Running for Charity? Three Common Mistakes

Spring marathon season will soon be upon us!

Holly and I will be running the Barcelona Marathon in March, and many of our friends and clients will be chasing PBs in London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Paris… the list goes on.

Many of the runners I meet at this time of year have secured charity marathon places, raising money for their chosen causes. Each one of these selfless runners is starting on their own journey, often with very emotive personal motivations.

Three Common Mistakes of the Charity Runner

At the risk of making sweeping generalisations, many of the charity runners I meet are closer to the beginner end of the spectrum than the high performance end. As such, they are possibly more susceptible to making mistakes in training and on race day that could jeopardise the outcome of their journey.

I asked Neil to put together his top three pieces of advice for such runners. Here goes…

Not Reaching the Finish…

When you’re running for a charity, it is very different than running for a personal goal; it truly is all about finishing. You’re only goal is to finish!

To that end, if you can ‘comfortably’ finish in 5 hours, but on a good day you could maybe get a 4:30 finish, then you aim to achieve the former.

One of the biggest single failure that we see in the marathon is inappropriate pacing.

So you must gain an understanding of an appropriate pace for yourself and in your training ensure you put in miles at that race pace. An appreciation for ‘race pace’ is going to be vital on the big day so make sure you work on this skill.

Leaving it Too Late to Start Training

Many popular marathons occur in the Spring, so by planning a 12 or 16 week training programme this does not leave that long to get the necessary training in.

I can assure you that you will pick up a cold in that 16 week period, and there will probably be days when life gets in the way of training, or perhaps you pick up a niggle and have to miss some sessions.

So by planning your campaign as far in advance of the event as you can gives you a much gentler ramp up and allows for these blips rather than the steep ramp that a 12 week programme would allow for.

Not including Build up Races

I would always encourage runners to enter and complete build up races. I would like to see a couple of 10km races, and perhaps a 10 mile race, and at least one half marathon in the build up.

These work on a number of levels:

They will inform you of what your potential marathon finish time is. You can use a number of online predictors to calculate this for you based on these race finish times.

They will also however allow you to apply the TESTIT maxim:

Try Everything Several Times In Training

So in these races you can wear the race kit, or fancy dress, you will wear on race day, you can test the nutrition plan that you will implement on race day and you can get used to the process that you go through on the big day so that when that ‘A’ race comes around you are conducting a procedure you have undertaken before.

Charity runners: you’re awesome! Take Neil’s advice onboard and enjoy the process.

Good luck 😀

Image via Julian Mason

Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.


  1. Returning to running runner (kids and work got in the way) and I’m 3 months into training for the Ethiopian 10k run next Nov for charity. So ticked the box for starting early. Have got involved with Park run. Doing the 30 day prog (restart) and looking to put races in during the spring. Biggest issue is liking running in the pm but time to run in the am which I struggle with! Oh and cold dark dank days which don’t encourage the getting out aspect!

    1. Hi Pippa
      I agree with not enjoying running in the evening – I’m definitely a morning runner but do enjoy it on a lovely summer evening. I don’t breath well in the cold air so have struggled on a few December runs (one to the point that my husband had to bomb it home to get my inhaler and drive back with it – he got a PB that day!). We bought a treadmill to continue training over the winter period (if snow, ice or very cold) but it’s really boring compared to running in the beautiful outdoors! We’re doing the Edinburgh half marathon in May 2015 (a first as we only started running in May this year) and are really excited about it. Hope you enjoy your race in Etheopia – wow, that will be something else!