How to Run a Marathon without Killing Yourself

But we're flexible on that last part
by Andrew Slafta

So you’re psyched up for the New York Marathon, and you think it’ll be you there next year, breaking through the tape while an army of Kenyan competitors trails behind you, their anguished expressions a testament to your fleet-footed victory. Yeah, right! If you want to have even a prayer of finishing, you’ll have to train yourself up through our ABCs of self-punishment.


The key to all and any running, acceptance is something you need to master before you even lace up your shoes. A runner must accept that everything they are about to do is probably going to suck. Suck a lot. Like, “this is the point I’d make a Hoover vacuum joke if I were over the age of 40” suck. At best, you are going to exhaust yourself . You’re going to work your body to its limits, only finding fleeting moments of happiness in expanding your physical limits and boundaries. At worst, you’re going to destroy your body. You’re going to push too far, run too fast, and watch your body crumble like a Frenchman during wartime. You must accept that running is not an act of joy, it is an act of torture. Of insanity. Of idiocy. Running is not fun, or exciting, or enjoyable: most especially while you’re doing it. It is like performing, or writing, or watching any comedy on the Fox Network. You only like it when it ends. Accept this, and you are on your way.

Breakdown of your Body

I can’t stress this enough, this will happen. No matter how well you train or prepare, injuries just happen. Like sequels in the Scary Movie franchise, there’s just no way to stop them. The best thing you can do is listen to your body. Let it dictate what you do or do not do. Are your calves hurting? That just means you’re under-using your quads. Kick the ground as hard as you can on each and every step, especially with your heel. Pain in the knees? That means you’re flexing them too much. Wrap two wooden posts around each knee, and tie them up with an ace bandage. Pretend you’re running like Forrest Gump pre-brace removal, or an absurdly athletic Frankenstein’s Monster. If that fails–although I can’t imagine how–use the CIA method for healing: compression, Ice, and ALCOHOL.


A definite must for runners, or so “most” say. I have my doubts. People tend to swim fastest when they can’t breathe…I don’t totally see why that can’t be true for runners too.

Breeding (or, you doing it in the future)

Male readers: in the illustrious words of six-time Ironman World Championship Winner Mark Allen: “Tuck yo s#@t in.” If you don’t want to be sporting two over sized–and functionally useless–dangling grapefruits, get yourself a pair of supportive running shorts, or at least supportive underwear. The gym shorts you wear to bed? Not going to cut it. Unless of course you were planning to pick your kids out of a Skymall Catalog. And don’t laugh, they sell everything.

Female readers (AKA my psychiatrist Janet): if you’re running, you don’t have to worry about your future breeding at all. It either means you ALREADY are in good shape, or that you care enough about your body to try and get in great shape. Either way, men will be flocking to you like a port-a-john on race day (but more romantically… hopefully). And there’s a good chance–with your kicking bod–you already have a man falling head over heels in love with you. Janet…

Budgeting Your Time

If you’re serious about running; say goodbye to your friends, your social schedule, just your free time in general. Running is time consuming, especially once you get into the longer distances. Sure you may only be going on a 40-minute run, but first you have to stretch for a few minutes. Then once you’re done you need to stretch again, then shower, then refuel your body from the beating it just took. Was it an especially hard beating ( Hehe. No, focus! That was not a “whacking it” joke)? Maybe you just need a small nap. Had to work after? Then that probably means you’re not going out with friends later. Didn’t have to work, but the race is two days away? Well then you’re definitely not hanging out, you’re going to bed instead. Or you’re going out, and only drinking water. Either way you slice it, you are now a social pariah. One hated by both family and friends, chastised for his loneliness and solitude. You’re a shut in now, only seeing people through the small slit of light entering through your boarded up windows. Peering out at the townsfolk, in between your virulent rantings and meals of fish heads and sand. Or you power through it, and live your life normally. Maybe drink a 5-Hour Energy or something. To each his own.


Don’t do it. Bitching does nothing. Like watching the news or washing your hands.

Belly (or what to put in it)

Always hydrate before a run. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Avoid large meals directly before a run, give your body at least two hours to digest before you lace up. If you run for over an hour, bring water, and something to eat. I recommend energy gels, but figure it out for yourself as every person’s body is different (minus of course mine and Michelangelo’s David). Otherwise eat healthy and smart. Ask yourself, “would Guy Fieri eat this?” If the answer is yes, put the food into a bag, and rifle it out of your window.

Boobs & butts

A double edged sword every male runner needs to know about. On the one hand, both of these parts–in the right conditions–can be life saving. At some point during your training, you’re going to have a horrible run. Your energy will drop, your body crumble, your will and strength will leave you like a Kentucky Basketball freshman. And then somewhere–from out of the corner of your eye–you will catch her. A gorgeous girl with an unbearably perfect body. You’ll try not to stare but the bright colors, the tight lycra, the awkwardly placed racing stripes: they will leave you helpless. And in that moment, your energy–your spirit–will come rushing back. You suddenly forget about the pain, about the exhaustion. You’re instead striding like a gazelle, running a mile under four minutes, and hoping that this girl catches you in your majesty. Your run has been saved, and in some cases extended depending on how fast she is (and wow, that definitely didn’t come out sketchy at all…).

On the other hand, butts and boobs are the worst. Most specifically your own. Ever need to fart while running a half marathon? Awful. Ever run 15 miles and have your t-shirt rub your pecs the wrong way? Whatever is the word for “worse than awful.” What I would call “Seacresty.” At some point your butt and boobs will betray you. They will turn on you like a bargain-hunter on Black Friday. And if yours don’t, one of the ones you get caught staring at will. Honestly, women don’t take kindly to that… so weird. Isn’t me staring a compliment? Isn’t “nice can” just another way of saying you look great today? Women… I do not get them. Or understand them.


Take them.

Body Odor

A runner’s biggest enemy with the exception of raptors, which are every thing on earth’s biggest enemy. If you run enough, there is no way to avoid your shoes and clothing smelling. Deodorizing balls and sprays just add another layer of odor on top of the bad ones. It’s like cleaning up vomit by putting potpourri on top of it. It’s works for about an hour just about until your friend’s parents find the source of the problem next to the love seat. Or, so I imagine it’s like that. Mirazyme is a spray that helps with shoe odors, you’re best served with wool clothing to prevent the smells from being that bad, and for everything else, buy your room copious amounts of air fresheners. And then your roommate’s copious amounts of alcohol. Probably in a 2-1 ratio in favor of the latter.


The final, and most important thing a runner must learn, know, and accept. Completion in running does not exist. Even if all of your training pays off, even if you finish the race faster than you hoped and with no injuries or setbacks, the sense of completion–of achievement–you have will be fleeting at best. You’re going to immediately start planning the next run, the next goal. You ran a half marathon, why not a marathon? You finished in 2 hours, why not 1:50? Runners don’t stop running. There is no end game. It’s like Meryl Streep’s career, or a jar of Marshmallow fluff. They keep going on forever, in perpetuity and beyond. You’ll always keep running, whether you want to or not. But then again, why would you stop?

Yeah, I don’t know either. Deep though, eh??

Of course, in the Irish release of the film it's not a candy factory, but a stout brewery.

Of course, in the Irish release of the film it’s not a candy factory, but a stout brewery.

Andrew Slafta is a “hopeful comedic writer” with an emphasis on the “dic.” He can be searched in the annals of Google, or insulted at Twitter via @andrewslafta.

You can't help but love these guys.

You can’t help but love these guys.

Be sure to check out his astute analysis of Drunken St. Patrick’s Revelers as Compared to Willy Wonka Characters, and NBA All Stars as Explained By ’90s TV Characters. And know he compares, because he cares.

More from Andrew Slafta

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