7 Common Half Marathon Mistakes

My perfect trail

One of my clients is running his first half marathon very soon. Actually he is super scared that his race will go horribly wrong. We had a quick chat at a coffee shop last week about the 7 common half marathon mistakes that could happen to him. How you can avoid screwing your race? Read this:

So first of all, racing is fun. Nobody should feel scared or feel any form of serious fear. A little excitement is great, but please leave the fear at home. There are a few common errors that first-timers (and old pros!) make that may create a less enjoyable day. Here’s how to avoid them…

MISTAKE #1: Trying something new race week

It’s old but gold: Nothing new on race day and the week before. Eat what you’re used to, wear your go-to running gear and shoes and don’t exaggerate with the carb load dinner the night before. While you’re racing use only the gels and fuels you used in training in order to prevent stomach issues, chafing and pinched feet.

MISTAKE #2: Hurrying through the aid stations

Energy and hydration is key to half-marathon success. Don’t get involved in zooming through the aid stations even if you might think this will save you some time. Actually (but this doesn’t fly for everyone) I never drink while I’m racing – I’m drinking enough the days before, so I just don’t have to. But if you stop by a fluid station, make sure to run toward the center set of tables. Never ever grab something from the first tables. Next step is to identify a volunteer by looking her in the eye, grab the fluid, don’t spill the water on your shirt and leave.

MISTAKE #3: No last long run the week before

One of my clients had a nervous habit of running a 12-miler the week before the race to make sure she was ready, but all it did was appease her mind. I persuaded her to take it easy, and she shaved 10 minutes off her personal best! Remember, the most important thing you can do the week before a race is rest. We call it tapering. You won’t gain fitness—and trying to cram in training will cause you to toe the line fatigued. Proper tapering will make you perform on point on race day. I’ll always say (also when I’m getting nervous) “Trust your training”.

Mistake #4: Too hard too soon

It happened to me before so I know how it feels to crash and burn because I started off too hard too soon. Running a half marathon is about pacing yourself and running steady for the first half of the race. If you feel awesome after mile 6, or 7 become faster and the last 5K means actually racing. If you can give all you have the last 3 miles run in a a hard, but controlled, effort that uses your last bit of energy.

Mistake #5: Focussing on the distance

Get to the start with a simple mental strategy: to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Break the distance in smaller pieces, that you are able to digest a little better. Focus on the mile you’re running. I even run miles for my family and friends. I remember running mile 4 during my last half marathon which was the most hilly one. I saw the mile marker and said to myself: “Okay Franzi, this is just for you” and I killed it. Mindset is everything.

Mistake #6: Running too far

This advice is super serious. Think about it: when a certified course is measured, it follows the roads along the shortest possible route. This means following the tangents to the curves. Don’t cross the street and back, avoid taking wide turns and run straight diagonal lines (tangents) to get from point to point. If you don’t, you can add a quarter mile or longer to the race!

Mistake #7: It’s all about the goal time

Hell no, it’s not. This advice is something you should take with you to every race not just a half marathon. When you create a specific goal time, anything slower than that will seem like failure, right? Avoid defining “success” as a finishing time. Racing just doesn’t work this way. There are a bundle of factors (like an unseasonably hot day or an unexpected muscle cramp – like it happened to me last time) that can affect your race-day performance. It’s wise to set your goals on finishing strong and celebrating every mile along the way because you only get to run your first half marathon once. Enjoy it! If you finish in your expected time, awesome. If you don’t? You just ran a half marathon – you’re a winner either way.

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