Marathon training with next to no training

I'm entered in this years London marathon and have one or two issues.I'm not a runner to start with but have ran a half marathon in 2009 with virtually no training finishing in 1hr 49mins. I have degenerative disc disease which often leaves me struggling in everyday things after a run.

My main problem is I went for my first run on Friday, took it easy, 5 miles on wet sand in around an hour. I warmed down and stretched out afterwards and my calves were ruined the next day, they hurt to stand up or even touch them.

The main reason for this I think is I was making a concious effort to toe strike to help save the back (which was fine). I've never ran like this before and realise now an hour might have been too much using the legs differently.

My main question is "where do I go from here?"  I've got 3 months so need to get myself sorted soon. Do I heel strike, toe strike or no strike? Will my legs adjust in this time or should I go back to my usual heel striking?

Any ideas appreciated.


  • I'm not sure many will feel qualified to answer this one. I'd certainly be investing in a visit to a good professional for advice.  I can't get away from the feeling that you should probably be deferring your place. 

    Doing a half marathon off 'no training', as you did in 2009 is really not TOO difficult, if you've been reasonably active in other sports or pastimes.  But 26 miles is wholly different.  It is not just "more of the same"... it is different. Physiologically, it is different, you use different bodily systems.  You have to train.  Anyway, with that I'll make a few more comments.

    An hour, on sand, running forefoot strike for the first time, was (as you now realise), a bit over-enthusiastic!  Probably try midfoot strike next time, see if that's a good compromise.  But really...  just 2 km to start with.... and very slow.   Normally, I'd say that you should warm up with a mile or two of your natural heel-strike running to start with, before introducing a mile or two of the modified style... but I  don't know how that would affect your back - so you need to work that out.

    Then a programme of stepping up mileages - find one that suits... but don't increase mileages too fast.  damage to bones, ligaments and muscles can be cumulative, and not obvious until it's turned into an injury. So don't think that a pain-free run means you can extend beyond the mileage recommended in the training programme. You could do damage.

    Be prepared to run-walk the marathon. I don't think you have time to safely train to run the whole marathon non-stop.

    Good luck... be sensible. If the advice is that you'll do lasting damage by doing the run... then listen.  It's not worth it... even if you're doing it for an emotional charity... no relative or friend would want or expect you to risk your own health to raise money.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭


    You're not a runner. But are entered for the London Marathon.

    You've a chronic back problem.

    And with a few weeks to go now you start training.

    And you want advice on; I assume, how to get away with it?





  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Chris, our man RicF here isn't known for his sympathetically-worded replies but he does have a point or three.  If you're having to think about fundamentally changing your running style because 5 miles leaves you in such a state, AND you have a serious back condition (which I would think very few of us here are qualified to give advice on), even thinking about running a marathon seems like a very, very misguided idea - especially one that's only three months away.

    IF you've got a charity place and you've already been sponsored a squillion pounds for doing it, start near the back and try a run/walk policy at best.  Still sounds like a bad idea though.

  • i'm afraid i'm with Ric on this one, I don't have a great deal of sympathy, and i'm not sure what sort of answer you're looking for. Your question seems to suggest that you think a particular running style will make the difference either way to how you fare at the marathon, when in fact your lack of training / preparation for the race will make the difference. You could walk it round, but what's the point. You could walk/run/walk it round, possbily get in under 6 hours, possibly under 5 hours, who knows. I'm sure you have your reasons for entering the race, but it's not something to be taken lightly, there are no shortcuts to a marathon, and you'll be found out on the day if you get to the start line underprepared.

    Perhaps your first priority shoudl be ensuring you don't make your disc problems worse. Inform your doctor of your marathon plans, see a decent physio to get some advise on how you can minimise the impact on your body. Don't worry about heel/toe/midfoot strike, that's the least of your worries.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Just saving time with my brevity. Just sounds harsh.

    The main elements of the OP have been dealt with admirably by Agent Ginger & Phil.

    Couple of points:

    Sympathy for a charity place?, of course, no question. commendable situation.

    Chancing your arm in the ballot to claim a place as 'the prize'? no.

    As someone who can run the London Marathon any time I like, I reserve my sympathy for all those dedicated rational runners who would love to run in the race but get rejected in the ballot year after year.

     Anyway, its not as though anyone on site could actually do magic. Wave our magic wands etc.

    Do people think they can 'download' the solution to 'physical' problems like this, like an app for their phone?

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Not sure I can advise as wouldn't like to suggest stuff with your back problem.

    Why did you enter the Marathon in the first place?

    When I was a non runner I started my training about 24 weeks out. You seem

    To have left it very late to start, not to mention your current condition.

    Can you give more background on why you ate doing the race and also what you are looking to get out of it. We may be able to help with a bit more info.
  • Build a time machine, go back to the point at which you thought entering was a good idea.

    Go back three more months further, and start to do some training.

    Then when entry time comes around, decide whether it's still a good idea or not.

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Also if I've got my dates correct you have about 10.5 weeks to get from no training to be able to run 20ish miles as you will need a 3 week taper before the race.
  • Don't know if this is constructive or not, but to try and change your footstrike so you are landing on your toes is hard enough on the calves, but to add running on sand which I would have thought stretches the calf muscles even further can't help at all - I have run and watched the marathon many times (actually only run it 7 times but watched every other one from a drink station, road side or telly) but  have no doubt if your goal is to finish the race come what may you will be able to do so, if you are expecting a good(ish) time based on your half time then I don't see that is possible. The general consensus is that you need to get proper medical opinion.

  • so to conclude.

    Bonkers enough to contemplate a marathon with a severe injury/handicap
    even madder to have done no training

    just plain cuckoo to try and alter your style to minmise the suffering

    do that race and you're in for a world of pain.

  • Thanks for the comments poeople. I haven't written the story in my original post, I have known I'm entered for a couple of months.(Charity place)

    When I found out I tried 5km on a treadmill, and that's when I realised how bad my back had become, I tried another 4 times before Christmas with the same affects so rested.

    Did the 5 miles toe striking, backs fine, legs not. Then this morning ran probably less than a mile not toe striking and have been in agony with my back all day.

    I've had a mix of fortune though, I saw a doctor today, a new one. And talked for 5 minutes, she pulled my legs about here and there and then she put her finger right on it and told me what it was. I can't remember what it was but it's not related to my DDD. It's something in my hip, so I've got to go for x-rays and an MRI. Doctors in the past have told me the pain in my hips comes from nerves trapped due to DDD.

    Obviously running's out the window for a long while image

  • why on earth apply for a charity place when you were not running at the time...........sems such a waste of the charities time and money.......

    sorry to hear about your back problems..........but surely to apply and wste a place without even seeing if you were able to run 10 miles or so was selfish

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Did the OP sign up as a means of motivating themselves to run a marathon.

    A lot of people are not self motivated. They need to be forced by some outside influence.

  • If you have a long term health problem.......then surely you would ensure you can build up to 3/4 miles before considering it....if we were taking about just paying and entering a marathon.fair enough................but they have taken a charity entry which the charity has to pay a lot of money for ........which is why I think its selfish 

    if you want to motivate yourself then go and enter a marathon with your own money.....

  • Love these forums sometimes.

    Seren nos....... WTF do you know about me........ my finances........ and what I do for charity you judgemental prick........ £100 non returnable deposit paid....... place will not go to waste........ other money raised for the charity and ongoing........ and my place is open for next year should I be able to run.

  • Non-starter - to answer your original question.  Get yourself on a runnng course - perferably chi-running (that's my fav - it's very easy to pick up), it's mid foot NOT fore foot - doesn't do your calves in and it's very gentle - cured me of all sort of stuff.


    Whether or not you will get up to speed in time is a big question mark but genuinely get onto the chi-running site  and find yourself a course.  Soulinmotion

    This guy is north england and scotland - I know lots of folks who have done courses with him (including my husband) and he is very good.  Good Luck

  • The way I see it is that you have two options.

    i. You book a week off work after the marathon and accept that you will suffer above and beyond what a trained person would do, and hope to complete the marathon.

    ii. You accept that your condition is prohibitive to training toward a sporting event that requires a high level of commitment, and defer your place to somebody else. Nobody, even the curt posters on this thread, would think any less of you for stepping down.

    You have my support either way, but the decision is currently being overly-deliberated upon.

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