25 Common Mistakes Runners Make

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few weeks ago a member of the Master Runners SparkTeam posted a thread asking his fellow SparkPeople runners what had been their biggest running mistake to date. The responses were quite interesting and varied which prompted me to take this forum to the other running SparkTeams to see what mistakes other runners have done in their training or racing that we could all learn from.

I believe that we learn more from the mistakes we make than by doing everything in life perfectly. However, by learning from other members mistakes maybe we can avoid some of the same issues others have experienced. I would like to thank all the runners who shared their mistakes. You guys are awesome.

  1. Ignoring (or being unaware of) the importance of rest. -LBTHOMASJR

  2. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was donating blood the week of a half marathon! Blood donation is a wonderful thing but an awful training tool! -MBSHAZZER

  3. Trying to use marathon training to lose weight. Some weight will drop off but you need to eat properly to train properly. -H3HOUND

  4. Running on the wrong surfaces (sidewalks are hard on the legs) -JEMILLER51

  5. Comparing myself to other runners in a race and thinking "Oh no she didn't! That speedwalker is NOT going to beat me in this race!" I should be going at my own pace and not worrying about others. -ANNEKATHLEEN

  6. Thinking if I was a "real runner" I would just push a little harder. -APPLEPIEDREAMS

  7. Not bringing a map of the course with me and then realizing it was too late as I found myself running past a cow and wondering what happened to the trail (Grasslands Half Marathon). -MARATHONMAMATO3

  8. Continuing to run another 3 miles even though my thighs were rubbing together painfully. Did not look pretty and showering hurt for a week. -KVM23

  9. Over training/under eating - I have a habit of increasing my physical activity and forgetting I can't eat like a rabbit, then I bonk during my runs, or fall asleep at my desk - NOT good! -SHINIGAN

  10. Running too fast on my easy days making it hard to do my speed and tempo runs. -KVROMBAUT

  11. Dressing too warm on a cool day. 50 degrees and higher only requires shorts and a t-shirt, even if it feels cool starting out. -TX_RUNNER

  12. Not realizing my number belt made a perfect ring of "chub rub" around my waist until I got into the shower. OUCH! -GOOFY4RUNNING

  13. Don't put sunscreen around or above your eyes, sweat dripping in your eyes is bad enough, extremely harsh when sunscreen is mixed in.-MEL_UNRAU

  14. Not cross training -BETHMOM77

  15. On my first 5K, I picked up both my husband's and my race packet. I took the numbers out and put one on myself, handed him the other. Turns out, I mixed them up, so he had mine, I had his. It was a small local run, so no big deal, but it was funny that I placed near the top of my division (40+ women) according to the official race results. -VIRGINIAGRETA

  16. New running shorts- try them on a short run first. I'm long waisted and what seemed to fit in the stores started riding up and twisting when I ran. -TWINSAND3DOGS

  17. Not doing strength training specific to the muscles that support your knees. -JEM0622

  18. Getting all suited up for long winter runs - pants, jacket, fuel belt and then remembering that you need to use the bathroom! -LAB-LOVER

  19. Thinking at Dublin Marathon that it would warm up from 10:00 a.m. start temperature so I ran in a singlet. It got colder and rained and wife got hypothermia. - IPA-RAY

  20. Believing that all runners must have run track in school. Seems like the majority of runners had a case of adult onset running, sometimes brought on by birthdays ending in zeros. -MUCKITY_MUCK

  21. As a new runner, thinking that I could just jump into running distances because I've been working out for over 2 years--started the C25K and thought it was too easy so I just made up my own training plan...ended up with an injury to my knee. -BETRME100

  22. I suffer from the terrible 2's. (Am I a toddler in a "Master"'s body?) LOL ....too much, too soon, too fast, too far, too long-EDWINA172

  23. Not wearing shoes that had plenty of room in the toe box. After the first marathon I did I lost 9 out of 10 toenails. Fortunatley I didn't feel it while running...I feel like an expert on black toenails.-AELARLEE1

  24. Keeping pace with faster runners just to be social--note to self keep to your own pace you can always talk meet up after run. -FREEDOMSTAR

  25. Training for distance running and then suddenly deciding I was a sprinter. It was the Senior Games 2009. I did a 50 yard sprint and hurt my knee. While the doctor gave me clearance to continue distance running (he said I wouldn't make it worse by doing so), I was still running with pain for a few months. -GLADGAD

I received such a tremendous response from the SparkPeople runners that I will be submitting part 2 in the future. So stay tuned.

Have you made some of the mistakes mentioned above? What mistakes have you made, not just in running, but when it comes to any exercise? What is your favorite one listed above

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Very interesting article!!! Report
ARNETTELEE 7/25/2019
thanks Report
Very interesting! I did not think of several of these. Report
EVIE4NOW 1/24/2019
thanks Report
#20 is hilarious, and a bit true in my case. I have a birthday ending in a zero next year, as well as some post-baby jiggle to smooth out.

I just ran my second Cto5K session this morning, and am reading these carefully to avoid these pitfalls. I'm sure I'll make my own mistakes anyway. :) Report
An interesting read - especially #20 : ) Report
I have only been running since September, so these are great things to read! Report
Not drinking water during my run while trying to increase the amount I was running. I will never go without water while running over 3 miles again. Report
I've made a few of the mistakes listed, including bad surfaces (I run on the sidewalk too much), shoe size (only recently graduated up a size), sunscreen in the eyes thanks to sweatiness, getting all competitive with other runners instead of running my own race, and suffering from "new short chaffe" due to seams where seams should not be!
One that isn't mentioned is signing up, year after year, for the local 10k on Father's Day when it is invariably hot and humid. I end up struggling through it, labouring, sweaty and red-faced and don't enjoy myself. I need to stick to cool weather events when I'll be comfortable. Report
#20 made me laugh, too. I just ran my first 5K after doing C25K this summer... and, yep, I'm 4-0. :-) Report
I'm in the middle of C25K training for a 5K I'm running in October. I've had a couple of runs where my feet went numb because I laced the shoes too tightly, as someone else mentioned. Last night when I went for a run, I consumed too little calories for the day before my run and also ate too close to running, so my stomach was cramping up while I was running and then I was nauseous and lightheaded for the rest of the night because I hadn't eaten enough. I promptly made something when I got home, but I never felt right the rest of the evening. Won't make that mistake again. Report
The terrible 2's is a very good one for all beginning runners to remember and take to heart! I know of a handful of people off the top of my head that decided they wanted to run and on their very first run they ran way too far, way too fast. There's nothing that kills one's desire to run faster than spending the next week barely being able to walk. Remember to start slow, run easy, and slowly build up your workouts. Warm up, cool down, stretch, and work into it. You can't rush your way into fitness, but you can rush into injury. Report
Number 20 made me laugh! I just ran my first 5k race last weekend and am training for a 10k race. And.... I'll be 40 next month! Report
I have been running competitively for 12 years, and some of the biggest mistakes I have made:
1. Not cooling down appropriately after races or hard workouts.
2. Racing workouts or long runs (am running better now than I did in college by slowing down on recovery days)
3. Running in the wrong shoes (IT Band Pain)
4. Not carrying a trail map and getting really lost where 5 miles turns into 12!
5. Not believing that I needed to hydrate or use any nutritional supplement while training for the marathon. Quickly learned this was a good way to train my body for deprivation, not necessarily to run fast or recover well. Report
Running on the wrong surfaces, hard even on a 20 yr old body! My right hip was killing me for months! Report
I was also guilty of the terrible 2s and caused myself a couple of injuries. I thought that since I was quite fit that I could just jump into running. I didn't realize the importance of strengthening my leg muscles gradually. Fortunately, it's all good now. Report
I am guilty of the Terrible 2's... even though I know that's what landed me in physical therapy while training for a half marathon in 07... Report
I agree with #5. Whenever I attempt to keep up with someone else's pace, I am doomed. I walked (ran very little) the Country Music City Marathon a few years ago. Instead of performing at my own pace, I tried to keep up with other runners. I was worried about being too slow. Afterwards, I could barely walk. At the time I was living in Chicago, so I had to take a flight back from Nashville to Chicago the next day. It was horrible!! I definitely learned my lesson!! Report
If I'm out of touch with my pace, I'll run too fast. Then I burn out and can't finish my distance.

The RIGHT SHOES is the other biggie. I need pronation control, or I'll get a stabbing pain in the outside of my left knee in mile 1, and that sticks around for at least a week. It's worth it to go to the running store and get the right shoe, instead of buying a brand name that's on sale. Those Sauconys were the worst $80 I ever spent... Report
I am currently "just a walker" but I really want to graduate to being a runner but I know it takes more than just running to do so.... Report
Getting lost in the woods.... actually happened to me yesterday! I am still a little shaken up from it. Now I will never run a trail without a map, since the woods are poorly marked. Report
I've experienced first-hand the terrible twos and lack of toe room.

I now buy my running shoes a 1/2 size big, and fit to my heel, with extra toe space!

I also have a 'new' injury (pulled calve muscle) that I'm listening to instead of running on. Sigh. I hate injuries. They're far easier to get when over 40! Report
I have done the *TOO much, TOO soon* thing more than once, guess I'm a slow learner as well as slow runner! I'm starting back up again, but have actually scaled the C25K program BACK .. Report
HAHAHAHA funny and helpful will be mindful of them in future. but i relate to the ones that are too much too fast and then crash!! Report
My running no no was to run through pain. I thought I was tough and had pain after a race, I continued to increase miles to train for my marathon. I ran the marathon, in pain, and ended up with mulitiple injuries that landed me sidelined for 3 months!
I loved this blog, great info!
What mistakes have I made ?? Pull up a chair, this could take a while. LOL !!!

I suppose the worst mistake I made was thinking I could exercise after giving a pint of blood. When the nurses say DON'T EXERCISE for 24 hours. Do do as your told. I thought it would be "okay" to do the elliptical for 30 mins. What harm would that do ?

Well, I was on for maybe 5-10 mins before I thought I would pass out. I have never felt worse. Needless to say, I stopped, got my stuff and went home. These days, if I know I'm going to give blood, I always exercise before I give.

As for running, I think I made the mistake of doing too much too soon. I didn't ease into it like I should have. As a result, I ended up with the worst shin splints the first week I went running.

These were great! One mistake that hasn't been mentioned, yet, but I've done is running too much/fast for the weather. If it's 90 degrees and humid, don't expect to run as fast or as long as you do when it's 55 degrees and sunny. Report
Ha ha ha... yes, started running at 40. Yes, made many of these same mistakes. Now... with a diagnosis of arthritis in my feet and knees, I'm trying to figure out how NOT to make more mistakes and whether or not running can be part of my fitness going forward.

Funny how being told NOT to do something makes you want to all the more! Report
Funny....I am guilty of alot of these although I know better.... Report
Thanks for all of this input everyone. Looking to get started small with 5k runs soon - all of the advice here is great! Report
FLYA180- I look forward to seeing you post that you've completed that Walk-a-thon! Good for you!!!!! Report
Interesting. I'm just starting a walking program [but I walk with a walker]. I'm promising myself to stop walking with the walker next year when I get my new knees in May 2011. Right now, only doing 15 minutes a day - 5 warm-up, 5 cardio, 5 cool-down. Have great New Balance sneakers - got the men's version for extra support.
My biggest promise: next year sometime, or the year after that - walk in an Arthritis Walk-a-thon in Philadelphia. I may only walk a half mile, but I WILL do it. Lots of great comments on these boards.
bobbi [flya180] Report
I was not paying attention to rest days, stopped taking them completely and was always running on sidewalks. Now I have severe shin splints in both legs and 3 stress fractures in my left leg. I have had to take off 6 weeks of running, walking, or anything that puts pressure on my lower legs. I have been going to PT 3 weeks and hope to be able to at least start back walking for exercise again soon. I will run again, but when I start back I will take rest days and pay more attention to the surface I am running on. Report
My mistake: ignoring what I thought was a fairly routine kind of discomfort for me - shin splints. (Oh, it's just shin splints. I get those all the time. I'll be better in a day or so.) I ended up with a stress fracture in my right leg and was sidelined for two months. Report
I'm not a runner, but I can certainly identify with LAB-LOVER. Report
I'm not a serious runner but I do know one of my friends made the mistake to think at the age of 50+ he could just pickup where he left off at the age of 16, when he was 100+ pounds lighter. He got shin splints within a week, and has done no exercises since then. Report
I've made several of these mistakes! As well as going out WAY too fast in a race. It's easy to get all amped up from adrenaline, the crowd, and the other racers. Take it easy at first so you have plenty of energy left in your tank for the last part of the race! Report
I stopped running years ago because I knew it was too great a strain on my knees. I only walk now! Report
i can agree with many of these Report
Running through shin splints. I ended up immobolized for a three months. My last "good" run was November 1st. I am finally allowed to run again but I can only run about a mile w/o pain. My goal was to be able to run a half marathon by this upcoming November. By November I'll be lucky if I can run a 5k w/o pain. I learned a very valuable, painful and probably dream ending lesson. Do not run through pain!! Report
Let's see: chafing-done that, bad running surfaces-yup, overtraining-unfortunately, dehydration-definitely, knee injuries-uh huh.

Other problems: lacing shoes too tight (foot went numb mid-run), eating nuts or other fat-rich foods before a run (gas and terrible cramping eww), not showering immediately after a run (ITCHY), not wearing wicking socks (entire bottom of my foot peeled), tightening my shoulders during a run (ouch).

Most of these problems weren't done intentionally. New runners: expect to experience some or all of these issues eventually and familiarize yourself with the signs/symptoms. Listen to your body.

Big helpers:
- keeping a running log! A log can be as detailed or as simple as you need. But for basic functionality, record the mileage on your running shoes so you know when you need new ones.
- Body Glide or vaseline for chafing.
- reading training plans and LISTENING to advice before developing your own training program.
- cross training and strength training.
- GREAT shoes and comfortable wicking clothes. Breast support for the ladies.
- a mirror. It probably sounds weird, but try running on a treadmill in front of a mirror. You observe a lot about your carriage and running posture.
- chest strap heart rate monitor. A simple device can tell you how hard you're working the cardiovascular system; it won't tell you when you're pushing muscular endurance (during long runs), but it will tell you if you're running too fast.

Edit: almost forgot--no skimping on the stretching! Report
20. Believing that all runners must have run track in school. Seems like the majority of runners had a case of adult onset running, sometimes brought on by birthdays ending in zeros. -MUCKITY_MUCK

Muckity Muck might be right. I ran and sprinted competively in school, but grew bored with it before I reached 40. I still enjoy running, but can't imagine doing for any other reason than playing with children or avoiding rain drops. Report
I'm not a runner, but a runner wanna-be. I'm tentatively planning on starting the C25k program very soon, but am so scared I'm not going to be able to do it! The two tips that were most helpful to me were #20 and #22; I assume that everyone who is a runner has been doing it for most of their lives, and I always suffer the terrible twos and push myself too hard when starting out. Great blog, thanks for the tips! Report
I consider myself a new runner even though I've already run the Disney full Marathon (7 years ago). I look back and wonder how I did it and yearning to have that gusto to go at it again. Once I'm running though, I'm in the zone and it's hard to stop - that's why #8 is my favorite. My mistake was running in "too much T-shirt". I usually wear oversized ones to work out in, but when running it actually becomes extra weight to carry (not to mention hot in Florida). Now it's all about the sleeveless... Report
Would like to start running, great tips Report
As a relatively new runner, I find all this information very valuable! Some of it has already helped me avoid painful problems later on! I'm looking forward to the second part! Report
My biggest mistake was to continue running with achilles tendonitis. I kept thinking it would go away - it got worse and I was off for 2 months, with six weeks of physical therapy. I'm listening to my body now. Report
Oh, I love this list--I'm looking forward to reading part two! I resemble #20. For me it was not a birthday that ended in a zero but in a five (55); I hated to run growing up but now it's my favorite activity of all! Report
#20 Is me...I started C25K this year, after my birthday ending in zero. :D Report
Another oh so helpful blog Nancy! I made #11 today - I wore capris because my race was in "the mountains" but it was probably 80 degrees by the end of the run. Ughh, why do I always do that - I am afraid to be cold, but I always warm up so fast. Report