Marathon Race Day Mistakes by Beginner Runners

race day mistakes

To err is human and the human who keeps erring is a nincompoop. I have gone from being human and becoming a nincompoop a number of times.

Come race day and we make so many mistakes on the race that they become painfully imprinted in the mind and body. But by next race, the previous mistakes are forgotten. So, I have thought of documenting the mistakes I made till date so that at least I can come back and refer to them to check them off.

1.  Starting too fast

A common mistake almost every runner has made in their running career. I made this mistake in my first marathon. I was feeling peppy and was in high spirits at the start. I ran without any disregard till 21 km mark. Then I bonked  and could not recover from it. And I had a horrible first marathon experience.


1.  Practice race pace in some portions of your weekly long run.

2.  Start the race at least a minute or two slower than your race pace. Gradually increase pace.

3.  Warm up properly before the race.

4.  Practice running negative splits in training runs i.e finish the run with faster time.

2.  Inappropriate fueling

I started eating bananas, glucose biscuits and drinking sports drink only after I bonked on my first marathon. By then it was too late. What a buffoon I was to jump in this brutal sport without actually understanding fueling aspect. According to Iowa State University, in events like marathons, glycogen stores can last upto 90 minutes. It means that we have reserves of glycogen or glucose in liver and muscles only till 90 minutes. If we are exercising beyond that, then fuel is required to move the body efficiently.


1.  Ensure you have a carbohydrate heavy meal a day prior to the race. Practice that meal beforehand. Do not try new food.

2.  Practice and try out sports drinks and food to be had on the run.

3.  Have a pre race meal/breakfast.

4.  Practice all your fueling strategies before, during and after the training long runs

3.  Chaffing and blisters

Ah how I dread it especially when shower water hits those chaffed areas. Terrible. I have had my share of inner thigh chaffing, nipple burns, blisters and hot spots on toes. I knew the solution to it and these still happened to me because often I used to forget to apply the simple vaseline or body glide.


1.  Make friends with the greasy vaseline and body glide.

2.  Lubricate the inner thighs, butt cracks( for some people), areas in contact with hydration pack and toes to avoid chaffing and blisters.

3.  Tape your nipples and even some parts of the toes which you feel are susceptible to blisters. Tape the toes well and ensure they don’t move from their place or they will cause bigger blisters.

4.  Not practicing the downhills

I thought downhills are easy until the race day. Hyderabad marathon is said to be the toughest city marathon in India because of the ups and downs. See the elevation profile in this article. My quads were shot and cramping badly by 30 km and downhills became extremely painful.


1.  If your race course has downhills, then don’t ignore to practice them.

2.  During training runs, practice running fast in the downhills.

3.  Run relaxed with short steps in downhill. Down rush down or your quads will take a brutal beating.

4.  Do these lower body exercises to strengthen them.

5.  Trying new on race day or before

I tried new socks on race day. Result : massive blisters. I tried new shorts. Result : inner thigh chaffing. I tried hill repeats with new Nike Frees before the last long run 2 weeks before the race. Result : plantar fasciitis and no racing.


1.  Practice everything before the race from pre and post race food, race pace, hydration, clothing, shoes, socks, race vest and even undies.

2.  Don’t leave anything to chance and you will have a pleasurable race.

6.  Undertrained

I was a new marathoner and I think I was undertrained when I toed the start line. Some say it is better to be undertrained than to be over but I was, I think, way behind. My longest run in the training program was a 25 km. And along with other mistakes of a novice runner, my last 10-15 km of the race were absolute torture.


1.  Don’t overtrain but don’t be undertrained also. However, if you cut a few speed sessions or tempos or long run by a couple of kms, you should be okay.

2.  Have a proper training plan with adequate long runs, recovery weeks and an adequate taper.

7.  Drive the course

I was constantly surprised throughout the course with the uphills and downhills and the length of the course. I even asked a fellow runner how much of the course is left and are there any more uphills!

So, the solution is simple. Drive the course especially the last 10 kms atleast a couple of days before the race. You will be more mentally prepared. Better still, run parts of the course on training runs to know it well.

Marathon is a race, I feel, everyone should do atleast once in a lifetime. It is such a confidence booster and brings out the real person in you. But make the mistakes, then the experience is terrible.

And last but not the least, have fun and smile whenever the camera comes on your face during the race.

Till stay fit and keep running.

What race day mistakes did you make?

How do you avoid blisters and bloody nipples?

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Author: Neel

I am Neel and the creator of borN. I am an ultra marathoner, scuba diver, adventurer, writer and father of an extremely active child.

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