Marathon Mistakes: 8 Common Pitfalls to Avoid & Achieve Success

marathon mistakes

Running a marathon is not just about covering 26.2 miles; it’s a test of physical and mental endurance, requiring meticulous preparation and strategic planning. Yet, even seasoned runners can stumble if they overlook crucial aspects of training and race-day execution ( I have many times, actually training for my 101st marathon and have an injury). In this guide, we delve deep into the top marathon mistakes to avoid, providing detailed insights and practical tips to help you reach your full potential on race day.


  1. Inconsistent Training Practices

Consistency is the cornerstone of marathon training, yet many runners fall into the trap of inconsistency, either by skipping workouts or cramming training into a few days a week. This haphazard approach not only undermines progress but also increases the risk of injury and burnout.

To avoid inconsistency, establish a realistic training schedule that aligns with your lifestyle and goals. Aim for a balanced mix of easy runs, long runs, speed work, and strength training, spreading them out evenly throughout the week. Prioritize consistency over intensity, gradually increasing mileage and intensity as your fitness improves while allowing for adequate rest and recovery.


  1. Disregarding the Taper Period – a major Marathon mistake!

The taper period, typically the final two to three weeks leading up to the marathon, is a critical phase of training that often gets overlooked or underestimated. Many runners feel antsy and anxious during this time, fearing they’ll lose fitness by reducing mileage and intensity. However, failing to adhere to the taper can have detrimental effects on performance. One of the most common marathon mistakes.

During the taper, trust in the process and prioritize rest and recovery. Reduce mileage and intensity gradually to allow your body to recover from the rigors of training while maintaining fitness levels. Use this time to focus on mobility, flexibility, and mental preparation, visualizing success and building confidence for race day.


  1. Neglecting Fuelling Strategy in Training

Fuelling during a marathon is like navigating a complex puzzle: finding the right balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and hydration is essential for maintaining energy levels and preventing hitting the dreaded wall. However, many runners make the mistake of not adequately practicing their fuelling strategy during training.  Read here to understand the dangers of consuming too much fluid before running.

To avoid this pitfall, incorporate fuelling simulations into your long runs, experimenting with different types and quantities of fuelling products. Practice consuming gels, sports drinks, or whole foods at marathon pace to gauge their effectiveness and ensure they sit well with your stomach. Additionally, consider factors such as timing and frequency of fuelling to tailor your strategy to your individual needs.


  1. Avoiding Strength and Conditioning – more marathon mistakes!

While logging miles is essential for marathon training, neglecting strength and conditioning exercises can leave you vulnerable to injury and performance plateaus. Many runners underestimate the importance of building muscular strength and endurance, focusing solely on cardiovascular fitness.

Incorporate strength and conditioning workouts into your training routine, targeting key muscle groups used in running, such as the core, glutes, hips, and legs. Include exercises like squats, lunges, planks, and hip bridges to improve stability, power, and resilience. Investing time in strength training will not only enhance performance but also reduce the risk of common running injuries.



  1. Trying to Make Up for Lost Time due to Injuries

Injuries are an inevitable part of marathon training, but attempting to make up for lost time by pushing too hard can exacerbate the problem and lead to further setbacks. Many runners fall into the trap of overcompensating for missed workouts, disregarding the body’s need for rest and recovery.

Instead of rushing to catch up, prioritize injury prevention and rehabilitation. Listen to your body and adjust your training, accordingly, focusing on quality over quantity. Cross-train with low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga to maintain fitness while giving your body a break from the pounding of running. Remember, consistency and patience are key to long-term success in marathon training.


  1. Starting Out Too Fast

The adrenaline rush of race day can tempt even the most disciplined runners to start too fast, setting an unsustainable pace that leads to burnout later in the race (no.1 of the race day marathon mistakes). Many runners underestimate the importance of pacing and succumb to the excitement of the starting line.

To avoid this common mistake, stick to your race plan and trust your pacing strategy. Start conservatively, allowing your body to settle into a comfortable rhythm before gradually increasing the pace. Use mile markers or GPS watches to monitor your pace and adjust as needed, aiming for negative splits to finish strong. Remember, it’s not about how fast you start but how well you finish.


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  1. Ensuring Proper Shoe Fit and Adjustment for Comfortable Running

In the world of running, glamour takes a backseat to grit, and a quick glance at the toenails of serious runners will confirm this truth. The dreaded “runner’s toe” is a common affliction among long-distance enthusiasts, but it’s not an inevitability. This pesky problem rears its head when the heat generated during a run causes the feet to swell, shrinking the available space within the shoe. The unfortunate consequence? Toes collide with the shoe interior, resulting in painful nail damage.

However, there’s hope on the horizon, and it comes in the form of well-fitted running shoes. Investing in footwear that hugs your feet snugly without constricting them can spell the difference between agony and ecstasy on the pavement. But the quest for comfort doesn’t end there. Mid-run adjustments are key to accommodating your expanding feet, ensuring they have ample breathing room to prevent discomfort and injury. So, lace up those shoes with care, and stride confidently knowing your feet are primed for peak performance.

  1. Trying Something New on Race Day – marathon mistakes cont’d.

Race day is not the time to experiment with new gear, shoes, or nutrition strategies. Many runners make marathon mistakes by deviating from their tried-and-true routines in a last-minute attempt to gain an edge or fix perceived shortcomings.

To minimize the risk of race-day disasters, stick to familiar gear, apparel, and nutrition products that you’ve tested and proven during training. Lay out your race-day outfit and pack your essentials the night before to avoid any last-minute scrambling. Trust in your preparation and embrace the mantra: nothing new on race day.

Conclusion – Marathon Mistakes

Mastering the marathon requires more than just physical fitness; it demands meticulous planning, disciplined training, and mental fortitude. By avoiding these common mistakes and prioritizing preparation and execution, you’ll maximize your chances of success on race day. Remember, every step you take in training brings you closer to achieving your marathon goals. So lace up your shoes, hit the roads, and embrace the journey to greatness.


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Happy running!


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