Three Marathon Training Mistakes to Avoid for Race Day Success

last minute marathon tips

It’s always really exciting at this time of year to look ahead to our running goals for the spring!

For many of us, these goals are going to involve a spring marathon! 🏃‍♀️🏃🏻

Whatever your marathon goals are, there are a number of common training errors which you need to avoid if you’re going to be successful on race day.

Listen to the Podcast version of this article…

Here are three of the big ones:

Increasing Your Mileage Too Quickly

It’s always amazing to look back at the end of a successful marathon training block, and see just how much your fitness has developed, and endurance improved 📈

This process can’t be rushed though.

Many of the running injuries we see during marathon training season come as a result of trying to bump-up the mileage too quickly – either weekly mileage, or long run distance.

Usually both! 🙈

When looking back at marathon training schedules that have lead to injury, one pattern that comes-up time and time again is that the runner left it too late to start building an endurance base.

Before starting a 12, 16, or 18 week marathon programme, take a look at what the first few weeks look like in terms of:

  • Weekly mileage
  • Long run distance / duration
  • Then work back 4-6 weeks and steadily build your running up so that when the more formal training schedule begins in earnest, it won’t be a shock to the system. You’ll have already started building a base of endurance, and resilience in your legs 💪

    Not Enough Running at Target Marathon Pace

    While I’m always (or so it seems) talking about the importance of keeping your long slow runs, and easy midweek runs slow enough for you to get the endurance base building effect, it’s also important to get familiar with target marathon pace.

    I like to use blocks of target marathon pace running, within long slow runs, to get used to running at target pace on tired legs… and to make the session a little more interesting – a handy added benefit!

    There are two types of long run I tend to use in this way. For example:

    • 16 miles with 2 x 3 mile target marathon pace blocks in the middle.
    • 18 miles with a fast finish (i.e 9 miles easy, 9 miles target marathon pace).

    There are a few ways you can do this. Those mentioned above are just a couple of examples!

    I generally use the fast finish long runs later in my marathon training plans, in the weeks preceding the beginning of taper.

    These blocks of target marathon pace should feel challenging, but do-able. If you’re worried that target marathon pace feels too hard, this might be a helpful read:

    Ultimately, if your plan is to run steady 8min/miles on race day, you need to let your legs practice doing so under fatigue, and let your brain know what it’ll feel like.

    But it’s the easier, slower miles that will give you the endurance to be able to maintain the pace.

    …and THAT’S the paradox of marathon training! 🤯

    Last Minute Marathon Tips

    Beware of panic training and playing catch-up…

    In kinda the same way that perfect pacing on the day is the goal, yet super-rarely achieved, the perfectly executed training plan is also very rare, and hard to pull-off!

    “Life” happens for us all.

    Work. Family stuff. Illness… the list is endless.

    Regardless, your race day will keep-on getting closer! 📆

    If and when you end up having to skip a run, know that while it isn’t ideal, and that each run in the programme has a purpose, also know that there’s a hierarchy of importance amongst the runs in each week.

    Let me explain:

    Your weekly long slow run sits at the top of the hierarchy, and is not to be missed if at all possible, even if you have to re-work your training week and bump another run off the plan.

    Other runs like a midweek easy run, or a Tuesday tempo session are more… erm… let’s say flexible!

    The goal has to be to stick to the plan as much as is possible, but what I’m saying is: don’t be too tough on yourself.

    I tend to treat each week as an open-and-closed block. If you have to miss a run during a given week, DON’T feel the pressure to try and squeeze it into the next week and play catch-up. Panic training all too often ends in injury.

    If the worst does happen, and one missed session turns into three, and a bad week turns into a bad two or three weeks, you might well need to adjust your goals.

    Want More Marathon Training Tips?

    Then you might enjoy this video!

    Whatever your marathon goals are, training for the 26.2 mile distance is totally achievable. Keep these tips in mind, and listen to your body.

    You’ll smash it! 🏅

    Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.