10 worst marathon training mistakes

What not to do when training for a marathon

Making a mistake during your marathon training can be disastrous. Make sure you stay on target and achieve the time you deserve with these 10 marathon training tips.

You don’t enter an event before your marathon

Training regularly is all well and good, but what do you do when you don’t seem to improve or progress? The answer: enter a race prior to your marathon event. If you don’t enter a race before your big day you’ll struggle to push yourself and your sessions will lack focus.

You over-train

Running a marathon is a daunting prospect and understandably you want to prepare as much as possible, yet do not over-train or you will injure or exhaust yourself. For the majority of people, the most you can realistically do is five to six training sessions per week. However, you still need to make sure you include one full rest day in your week, plus you must ensure that the quality of your sessions remains high.

You don’t run for a reason

Although running for the love of running is great, sometimes it can be really helpful to have a reason to run. During the second half of your marathon race the challenge is just as much about your mental attitude as it is your physical abilities. Running for a charity that means something to you is sometimes the best way to stay focused and boost your motivation when the going gets tough come race day.

You skip interval training

Want to get faster? Then make sure you fit in some decent interval sessions. Running steadily is great for your endurance, but it doesn’t help you to run faster. Interval training on the other hand will speed you up. Here are some good interval training sessions.

You ignore the 10 per cent rule

The 10 per cent rule is in place so that you do not push yourself too hard, too soon. To stick to the 10 per cent rule you should not increase the distance of your previous long run by more than 10 per cent each time you head out. If you ignore the 10 per cent rule you’ll risk injuring yourself, which may mean you don’t even make it to the start line.

You don’t adjust your shoes

Running is not a glamorous sport and if you’re in any doubt about this ask any serious runner to remove their shoes and take a look at their black or non-existent toenails. ‘Runner’s toe’ is a normal complaint that most long-distance runners experience, but it’s not a necessity. ‘Runner’s toe’ occurs when your feet heat up on a long run. This heat causes your feet to expand and the space within your shoe to reduce. As a result your toe hits the inside of your shoe, which damages the nail. Buying correctly fitting running shoes and running socks will help you avoid this discomfort. You should also adjust your running shoe during your run to give your expanding feet more room.

You don’t refuel post-run

What you do after your marathon training session is just as important as what you do during your session. Within fifteen minutes of finishing your run drink a glucose-replacement drink. This will make sure you hydrate and top up your glucose levels. Then, within two hours of your run you should eat a meal that includes protein and carbohydrates. Make sure you drink several glasses of water as well. 

You stretch your muscles before they are warmed up

Stretching can seem like a complex business, but if you want to work on your flexibility you should not stretch before your muscles are fully warmed up. This is because muscles that have not been warmed up are inelastic and therefore stretching them will result in an injury. Instead wait until your muscles are relaxed and fit in a flexibility session after your run when your muscles will be warmed up. Ideally you can do your flexibility stretches during your cool-down.

You exercise during your taper

Tapering is an important and essential part of any marathon training plan and if you don’t want to end up lagging in your race come marathon day you need to stick to the taper set out in your training plan. So, not only should you not run to excess, you should not do any other form of exercise for long periods. A little cycling, easy swimming, or some walking may be okay, but remember the taper period is an opportunity for your body to recover and prepare for your marathon.

You pick the wrong training plan

There are hundreds of training plans on offer, but which one is for you? Do a little bit of research into who the training plan has been created for and pick a plan that matches your ability. If you do not, you will find the plan does not prepare you for the race. Marathon training plans are typically 16 weeks long, but a lead-in period can be useful if you are not an experienced runner.

Comments (10)

  • HilaryWoof 'Hi, I like these, but don't agree with your first one particularly! I also hear that sometimes entering a race, particularly too near the marathon makes you go too fast, get to tired or injured. Also just because you are training on your own it doesn't mean you don't push yourself or you lack focus. It all depends what you are trying to achieve. Perhaps it might be so with the faster runners, but I am a total newbie with a current predicted finish of 4.20 and have been very happy doing it on my own. But I am doing Jeff Galloway's Run Walk Run programme which is quite prescriptive, though I don't always do what he says either - just keep making sure I'm on target for the long runs. 23 this weekend. Gulp!'

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  • Fenix 'Hilary - you've not run a marathon - so you're probably not best placed to give advice ? Running a race is a very good idea. You get to see what races are like. You get the butterlfies. You get the nerves. You get to wear race kit. Run in a crowd. Practice pacing. Practice drinking and eating. Can you follow the racing line ? How do you recover ? Also if you haven't a half marathon race time - how are you predicting your 4.20 ? You can go from a 5k or 10k race sure - but the longer the race - the more accurate your marathon time can be. 4.20 isn't a slow time by any means. Nobody is saying do a race near the marathon - but as part of your plan - it's an excellent idea.'

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  • RelayGB 'I agree with Hilary. Whilst entering events is always useful to gauge your speed it is not so important as to be a 'mistake' if it's not done. Maybe it's just us, Hilary, but I don't have the problem in pushing myself or having focus. Having completed 22 marathons to date without the need for extra focus (and without headphones - the scenery is often the best motivator) I haven't seen this as a problem. All the other tips though are spot on. As for treadmill training - why would you want to do that?'

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  • Vin 'Interesting. What I do know is this. There is no wrong there is no right. What works for one is disastrous for another. We're all different even the elite train differently. Do differently. Take what works for you and don't that doesn't. The 10 tips are good because it gives you the option to choose. Better than no tips at all. Now that's what I know. '

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  • emilyzh 'The races are great practice, and helps answer questions: does you gel make you sick? Does your bra rip into your skin? how to take water (walk or run through stops?) if you like engaging with the crowd or other runners, or not. how to handle the adrenaline rush (go for it, hold back?) Sunglasses or not? Sometimes you train in the afternoon, and a morning race helps you figure out how much coffee is too much, etc! Of course it is not necessary - but it is a great training tip. '

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  • peter1982tickle 'Some reasonable advice although not all essential. Entering a race can go either way. Better to monitor your training and use some of the multitude of tracking apps/accessories available to monitor progress and push yourself sensibly. Stretching pre run should be dynamic, that would be better advice. Also stretching is more important after runs to improve keep flexibility. There is little evidence of it having a positive impact before exercise, its just a common misconception. '

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  • kshiva 'shjnf.dnkj;ndan'

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  • kshiva 'http://google.com'

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  • DavidJS 'Relay GB, I did all my training for my first marathon aged 51 on a treadmill. On the basis that if I could run five twenty milers on a treadmill running outside for 26.2 miles wouldn't be too difficult. It wasn't and I finished in 3:54:18 (Berlin). Treadmills are excellent for interval sessions and speedwork as you have a constant speed to keep to, after eleven marathons, it works for me.'

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  • kerlmann 'Point 2 re over-training is valid but you can over-train over too long a period as well as within a week. I'd run 2 good marathons using 4 month plans, then stretched it to 5 months for my 3rd marathon, and found that I'd peaked too early - by race-day, I was a bit stale. Still did OK, but my peak form was a few weeks earlier.'

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