Break All the Rules

Full disclosure: This is a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek article. As a running coach I don’t necessarily advocate these practices. As a runner…well, let’s just say I have executed this plan on more than one occasion. And yes, I did PR in the marathon on just 8 weeks of marathon training and ran a 50K on a long run of 13 miles…

Philly marathon

Ever stood on the start line of a race and felt unprepared? Uh, yeah, I’m sure most of us answered YES  to that. I’m not talking about mentally unprepared, which is the topic of another post, but physically unprepared, as in knowing full well you haven’t done the training required for the event in which you’re about to take part.

But you’re there, nevertheless. Because you said you would. Because you signed up. Because you paid that stinking race fee and there’s no refund. Because you’re committed. Because you’re stubborn. And for many other reasons.

And there are just as many reasons why you didn’t get the training done. Injury, illness, family, travel, other commitments, whatever else got in the way of logging the miles.

So you’re there, on the start line, unprepared, waiting for the gun to go off.

What’s your plan?

It’s probably something like, start conservative and hope to finish, right? Which is fine, if that’s what you want. And it’s what practical wisdom would tell you to do. Because you’re not trained.

Well, here’s a suggestion: Break the rules. Go for it. Go hard and see what happens.


Yes, I’m crazy. But really, what do you have to lose? Assuming you’re not standing on that start line injured, here’s how to break all the rules:

1. You’re better off under-trained than over-trained. You may have heard this before. It’s true. Believe in it. An over-trained athlete isn’t a well-rested one. You are well rested. In fact, consider yourself extremely well rested and therefore ready to race.

2. Negative splits are best. In your case, you’re probably going to start out a little slowly because you don’t know what to expect. All this means is that you’ll avoid the pitfall of going out too fast and dying, so you’ll have plenty left in the tank for the latter stages of the race. It’s a win-win.

Broadlands bike photo

3. Or not. You could just go out hard and see if you can hang on. After all…

4. You have nothing to lose. Let’s face it, expectations are pretty low here. You’re not fully trained and may even have some lingering effects of an injury if that’s what limited your training, so you’re not expecting to do well. You’re the underdog, the dark horse, the long shot, with odds of a billion to 1.

Leesburg 10K

5. You have everything to gain. The athletes who didn’t miss a day of training have high expectations and therefore a lot of pressure to do well. You, on the other hand, don’t. They are pressure cookers waiting to go off any minute, while you are just simmering away on the back burner. Ready to pounce.

6. It’s 90% mental, anyway. Believe in yourself. Trust in your mental strength. If you don’t think you have any, learn how to get some.

Iron Girl run




  1. You’re good at breaking the rules and oh so wise! I’m confident you will be kicking everyone’s butt in Boston!
    Lisa McClellan recently posted..Pain does not define meMy Profile

  2. Great post! I think breaking the rules is perfectly acceptable every once in awhile 🙂
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..Going CliplessMy Profile

  3. YES! Exactly… this is what happens to me at most races. This “break the rules” attitude is one the reasons I call my blog Iron *Rogue*… I guess you’re an honourary Iron arogue too Allison!
    Axel recently posted..Motivation Monday: Listing One’s StrengthsMy Profile

  4. so relate! and i agree, mind over matter here. Yes?
    lindsay recently posted..Blog Carnival: Going GreekMy Profile

  5. Love this! I’ve definitely broken the rules and came away with a pr a few times… the over-trained vs rested resonates with me.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Crock pot Chickpea CurryMy Profile

  6. My first race was a half marathon. I got injured and didn’t train or run at all for a long time before, but my totally unprepared self did it anyway. Mind over matter. Crazy thing.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted..Running MusicMy Profile

  7. Love this! Yes, break the rules and so much of it is mind over matter.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Let’s be realMy Profile

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