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5 Common mistakes made by marathon runners

by Mark Saunders
Friday 28th February 2014

Mark Saunders, Director and Senior Physiotherapist at Physio4Life in Putney discusses the errors that can blight a runner’s first attempt at the marathon

Months of blood, sweat and tears have gone into preparing for your first ever London Marathon and finally the big day is just around the corner. But are you really prepared?

Here are 5 common mistakes made by London Marathon Runners that you should avoid like a pothole in the road:

Mistake #1: One last big run in the final week will really help

Failing to taper is one of the most popular rookie mistakes at the marathon. If you’re unsure that you’ve packed in enough endurance work, you may be tempted to tackle another 20-miler in the week of the race.

But the truth of it is, last minute cramming won’t work. This isn’t exam revision, after all. Long runs take their toll on your body and running additional long distances during your taper will set you back. Remember, your endurance training should be built in over the course of the training programme and having one final blow out can do more harm than good.

So, resist the urge and don’t scupper your performance on race day.

Mistake #2: Going into panic mode before the big day

If you’re feeling jitters at the thought of the task ahead, don't worry. You're not alone. All runners from amateurs to professionals can get worked up under pressure.

But it is important to save as much of that nervous energy for the start-line as possible. Run on adrenaline for a whole week and you will probably find that you hit the wall sooner rather than later.

Mistake #3: Ignoring hydration

Hydration is absolutely crucial to your performance and you’ll need to test out the fluid intake that suits you.

Contrary to popular belief, every individual is different. You need to know if you are someone who benefits from balancing those electrolytes or cramps in the stomach at the sight of a sugary drink. Try out several different routines on your training runs.

Other helpful tips include weighing yourself before and after long stints to gauge what kind of weight you lose through dehydration, and keeping a close eye on the colour of your urine after sessions (pale yellow is healthy; dark yellow is a sure sign you aren’t taking enough fluid on board).

If you really want to squeeze out that extra couple of per cent in performance, contact a good sports injury clinic to enquire about sweat testing and precision hydration.

Mistake #4: Getting nutrition wrong

Another common misconception is that sports nutrition starts and finishes with a bowl of pasta the night before a race. In actual fact, getting your diet right through the course of your training programme is as important as the energy you store up on the eve of the marathon.

You’ll likely be running more mileage than ever before, week on week. If you want to keep up that three-runs-a-week schedule and build towards peak performance, you need to fuel those muscles correctly day in and day out.

Training is also the time to work out how you plan to ration your pick’n’mix of energy gels and bars, bananas, jelly babies and whatever else you plan to tuck away as you plod around London. The right boost at the right time can mean the difference between hitting that target time and trudging in half an hour slower than planned.

Mistake #5: The wrong trainers

It may seem obvious, but not wearing the correct running shoes can cause serious problems for long distance runners. Badly fitting running shoes don’t just mean blisters, they can also alter your biomechanics – increasing the chance of injury and having a negative effect on performance.

Opt for proper gait analysis and biomechanical assessment and you can ensure that your foot alignment is correct as you pound the pavements during training and race day. Better biomechanics helps the energy passed up the body during running to be distributed through the joints, ligaments and muscles as nature intended – not in a way that will cause tears and strains.

In fact, research has shown that better biomechanics can improve the efficiency of your running style. And that’s worth its weight in gold when you’ve got 26.2 miles ahead of you!


About The Author

Mark Saunders

Mark Saunders is Director and Senior Physiotherapist at Physio4Life. Based in Putney, Physio4Life is London’s leading physiotherapists and sports injury clinic. Mark has worked for the NHS, in professional rugby and the Army before setting up in private practice.

He has worked with a number of professional athletes to help them achieve their goals, including 4x World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington, Ryder Cup Golfer Oliver Wilson and Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash.


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