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Avoid these 14 common marathon mistakes

The Chicago Marathon is this weekend and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great race. Since there isn’t as much running required this week I’ve had more time to check the running blogs and other sources for last minute advice. Here is an interesting article from Active.com about the eleven major marathon mistakes. See whether you make any of these.

1. Setting the wrong time goal. People guess they’ll run faster than they really can. According to the article your marathon pace will be about 48 seconds slower than your best 5K. Recently, I did a 5K in 20:35. That’s a 6:38 pace. So, this article says I should expect to joggle a 7:26/mile marathon. or a 3:14! That puts me right on pace for my goal! It won’t be the world record but it would qualify me for Boston.

2. Running long runs too slow. If you train at 8 minute miles for your long runs and never try marathon pace, you’ll probably run the marathon at about an 8 minute pace. Well, I might have this problem. But I also do a fair amount of speed training so we’ll see. Maybe my next marathon training should involve faster long runs.

3. Running too many long runs. They say that you should only run long every other weekend. That’s understandable because sometimes my legs are a bit too tired for the mid-week sprints. But I just take an extra day off so that seems to help.

4. Consuming sports drinks too late during the marathon. If you take them in the late stages of the race there isn’t enough time for them to be effective. They say drink a sports drink about 10 minutes before the run begins and then every 2 miles after that.

5. Mixing sports drinks with other things. According to them if you are going to drink the sports drinks, don’t bother drinking water too. You just dilute the drink and you slow absorption. This is definitely a mistake I make. Perhaps I’ll skip the water this race and just drink Gatorade.

6. Eating a standard pre-race meal. It seems that some people eat things that might not agree with their stomaches the night before a marathon. Well, the night before you should eat some pasta or bread. Just stay away from things that will upset your stomach. I don’t usually make this mistake. The night before I have some pasta dish and in the morning I usually eat a granola bar or a bagel. I don’t consume it before my long runs so that might be a good idea to try next race.

7. Trying something new on race weekend. Don’t do anything different on marathon day than you’ve done on other training days. This means not eating new foods, taking new supplements or running with a new pair of shoes. I’ve run in new shirts but that has never been a problem. Of course I’d never try joggling new equipment as much as I’d like to run this race juggling rubber chickens.

8. Improper tapering before the race. Doing two marathons in 1 month means that I’ll naturally be guilty of this mistake. Oh well, you’re never going to be perfect. I’m sure the experts would also say, don’t run 2 marathons in a month.

9. Emphasizing quantity over quality. This mistake happens when you run lots of miles but so slowly that it isn’t great quality. A 35 mile week could be better than a 70 mile week if the 35 miles is faster and more representative of how your race is going to go. This is a mistake that I make. It’s just hard to run fast all the time.

10. Fitness level is more important than number of miles run. Same as number 9 I guess. The best predictor of marathon success is your VO2max level (mine is 60.2), lactate threshold, etc. Focus on these variables when you’re training. Not so much on the miles.

11. Walking during the race. Walking is slower than running. If you think you’re going to run fast and then walk a little and then run fast, you won’t end up with your best time. If you can’t run the whole race at the pace you’re going, slow down to a pace where you know you’ll be able to run the whole time. This will give you a much better time. This has certainly been true for me. In all of my slowest marathons, I’ve walked through some of the water stops. In my top 10 fastest marathons, I didn’t walk a single step.

I would add a couple.

12. Running the first mile too fast. I always do this. Last marathon I did the first mile in 6:35! This is too fast. Start the race slower and speed up as you go. Negative splits are best.

13. Forgetting to bring a change of clothes. At the end of the marathon your clothes will be drenched in sweat and Gatorade. Bring a fresh shirt and socks so you can change into some dry clothes. You’ll feel a lot better.

14. Running in cotton. Speaking of clothes, running in cotton shirts is another problem marathon jogglers do (at least this one). Cotton shirts get incredibly heavy and cause lots of chafing.

These are some interesting tips and it definitely gives me some new things to try for my next marathon. But in Chicago this week, I’m going to run hard, run smart and hope that I finally qualify for Boston. Good luck to all my fellow marathoners!


This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. i had my first running experience a few days ago during gym. I used up all my energy in the first few minutes. I was first for a while but then i started falling behind.

  2. 14. Getting stuck in the gear check queue until two minutes before the race begins. My heart rate was 165 with stress, and I wasn’t even running.

    15. Ducking and diving wildly whilst trying to hold pace amidst a congested and twisty first mile through Chicago’s city streets. I did that one myself – if you get held up at the start (which is almost certain, back in the pack) it’s always best to relax and use it as an opportunity to reach race pace slowly. Easy to say, but hard to do.

    16. Drinking too much fluid in the last two hours before the race. A brief detour into Lincoln Park solves that one, but it won’t help your time.

    17. Nearly accepting a beer which was offered at mile 23 when the wheels had already come off. It’s best to stick to Gatorade and drink beer later, however slow you’re running. At least I got that one right in the end, although it was a very close call …

  3. A question I’ve been wondering about. How do you handle water stops while juggling?

    Do you A: Stop Juggling and drink?
    B: Stop Running and drink?
    C: Juggle 2 in 1 hand?

    What?

    Brian Fahs

  4. Brian,

    Yes, I have to stop at the water stops, gulp some water, start juggling and then start running again.

    I’ve tried throwing one up really high (8), gulp some water, catch the ball and keep going but I’m not that good…yet.

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