failure to plan bugger off


By Lee-Maree Gallo.

After April 13 I will have run four half-marathons and one full marathon (hopefully) without ever sticking to a training plan. In fact I’ve only ever attempted a training plan once and recently scrapped it. Some may be reading this, shaking their heads and thinking “That LMG, how does she expect to run a marathon with no plan? She is totes cray!”. But for me, I run better without a training plan.

Outside of running I am probably one of the most organised people I know. I thrive on routine and need to have everything planned out in advance. Spontaneity is so not my thing. Doing things on whim? Umm no thanks! Disorganisation makes me anxious on top of three million other things such as unswept floors, flying, decaffeinated coffee and spiderwebs while trail-running. Last Sunday I ran through a web and lost my shiz. There were tears and I may have let out a bloodcurdling scream.

Anyway where was I – ah yes training without a plan. So as I said I love routine however when it comes to running I prefer it to be chaotic. For instance one Monday I might head out for an easy-paced 10km but the following Monday I might run a fast 5km or head out and do hill sprints. I pretty much just do what my body feels like doing on the day. If I’m tired I’ll take it easy or rest. If I’m full of beans I’ll smash out some intervals or try for a PB. I like to mix it up. This is how I have always run. There is absolutely no pressure and I find it fun rather than a regimented chore. Because for me running is fun!

I’ve pretty much always chucked on my runners, stepped outside and let the road lead the way. Running truly is about the journey and not the destination for me.

When training for my first half marathon the only bit that was planned was to increase my long runs by 1km each week. I’d usually run five times per week varying what I did from day-to-day.

Even though I had no training plan I still managed to get in under the time I was aiming for. A few months later I ran another half-marathon and smashed that time by almost 15 minutes once again with no training plan. I just listened to my body.

For the past three months I have been training for my first full marathon and decided to go against everything I’ve ever felt comfortable with and attempted to stick to a training plan. Everyone around me was on some sort of training plan. Even people attempting their first 10km were on plans.

I had people on Facebook exclaiming “You must run hills in order to run a marathon!” There were so many rules.

Since when did running get so complicated? Can’t I just run? For some reason I decided if everyone else is on a training plan then I better get one too. Worst. Idea. Ever.

Rather than run to how I was feeling on the day, I was forcing myself to do an easy run on a Tuesday, intervals on a Wednesday, a 10km on a Thursday and I stopped enjoying running. It became a chore, it was boring and I felt pressured. I also became a slave to Garmin and felt like I was having the worst runs of my life. It was very disheartening. The only run I looked forward to was my long run.

About two weeks ago I was feeling very average and super tired so I took an entire week off from training. Then I set out for a 30km only to have to get my husband to pick me up just before halfway as I was still feeling sick. I shouldn’t have even attempted to run but didn’t want to mess up my training plan even more. So silly.

The following day I had no plans to run but spontaneously popped my runners on and hit the trails sans Garmin. It was the best run I’d had in ages! Not in terms of speed or distance – I ran 8km through the bush – but because I was smiling the whole way. I was taking in my surroundings and I just ran. No plan, no pressure just me and the universe doing our thing. Like the good old days.

On this run I had a revelation – it was time to ditch the plan. Once I decided this, all the pressure dissipated and my mid-week runs became fun again. I ran another 15km the next day, followed by an easy-paced 7km on the Wednesday. On Thursday I felt like smashing some hills and stairs – so I did. My mojo had returned!

I should also mention I had just finished reading Running with the Kenyans. Now I’m not striving to run like a Kenyan but I love their mindset when it comes to running – they keep it simple. No Garmins grace their wrists. They just run.

The only weekly run which is planned will continue to be my long run, and then I plan to taper in the last two weeks. Everything else will depend on how I’m feeling.

I know I can run a marathon. I’m far too stubborn and determined to give up. I also know I have the fitness to do so. I may not be the fastest person out there but I am pretty good when it comes to endurance. I’m not aiming for a PB – it’s my first so whatever I get will be a PB. I’m not an elite athlete nor do I want to be. All I want to do is cross that line with a big smile on my face and be proud of the fact I would have done something very few will do in their lifetime. I just want to run.

For some people, training plans are great and they need them to stay motivated, or they have a specific goal in mind which a plan will help them achieve. But for me, I love the chaos and freedom to do whatever I feel like while I otherwise lead a strictly regimented lifestyle. I’m sure there’ll be some who disagree with my method, but I don’t think running should be so complicated – it’s just one foot in front of the other.


Zoey Dowling

Written by: operationmove

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  1. Whilst I loved Zoey plan blog, I also love this one. My plan is very flexible. I like to run 3 times a week 2 x short and 1xlong, the long is planned but that is only because my life is crazy and I need to schedule it in around other things. If I don't feel great I swap it all around. My cross training is whatever I want! I think a flexible plan works best for me.

  2. Zoey Dowling

    I am surprised to be saying this, but I totally agree. I like to have a plan, but what I do on the day depends on how I feel. I'll run on the flat if I'm tired, or run slower and do less distance. If I feel good I'll do an extra hill or interval or kilometre. That said if I have a race booked in, my runs are in the diary and planned for with the magic formula of a long, an intervals/ tempo and a easy. However what I do on the day varies. Great post LMG. I totally lolled with the thought of you running into the spider web. Argh!!

  3. Nice post LMG I have run four marathons without a plan so I am fairly confident that this plan works. Regimented training is useful if you are a minion or an elite athlete with an eye on the prize. Agree with you on everything bar the hills bit. Being spontaneous does not mean not being smart about conditioning. In fact you can use unplanned to work to your advantage some things I do: On any run: 1. if I see a hill (any hill) I will run up as fast as I can (this is my hill training) 2. If I see evenly spaced light poles I will do intervals 3. if I cross a bridge I will do a fartlek 4. if I see sand I will run on soft samd 5. you get the picture Go planless!

    • Totes agree Flash! This particular person was saying if you do not run hills you will pretty much be unable to run a marathon to which I disagree - not everyone is privy to living near hills and there are other methods of building strength. Why put pressure on yourself to run boring hill sprints each week when you can mix it up like us ha ha.

      • My new coach - yes you heard right coach (I use him properly after Bunbury) - I have joined a running club to improve my running 0 claims that if the course is flat don't waste time on hills just run flats.. I don't know what to believe now! I actually enjoy hills but my taper will now be on flat.. Bunners is flat yeh?

  4. Zoey Dowling

    Good one LMG! Like most things in life- isn't it about what works for you? I get all worried about not following the 'program' but top priority is listening to my body! I bought a program recently, first time I've paid for one and really excited to have a 'skeleton' to guide me. Life is great in grey- go you :)