5 mistakes every runner makes

How to avoid common running errors

Hello everyone, I’ve decided to write about five mistakes that every runner makes. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a runner who hasn’t committed at least one of these sins!

Written by Louise Damen
Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.


 Starting a race too fast

I know I’ve made this mistake on several occasions and the end result has never been very pretty! It’s all too easy to get carried away on race day; your legs feel fresh from tapering and with some extra adrenaline flowing you can feel invincible, well for the first few kilometres at least! An over-zealous start nearly always results in a slow and painful finish, and you can kiss goodbye to an opportunity of running a personal best.  The smartest runners are those who spread their effort over the duration of the race by running even or negative splits. Good pace judgement is a skill that requires discipline, patience and practice.

Training or racing when ill

Runners tend to thrive on routine and therefore often get pretty grumpy about things that cause disruption to training. Illness is an unwelcome disruption at the best of times and the determination and stubbornness to hit your weekly mileage goal or quota of runs often over-rides common sense. You can picture the scenario; you have a sore throat but you convince yourself that it’s nothing and lace up your trainers as you don’t want to miss a session. But what was a minor sore throat quickly escalates into a full blown cold, or worst still, a chest infection and you are ultimately forced to miss more training.

Ploughing on regardless of illness is not a display of toughness and it can be dangerous. Many sports doctors advocate the ‘neck rule’ to determine whether you should still run when you are ill. If your symptoms are above the neck, (sneezing, runny nose, mild sore throat), then easy running should be okay, as long as you back off the duration and intensity. Harder training sessions or races are not advisable. If however you have symptoms below the neck, (chesty cough, fever, muscle aches, stomach upset), then you definitely need to rest.

Ignoring a niggle

Your body is very good at giving you warning signs that it’s time to back off, and niggles are just that.  Runners are also very good at ignoring these warning signs and ploughing on with training in the belief they are being tough.Some of the injuries that I’ve sustained in the past started as niggles and possibly could have been prevented had I listened to my body. Of course I’m not suggesting that you should stop running every time you experience an ache or pain, (otherwise very few of us would ever get any running done!). However, if an ache or pain persists for more than a few days then it’s best to switch to an alternative method of training, such as aqua jogging, cycling or swimming. This will enable your body to heal and if possible, seek some specialist advice from a physiotherapist. Cross training is a great way to maintain aerobic fitness and you’ll be back on the road in no time.

Underestimating the value of consistency

Consistency of training is probably the single most important factor if you’re looking to improve your running.  Many runners make the mistake of thinking that it is the one- off monster sessions that will get them into shape.  However what they fail to realise is that fitness is built upon weeks, months or even years of consistent, solid work. Rome wasn’t built in a day! There is very little to be achieved from being a hero for a day or even a week if you are then unable to train for several days or weeks after.

Wearing your shoes long past their sell by date

We’ve all had different reasons for this one; the old pair are just so comfy, you’ve run a PB in them or simply the cost of replacing them. However, there comes a point when wearing an old pair of shoes becomes a significant injury risk. The average life expectancy of a pair of running shoes is around 500 miles, although this also depends on your weight, biomechanics and the terrain that you run on.  Once you get past this point the shoes’ cushioning degrades, and if the shoes are failing to absorb the shock of impact, then somewhere in your lower leg is! If you want to help preserve the cushioning in your shoes then you should avoid storing them in a warm environment and putting them through the wash, as both of these things can accelerate the degradation process.

I hope these tips help you to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Happy training!

Comments (3)

  • renton 'Starting a race too fast is definitively my thing... as well as starting a session too fast. I really need to learn how to avoid the rush. Any suggestion/tip?'

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  • jackal51 'I'm usually good about not starting out too fast. But my last two races I did and, as I should have known, suffered later. BUT WAIT. I have an excuse. In both races--one being the Boston Marathon--the first part of the race is downhill and I wanted to take advantage of gravity. How do I take advantage without burning out?'

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  • PJS75 'Very Sound advice as usual Louise, thank you!!! '

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