Top 10 First-Timer Marathon Mistakes
In working with a many runners over the years and experiencing training for a marathon myself, I know that a marathon can be a very fulfilling event. That said, I also know that poor preparation can turn what should be an “enjoyable” experience into a horrible march of death. For that reason I compiled a list of ten of the most common mistakes people make in preparing for their first marathon. If you or a friend are preparing for your first marathon I encourage you to read the list and avoid the March of Death.
Top 10 Marathon Mistakes
1) Not Practicing Gels
Taking energy gels, chews, or drinks is a fantastic way to refuel and push the affects of “the wall” back, but taking an energy supplement that doesn’t agree with your gut is a sure fire way to leave you grasping your side and hunching from pain. I suggest trying a few brands and flavors of gels, chews, or drinks during your long runs and longer workouts during marathon training.
2) Not Pacing Yourself in the Race
Another great way to have a bad experience on the marathon course is to go out too hard in the first few miles. Believe me on this one, I speak from experience! You are much better off running 15 seconds per mile more slowly that goal pace over the first ten miles that being five seconds too fast over the first five miles.
3) Not Practicing Drinking on the Run or Stopping to Drink
Just like the energy supplements, you should practice drinking water during your long runs and longer workouts. It is absolutely fine to stop and drink water if you find it difficult to drink on the run. The water is better in you than on you, so slow down and drink.
4) Not being consistent in training!
A common mistake in marathon training is to go through a training segment with reckless abandon. Some will take random off days or piece together a training plan from a handful of online columns, but if you do not have a set plan you are setting yourself up for a bad day.
5) Not enjoying the process
Don’t become a slave to the clock or to your mileage long. While it is normal to be nervous for the race, you should not be in a state of crippling anxiety. This is about you and the road, an opportunity to test yourself and to celebrate all the hard work you put in. Enjoy the race.
6) Overdoing the long run
It’s hard to get away from the thinking you need to get a 20 or 22-miler in before the marathon to prove fitness, but going for an extra long run that does not reflect your mileage load is another wonderful way to hurt your marathon. Far too often people leave their race on the practice course by doing a too long run. Don’t let your long run become more that 35% of your weekly mileage. If you want to run longer, build your weekly totals first.
7) Focusing on a few missed training sessions
Missing a day or two is OK, in fact, you may be better off taking a day off here and there and listening to your body. Better one day off today that two weeks off later! Just remember consistently missing days is a problem. You might be better served pushing the marathon back a few months if training isn’t coming together.
8) Focusing on Interval training
You’re running a marathon, not a mile. Unless you plan on running sub 2:30 you don’t need to worry about repeat 200s, 300s, or 400s. Lack of speed training will not be the reason you have a bad day, but lack of strength will. So turn your focus to longer miles, tempos, and rolling hills.
9) Setting an Unrealistic Goal
We’ve al been there. Training hasn’t been quite what we wanted but we really wanted to run XX:XX for that race. So we go out for that dream time and find… not only was it a dream, we leave with our heads down and discouraged from a terrible result. A good way to combat this is find someone (a coach) who will give you an honest assessment of your level or a group to hold you accountable.
10) Trying something new on race day
Holy geez! I just saw that girl from that Brooks commercial! She was drinking that cool sports drink and said she was going to dinner at the rib joint before the race! She’s really good so those must be good things. Hopefully my sarcasm is conveyed effectively. Try to maintain your routine as much as the day and race will allow or you might end up getting the meat sweats at mile five.
I hope this list can save a few of you from a terrible marathon experience. But if it’s too late, remember that the marathon has a quick learning curve. After you make a death march-type mistake you will not do it again.