How to train for a marathon in 20 days

If you have a goal to which people respond “you’re crazy” or “I’d rather die,” you’d be wise to proceed with care. This past weekend, I ran in Montreal’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon; here is what I did to ensure I arrived alive at the finish line.



Become a leech

Don’t know anything about running a marathon, but want to try anyway? Find someone who knows what they are doing and join their training schedule. Fortunately, I had a friend who had been training for four months. She let me become part of her routine; I followed her lead on long runs, short runs, and everything in between. All I needed to do was show up.

Do you even chafe though?

Yes, I do. Every runner’s road to success involves facing issues specific to their style of running. After my first distance run, I discovered that chafing—on the inner thighs, arms, and everywhere else—is my demon. I troubleshooted that technical issue early with some equipment changes.

Get hired at a running store

Go into a place where the employees can answer any and all questions about running. After an animated conversation about all the places I had been chafing, the store owner went on to interrogate me about my training methods. Thanks to my newly-gained knowledge about all things running, I walked out of the store with a job offer. I got to use my brand-new employee discount to buy dry-fit clothes, essential GU energy packets, and Body Glide.

Adopt your friend’s parents

Asking your family to fly across the continent does not bode well when they have just 20 days of notice. Instead, I pretended that my friend’s parents were mine. If you are lucky like me, they will take you out to a scrumptious meal the night before the race and get you a Brooks shirt with the marathon’s logo.

Follow these steps to be prepared for the big day. Because race day, itself, is a whole different ball game.

Race Day

Start slow, speed up later

Standing at the starting line with thousands of runners is both electrifying and intimidating, but run at your own pace. Most people stopped running at the half-marathon point. Saving my energy allowed me to pick up my pace once I reached the halfway point and sprint the last kilometre.

Look around you

Looking up provides all the necessary adrenaline and inspiration: There were countless witty signs like “Remember, you paid for this,” “Tap [Mario Bros mushroom] for power up,” and “I’m a stranger but I’m still proud of you.” I high-fived innumerable little hands, which kept me going, one step at a time, until the finish.


Although I haven’t run like this for some time, I was lucky enough to have been an athlete for my entire life with a natural runner’s build and mentality; however, marathons are not limited to athletes. A quick Google search of “inspirational marathon stories” shows the range of amazing and touching ways in which people partake. I saw one man pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair. If you are determined, you can do it.

I ended up with a better race time than I could have imagined at three hours and 47 minutes, a job, and some of the best memories I have made in Montreal. My advice? Just keep running—and Rock ’n’ Rolling.

Share this:


  1. This article and the actions of the author are irresponsible. Running a marathon (42.2km) is not something that should be taken lightly and is an endeavour that can pose a serious health risk to anyone that is ill-prepared, undertrained, or might have an underlying medical condition. As recently as last summer, heat waves led to the deaths of well-trained marathon runners in Quebec, leading to the cancellation of the Montreal Marathon in order to discourage unprepared runners from meeting the same fate. This article, coupled with “Viewpoint: Trying (and failing) to run my first marathon,” which was published by the Tribune last year, send a dangerous message: “Running a marathon is no big deal and anyone can do it.” This is simply untrue and it is reckless to imply otherwise.

    • I actually thought this article was a joke until I read your comment. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Saint Emerance

      Yes, what I got out of the references to research, equipment investment, training regimens, and long-term planning and the author’s lifetime of athletic endeavor is that anyone can do it without effort. Sure.

      The sin here is that the author had the gall to be lighthearted about something you (and Alex) apparently consider to be Very Serious Indeed. Get over yourselves. Humourless scolds are always welcome at the Daily.

  2. This sounds like poor time management to me

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue