Athletics Magazine

9 Dumb Mistakes New Runners Make

By Brisdon @shutuprun

I am not being condescending or arrogant. I do not think I am some running expert. However, I can write this post because I have first hand experience in doing all of these dumb things. In fact, I still do some of them. That is how dumb I really am. It is one thing to unknowingly be dumb, it is entirely another thing to know better and to still be dumb (# of times I used “dumb” so far including the tittle: 6. That is so dumb. Okay, 7).

1. Not paying attention to pre-race day food. I learned this one the hard way. The night before my first half marathon I went to Old Chicago pizza and ate chicken wings and supreme pizza and drank two Bass Ales. Do you know how that felt (and smelled) at about mile 8 the next day?

9 Dumb Mistakes New Runners Make

Looks good, but it will haunt you.

Have some self discipline. Know that you can indulge after the race, not before. Make sure you hydrate well the day before and that you eat enough good stuff. These days I cut out dairy, high fat food and fiber 2-3 days before a race to minimize tummy trouble. Read: Pre-Race Nutrition – What To Eat Before Your Race.

2. Running through pain. This is a tough one. Early on, I got very good at minimizing any pain I was having. I thought I wasn’t tough if I didn’t stick it out through the pain. WRONG. Pain is trying to tell you something and you need to listen. However, not all pain is created equal. There is quick, fleeting discomfort and there is full-on recurring pain.

If you are running and a new pain crops up (say a twinge in the arch of your foot), and it subsides quickly and you never hear from it again, it’s probably okay. Yet,  if you have the same pain in the same place during most runs it might be the start of an injury (even if it is not intense or does not change your form). Believe me when I say that continuing to run under those circumstances might set you back significantly. Just stop, take a couple days off and get it checked out.

3. Assuming you will never get injured.  This is similar to assuming you will never die. While it is true some runners go unscathed, the majority of us (upwards of 75%) deal with running injuries at some point. I used to think it would never, ever, happen to me. I got bored when people talked about their injuries and wondered what their problem was.  Yawn. Then I ate a big black crow. Be aware that this is a possibility for you. Read: How to Prevent Running Injuries.


Stress fracture means hitting up the pool.

4. Dissing recovery weeks. This one is funny to me because when I started running I had no clue there was even such a thing as recovery weeks. I thought you just trained hard, upped your mileage every week and ran faster. I never pulled back and let my body recover and adapt to the stress I was putting on it. These days, I take a recovery week every 4th week of training. I usually scale back mileage at least 20%-30% because that is what works best for my body.


Part of my current training plan – Week 9 is going to feel good.

5. Forgetting to put a change of clothes in your car. This is a mistake I still make and I cannot believe it. ME! With my history! Not only do I forget to have clothes in my car for after long runs, but also for after races. In fact, at a half marathon this summer I had to wear my race shirt as pants for the 2 hour drive home because I didn't have any other clothes.


Yes, I am smiling. No I am not happy.

6. Not sticking to your plan.  You have a training plan. There are reasons for the runs and paces on the plan. But, you have a good week where you feel strong and you decide to run further and/or faster than what was prescribed, thereby giving the plan the finger and risking injury. Don’t do it. In my mind, the only time to deviate is when you are sick, fatigued, or injured and you take some time off. It’s okay to pull back, but probably not to add on. Read: Top Ten Rules of Running Training.

7. Trying to keep up with the Gouchers. I still fall into this trap. You love running, so you read blogs and every Runner’s World cover to cover. You talk to other runners and look at message boards. You idolize the pros and have dreams of running further and faster. Soon enough, that information piles up in your brain, makes you feel inadequate, yet motivated. Then you start to PUSH. You throw caution to the wind and run your long runs too fast, increase your miles too much per week and find yourself in the throes of overtraining.

Best advice? Be motivated by those who run further and faster than you, but don’t try to be them. Be yourself, listen to your body, compete with you and only you.

I never compete against the competition. The only one I compete against is myself, because one day I will beat the competition and then who will I compete against? ~ Billie Akauola

8. Going race crazy. After you run your first race, you feel on top of the world. You lose your mind. Credit card in hand, you sit at the computer searching races everywhere including Guam. You sign up for several of them, close together. The adrenaline is pumping. Problem is, racing too much can lead to over training and injury. Pick a few choice races and focus on those. Prioritize your races, promising yourself you will use many of them as training runs and not go balls out.

9. Hanging to the left. You know that runners are supposed to stay on the left side of the road so they can see what is coming when they run. Yet, if you do that for enough miles, the natural camber (slope) of the road might mess with your body. Change it up by hanging to the right sometimes. Better yet, run on trails or softer surfaces where there is little to no camber. Read: Camber Danger!

Why only 9 dumb things? Because that’s all I could think of aside from the obvious ones like not doing too much too soon and not running your long runs too fast.

Are you guilty of any of the above “mistakes”?

What dumb things have you done? Anything you’d like to add to the list?


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