Mistakes that runners make

Avoid these classic running blunders

Although running is so straightforward in so many ways, some runners fall into the trap of making it extremely complicated for themselves with some basic running mistakes. The tendency to cut corners, or conversely to over-cook training, are just some of the potential pitfalls that lie in wait for the experienced and brand new runner.


This is a classic mistake made by runners old and new to the sport. Having decided to run a certain distance/race, they fling themselves head first into a training plan, that they either don’t read properly, or even worse, do read properly, but simply ignore. The plans work for a reason and that reason is because they build up gradually towards a certain goal.

Trying to do too much too quickly is a classic form of over-training, but there are others. Following a training plan with too much intensity will lead to burnout, while too many miles in the pursuit of your holy grail will also leave you worn out, injured and de-motivated. The classic signs of over-training are lethargy, aching joints and muscles, heavy legs and an elevated heart rate. So try to avoid it; it rarely takes you where you want to go.

Getting the pace wrong

This simple sentence covers a multitude of training sins that runners often make. For runners who join a group aimed at achieving a certain race/distance goal, it is tempting to try and be the quickest through the first mile (1.6 km). But a fast start will invariably lead to a slow finish and you will increase your chances of burnout/injury if you start your hard workout/tempo run within 3 strides of your session. Always run at your own pace and don’t be afraid to let everyone else do the same. Even if they leave you behind, you’ll probably catch them by the end.

That said, some runners can be notoriously stubborn for the wrong reasons, because they train at the same pace all the time. The secret of running success lies in a mixture of training sessions, including speed intervals, tempo running and endurance running. If you ignore all of that variety, your capabilities will lack variety and you’ll struggle to progress. So don’t set a monotonous, repeated pace on your training runs. Mix it up and think speed. Your PB will thank you for it.

Self sabotage

Ask any runner about their biggest enemy and most will admit it’s actually the enemy within. There are so many ways a runner can undermine their own potential. From succumbing to a paralysing bout of pre-race nerves that prompts them to make a colossal mistake, to refusing to accept that a plan isn’t working because it’s not right for them. Or even demonstrating an immovable resistance to the blindingly obvious, like continuing to stick to what they see as a tried and trusted formula, when the desperate need for change is staring them in the face. Perspective is a wonderful skill in a runner, along with a philosophical pragmatism that will go an awfully long way and take you with it.

Ignoring injuries

Being able to differentiate between an ache and a genuine injury is something that comes with experience. But running on blindly when your ankle is broken is not an ideal way to get miles under your belt. Get to know your body and you will be able to distinguish between a sore achilles and a snapped tendon. You will also begin to recognise when that voice in your head is telling you something hurts, when it really doesn’t.

Race madness

Getting races wrong is one of the most frustrating experiences it is possible to have for the runner who, for instance, has devoted six months of their life to a marathon. But a mistake made in the blink of an eye can inflict hours of misery on the day and have repercussions for weeks and months afterwards.

From going out too fast in a blaze of ill-judged adrenaline, to ignoring water stations, wearing new blister-inducing running shoes or trying a new sports gel with catastrophic tummy-related consequences, the list is as long as the proverbial arm. Why spend weeks or months of your life training for a specific race, only to throw it all away with a stupid mistake? As with all things practice makes perfect and sometimes it’s only by getting things spectacularly wrong, that we come to understand what we should have done in the first place.

Try to remember that the kind of preparation you have obsessed about in the weeks leading up to your race, needs to be applied to race day itself. Never try anything new on the day, never change your routine at the last minute and never allow yourself to be persuaded that someone else’s warm up looks better than yours. Never ever start the race like a 100m sprinter and don’t treat the event like an extended fartlek session. Just follow your pace plan and always run your own race. It really is that simple.

Editorial Credit: John Kropewnicki / Shutterstock.com

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