Strength & Speed

"If you want something you never had, you have to be willing to do something you have never done."

S&S Articles

No Substitutions

Posted by ackbar80 on September 15, 2020 at 10:20 PM

There is no substitution for hard work. This phrase has been repeated so many times in history, I’m not sure anyone knows who said it first. Despite the overuse, it still is a phrase that I don’t always grasp. I like to find the fastest and easiest way to get something done. There’s no sense in wasting energy. This will sometimes get me into trouble, like it did the other week when I decided to run my first alternative marathon, with absolutely no training


If you aren’t familiar with the idea of an alternative marathon, it’s simply 26.2 miles completed in a unique fashion. In this case, the idea was to run a single mile every hour, for 24 hours (doubling up in two hours and adding a little for the 0.2 miles). For extra spice and an upper body workout, I added in ten pushups for every mile. Ideally, the mile and ten pushups would take roughly fifteen minutes, leaving me around forty five minutes to do chores and little tasks. That way, at the end of 24 hours, I would not only have done a marathon, but a dozen little tasks as well.


Marathons have always been a daunting idea, because I don’t like running. Before this event, I had never run more than three miles at once, and the most I had done in a day was thirteen miles. So the idea of just running 26.2 miles has never been appealing. But I like doing hard things and when I saw this crazy Australian, Beau Miles, doing a 24 hour alternative marathon, it caught my interest.

My big mistake came from not training or preparing at all. There was no running plan, no fueling strategy, nothing. But I was so confident I was going to breeze through this event. It was only a mile an hour, after all. I thought I could just trade practice for more time. Looking back, my confidence was more arrogant than anything, and I was about to be put in my place.


Sure enough, once the event started, it didn’t take long for things to start going down hill. It started with heat exhaustion and dehydration around mile five. This forced me to abandon the idea of doing chores in between each round and focus solely on recovery. After recovering a little, a blister started on my foot after mile six. Nothing duct tape couldn’t fix, but the wheels were falling off and I wasn’t even a third of the way done.


I managed to run a total of 10.2 miles on schedule. Then the night hit, and my ability to move was limited to a walk. At mile thirteen, the chafing set it. No amount of youtube videos could prepare me for that agony. After that, my walk turned into a waddle. I managed to get a total of 20.2 miles before I had to throw in the towel and admit to myself that I was not going to win.


Despite the failure, I’m still happy and proud with the attempt. I think I learned more in those eighteen hours than I have in years. I finally have an understanding for what no substitutions really means, and how to apply in the future. I also have a better understanding of my current limits. Now I can make a game plan to push past them. At the end of the day, I encourage everyone to do something crazy like an alternative marathon. You learn a lot about yourself and really do gain an appreciation for the work and effort that goes into becoming a better version of yourself.


Michael Giles is an engineer by day and an OCR weekend warrior. He has completed nine obstacle course races, including Conquer the Gauntlet, and the Spartan Trifecta. In the evenings, he trains at his local Crossfit gym, and enjoys rock climbing. In addition, he occasionally creates his own unique challenges to test himself.