoever in the 4 weeks prior to the race because knees were so bad. I also did it all at very short notice. Got a last minute place in New York - had 10 weeks to train from only ever having run 13 miles tops before. So essentially went from 13 to 20 miles in 6 weeks then did nothing for 4 - no wonder it was hard.

    It was hard. I just got slower and slower - I walked through every water station and it got harder and harder to start running (shambling more like). I didn't get any specific pain just an overall full body drag - felt like I weighed about 30 stone.

    At mile 25 I saw my husband in the crowd and I lifted my hand to wave and actually thought the effort would knock me to the ground...

    Afterwards I couldn't eat for several hours and had to sit with an ice pack on my head to stave off a migraine. I felt like I had just done the most stupid thing in my life. Of course the next day I signed up for my next marathon - you know how that works though by now image
  • Oh dear that does sound like a nightmare... I think I won't be as bad as that - managed to do a few longer runs but not as many as I'd usually do, and not as far

    I bet that made you learn the hard way that proper training is indeed half the way image
  • Are you really sure you want to hear horror stories before doing a marathon underpreparedimage

    For my 1st marathon started training early but ramped up the mileage too quickly and picked up an achilles injury on my first 20 mile run. Left off running for a few weeks but then ran my hometown half and had to pull out at mile 6 having totally f***ed my achilles. Didn't run again for 6 weeks then, 1 week before the marathon, did a 10k training run. Felt ok so, very foolishly, decided to run the marathon.

    Set off at 8min/mile pace and at mile 23 was still on for 3:30. Then didn't so much hit the wall as feel it had fallen on top of me. Staggered over the line in 3:51 taking 45 mins (and I felt like s*** for every one of those last 2,700 seconds) for the final 3 miles.


  • Elli - I have now done 10. You bet I learned my lesson. I have done marathons underprepared since but never again THAT under trained. Last winter in the big snow I really struggled to get my training in for a Jan 9th marathon. I had run Loch Ness and then became pretty ill - mental not physical but I wasn't in a state to train. Once my health improved I did 1 x 15, 1 x 16, 1 x 18 and 1x 20. Most runs were done half and half road/treadmill because of the shocking state of the roads here. This time the marathon was fine - slow but fine - I loved it to be honest because I had a really good excuse to take it easy and just enjoy myself.

  • I'd been running on and off since 1999.

    In 2001 I'd picked up a nasty shin injury after a 18 mile training run for the Snowdon Marathon, this meant I couldn't run for 8 weeks.
    5 weeks before hand I started running again with no intention of doing the marathon. I was doing 5 miles twice a week. 
    On the Tuesday before the race I went blind for an hour, it was migraine related, it'd never happened before and hasn't happened since, but at the time it was really scary.  So with that fear as motivation I thought what the heck I'll give Snowdon a go.
    Turned up on the day and gave it a go. Go to about 14 miles and had a little walk, then ran from drinks station to drinks staion, having a little breather at each one. At 21/22 mile when you hit the hard climb I settled for a walk to the top.
    At the top I looked at my watch nad I had 16 minutes to do the last 2.2 miles so belted it down the hill, ran hard thru town and finished in 3:59:39 

    In 2005 after a 5 month break from running I made another come back that lasted about 4-5 weeks and I quit again, but in a moment of madness decided that I can't quit for good unless I "run" a marathon so on the Tuesday before the Wolverhampton Marathon I ran for an hour and figured  I can run for another two, two and a half hours no problem.
    So I turned up on the day, payed my entry fee and was ready to go.
    Things didn't go too badly early on, but it was a scorching hot day, I made it thru 20 miles and I was starting to boil over,  but thought I was still on for a completion.
    But at 23 miles on a bit of an incline I could not go any further and just lay down on a grass verge and vowed never to run again.
    A kindly angel appeared in the form of an air cadet who gave me water, and eventually I got back up and walked to the finish (Last 3.2 miles took me 1:10 finish time 4:28:33.) 

    That night when I got home, after vowing never to run again, I entered the Abingdon Marathon. I had six weeks to do some training. I missed the first 3-4 days as I was quite ill with heat stroke and I missed 6 days in the middle with a sprained ankle, but on the day "ran" (no walking) to a finish time of 3:24:48.

    (2007 - I returned to Wolverhampton and set my PB there 2:55:55)

  • Dig out the thread of karate guy who came on here with a mOnth to go befor London and asked for advice.
    Most of us said enjoy the walk and he got really aggressive and arsey as we were clearly being unhelpful.
    His time in the end was something like 7 hours plus. Oof....
  • kaffeegkaffeeg ✭✭✭
    errrrrmmmmmm, not sure why i am torturing myself and coming on here. i can respond to the question posed in 6 1/2 weeks as my longest run will be about 16miles for my first marathon.
    until then, i'll ignore your horror stories and start planning for marathon number two.
  • Suddenly after reading these I don't think I'm doing that bad with my training now image
  • I foolishly entered the first Brighton Marathon (April 2010) having never run before. I started off with all the best intentions, but my training was almost entirely confined to the treadmill. After a while I could comfortably run for an hour, but that was the most I ever did. My one and only outdoor run was the Boxing Day fun run round the local park - that was only 8.8km, which I did in about 48 minutes. After that my training trailed off to the point where I did absolutely nothing for the six weeks prior to the event.

    Needless to say, I was totally unprepared for what lay ahead. I did ok for the first 6 or 7 miles, struggled at the first hill after that, and my half distance time wasn't that disaterous - but after that it was a mixture of walking and running. I eventually finished in 5hr 40min. At least I finished, but after just one event, I was completely put off the idea of running ever again.

    A year later I entered a few 10k runs to try to get my enthusiasm back and started training properly. I now run quite regularly and enter as many runs as possible. I recently did the Brighton Half Marathon in 1hr 48min and was very happy with my time.

  • You may not like my story but, rather than a "horror story, I feel it became more of a personal triumph.
    I'd entered Florence on the wave of euphoria following my first - London. Booked flights, hotel and looked forward to the next lot of training.. Not long after I started, I pulled something in my tum. It was excruciating and when I crawled back to the gym, was very alarmed to see a prominent bulge on my left side - I'd torn a muscle and had a hernia. Saw my GP and was referred to the hospital. The advice was to run if didn't hurt. It did, but I struggled to still go out..
    Anyway, a few weeks later, I got full blown, properly diagnosed, Swine Flu, so was now properly laid uproar a few weeks.
    After that, I was too exhausted to train, so gave up the idea of Florence. I saw a consultant late Sept and didn't need an op-he thought the enforced total rest had helped the healing process, and so, as everything was paid for, went for the break.
    I'd run Maidstone half in the October, hardly put trainers on for the next few weeks, but went to the Florence Expo to register, " just" to get my goody bag and enjoy the atmosphere. I had a fabulous top, which was almost worth the entry fee, but still, I'd formally registered - why, when I was only there for the break???
    Next morning, my husband woke to find me all kitted up, I was going to the start and was just going just to see how fair I could go. It would be a nice training run.
    I managed 13 miles with no discomfort, then realised, I was now running further than I had run since London - OH kept ringing me to see if I had dropped out yet but when I got to 17, I told him I was doing it all. I was quite euphoric again and adrenalin was keeping me going. I helped a Danish woman get through a really bad patch, coaxing her on, then, whilst walking myself, got a slap on the back to "get moving" by the Sub 5 pacemaker so hitched on her "bus" ( as per Comrades, not Kielder Guy".) She was fab - got us singing and shouting - really motivating.
    And I finished in 4:52- slower by far than my first, but still MY best on the day.
    What a feeling to know I did it!
    HOWEVER - warning!!! The next few days of sightseeing were blighted by the fact I couldn't independently lift my legs to get up a pavement - I had to lift each leg! (Pisa's Leaning Tower was out) That REALLY taught me a lesson I will never forget - yes you can do it with determination, but you will pay the price afterwards.
    Good luck!
  • kaffeegkaffeeg ✭✭✭
    ffRAN - wow!  WOW!  That really is a great story. And has cheered me up no end!
  • I recently read a book on first marathons: linky. The take home message appears to be that it's going to hurt, the number of people who seem to have suffered between 22 & 24 miles was quite high.

    Not really what I wanted to know as I approach my first marathon, and I'm not sure what I'm doing reading these tales either! image

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭
    I did my first mara aged 18 with my dad.  Being young and a bit naive I thought I was fit enough so my longest run was only 6 miles.  I'd never have made it round without my dad and his encouragement but we did in 4hours 43.  It was so long ago now thankfully I've forgotten the pain!
  • London was my second marathon not my first...did the fiorst after 8 months of training and did 4:34 which i was pleased with.2 years later after training well and following a marathon schedule started london.....having done most of my long runs.......

    there was so many runners blocking the way that the first 13 miles i seemed to be dodging people stop starting .speeding up to overtake and twisting and turning around people to try and keep to my sub 4:30 schedule........

    went through half way ok but by 17 miles i was in total agony as although I had done the long runs my knees couldn't cop with the twisting and jerking of not being able to run properly....

    the last 9 or so miles were in a daze.i didn't see water stations or big ben or any sights.just the pavement in front of me as I continued to force myself to keep running......I knew if I stopped to walk then my legs would totally seize up......

    i finished and had to go to the medical tent..........only time ever in my life including ultras and ironmen.....

    so even with all the training the marathon can still mess with you big time .....if its not what you are used to.......

    if you haven't done the training then it can be so much worse......

    i hated london and tahts why next month when i return there I will not be racing it or dodging around anyone.i will be doing it as a long slow run
  • What is your base at the moment?

    What is the longest run you have done and at what pace?

    What if any stamina and speed work have you done?

    What where your previous marathon times and the fastest of those?

    Were they 5 runs in 5 years or bigger or smaller gaps than that?

    Answers on a post card please.

  • Grendel3Grendel3 ✭✭✭

    My Horror story is almost the reverse - I last ran a marathon in 1998 - I was determined with that race that I would go back to the beginning and train properly - I wouldn't get carried away and do mile upon mile - I would follow a schedue and keep to it - maximum mileage would be 70 miles per week - It was a 16 week schedule and within 4 weeks of starting all my good intentions went out the window - sitting down one sunday afternoon I totted up my mileage and found 97 miles - the lure of the 100 was to much - off I went and did another 3 - 100 exactly - the following 6 weeks saw me run 100 plus - up to 107. Running up to 3 times per day - As far as I was concerned I was coping - At the end of that I ran a half marathon - it felt easy depsite the hills and seemed to jog round in 79 minutes -  I felt great but tired - I reviewed my London goal and thought a sub 2:36 Clocking was on the cards -

    I started to reduce my mileage with 4 weeks to go but started to notice that I didn't seem to be recovering with the lower mileage - On the day I started to struggle from mile 3 and pretty much jogged around nearly half an hour slower than my goal pace - That I over-trained was without question, it may have been as well that I didn't drink sufficent fluids during or after my runs so could have been dehydrated to - It actually took me from April to August to actually recover.

  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭
    For those that have had issues whilst running marathons - what did you do to get yourself through it? Was it just stubbornness? or can you give any tips?
  • Grendel3Grendel3 ✭✭✭

    Emmy_Bug   hit the nail on the head - Stubborness

  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭
    Thanks Grendel and Cragchick.... at least I know that i'll be in good company!
  • Stubborness only works right up to that moment when someone with superior pace runs past you.

    Then you try to match their pace and you can't and you won't.

    So best train, then the stubborness will have something to fall back on.

    Oh the sweet  ironyimage

  • kaffeegkaffeeg ✭✭✭

    Well I have stubborness in HUGE quantities.  Easy peasy (hehe!).

    Stephen - in terms of the questions you pose - do you have magical answers?  I.e. if I answer your questions will you be able to tell me if it's do-able/how much pain I will feel and when????? Please? (longest run will be around 16 miles, i do speed training every week in my aqua jogging sometimes twice a week; i do sit ups and planks every day and some weight training and cross training every week.  I'm focusing on shorter more intense training as opposed to  clocking up miles....this is due to my injury and not being able to clock up miles.....)

  • Stephen E Forde

    Don't laugh at my answers please... image

    What is your base at the moment?
    35 - 48 miles per week.
    Including 10 mile mid week run and longer weekend run (which is the one that hasn't happened mainly due to illnesses & lack of time)

    What is the longest run you have done and at what pace?
    Since January: 2x 15, 2x16, 2x18, one half marathon race and 1x20. Last week was my training peak and I had to skip 20 miler due to high fever. I'm shortening my taper to fit one more 20 miler in this weekend and hope it will be ok. (Marathon is on 25th March)
    Most long runs were shortened or skipped coming closer to the marathon. So I did those miles quite early on in the year.
    Pace, ha. Forget that question. I'm a plodder and not timing myself at the moment.

    What if any stamina and speed work have you done?
    Not much. Past two months one sprint session per week, maybe. Some core work. A tempo session per week. Or something like that. When I've not been too exhausted.

    What where your previous marathon times and the fastest of those?
    First was 4:50. Second was 4:42. Third and fourth 5 hours as I ran them a week apart.

    Were they 5 runs in 5 years or bigger or smaller gaps than that?

    May 2009. September 2010. 2x in April 2011.

  • Marathons a week apart Elli?? That's gutsy!!
    My first mara london was my worst (only done 2 mind). Secured an entry and promptly told the world and his wife that I was raising money for my son and would be following a sub 4 schedule. Very foolish as far too optimistic and I picked up an injury which meant NO training for 8 wks and only able to start again a few wks before. Longest run was 10 miles 6 days before the race.
    It was NEVER an option to drop out so set off with a plan to take it steady and pop painkillers as necessary! 1st few miles were good, knee hurt from 8 and a tumble on the timing mat reduced me to tears at 15. Could have kissed the supporters at mud chute, and cried as the finish came into view. My mother fed me champagne to ease the pain and the following yr I took over 40 mins off my time at Llanelli.
    I think wellness is vital and would rather run a mara unprepared than injured.
    Good luck !!!
  • This thread is confirming that a) marathons can really f*ck you up and b) that going in underprepared is not a wise decision.

    Discretion is the better part of valour and all that.

  • I for one could not mentallly attack a marathon without knowing I had put in the necessary training.  I ran the VLM for the first time last year (4:42) which was at a much slower pace than I had run my LSRs - it was far busier than I could ever have imagined and as someone on here mentioned earlier, you spend the first 13 miles dodging other people.

    In MY head, as long as I have put in the training then I CANNOT doubt that I will complete the distance and enjoy it.  Enjoying it is a huge part of running a marathon for me.

    I wish I had the stubborness (sp) mentioned by others on here.

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