Running seems easy enough. You just grab a pair of sneakers and put one foot in front of the other, right? Well, anyone who has struggled to get through a mile or even the first 5 minutes (yep, we’ve been there) knows it’s not quite that simple.
If you’ve ever considered joining the sweaty, endorphin-fueled club of runners but are even the tiniest bit intimidated at the thought of running a 5K or trying to figure out what the heck a fartlek is, we’re here to help. We asked now-seasoned runners to confess the biggest mistakes they made as newbies to the sport so you can pound the pavement with confidence.
“During my first 2 months of marathon prep, I didn’t incorporate any other form of training besides running. My legs were constantly sore, and I started to hate running. I realized I needed to run less and incorporate more cross-training into my schedule.” — Alyssa Arnold, marathon finisher
“My biggest regret was plopping down on the couch and not moving after my first 10K. My legs got so stiff I could barely walk for a few days, and stairs were torture. I’ve learned to keep the blood flowing by walking, gentle stretching, and foam rolling in the hours after a hard run. It’s really helped my recovery!” — Jen Batista, avid 5K and 10K runner training to conquer the half-marathon
“I tried a new breakfast the morning of a long run. I forgot to buy bananas for my usual bagel, peanut butter, and banana breakfast, so I improvised. I was cramping after the first 45 minutes and vomited later on.” — Christopher Lopez, multiple marathon finisher and co-leader of The Rise NYC
“I got excited and signed up for a half-marathon with a few more-experienced runner friends, but I wasn’t adequately prepared and didn’t train efficiently. I ended up with blisters the size of small children on my feet. I couldn’t wear shoes for 2 days!” — Cali Lavey, recreational runner
“Training too much and not resting enough zapped me for months. I was exhausted, and my stoke levels for running were at an all-time low. I’ve since learned to run, rest, and be patient more than being dramatic and drastic.” — Dominic Grossman, professional runner for Injinji
“I didn’t do enough form work and strength training until I got a few injuries. Now I actively do a lot of form drills and strengthening of the hips and glutes to balance out my natural tendency to overpronate.” — Marnie Kunz, CEO of Runstreet and run coach
“When I first started running, I tried to PR [run a personal record] every time I stepped out the door and do speed work on the treadmill as often as possible. It worked great for a couple of weeks — until I got a stress fracture.” — Ron, runner for 14 years
“I had IT band syndrome all through training because I didn’t do any hip strengthening. When I tried to keep running with my weak hips, I eventually ended up with a stress fracture in my back. On top of good form, strength training is crucial.” — Meredith Harclerode, two-time marathon finisher
“I only bought one pair of sneakers to train for my first marathon, thinking their shape deteriorated based on how long you owned them, not how many miles you run in them. On my final 20-mile training run, I had so much swelling and pain in my feet I had to stop.
“After a doctor-ordered MRI, I discovered my sneakers had been ‘dead’ for over a month. I then had a choice: to run the marathon on dead shoes or buy brand-new ones. I opted for new shoes, but next time I train for a marathon, I will have a couple of shoes in rotation!” — Kate Barry, four-time half-marathon finisher, one-time marathon finisher
“After weeks of barely being able to run due to IT band pain, I lined up for the San Diego marathon. When I found myself hobbling at a 20-minute-per-mile slog, I still refused to stop. I thought, ‘Runners don’t quit; we push through!’
“As a result of my ‘powering through’ to the finish, I couldn’t run for 6 months. Now I know that one race or run isn’t worth months of frustration.” — Amanda Brooks, eight-time marathon finisher, personal trainer, and author of Run to the Finish
“I ran a military-style race and brought a goo packet along for fuel. It exploded when I opened it mid-race, which made everything sticky and smelling like a sour apple for 5 miles. Gross.” — Lavey
“I’ve always been athletic and I’ve never been badly injured, but one day I felt a slight pain in my knee. I ignored it for a month until I realized I was having a hard time putting weight on my right leg. I finally went to a doctor and found out I had an IT band issue.
“It took 4 months of weekly physical therapy to heal. I shouldn’t have waited so long to get it checked out. I put a damper on my training, and it ended up taking longer to heal.” — Arnold
“I bought minimalist shoes without knowing what minimalist even was; I just knew people liked the shoes. What happened? You guessed it: I ended up injured.” — user TheRunningTroll on LetsRun.com
“Music helps set the pace of your run and makes it more enjoyable. For every race or tough run, I learned I need to update my playlist so I can look forward to new songs that help push me to the finish. Whenever I forget, I can noticeably see my pace and attitude decline.” — Arnold
“I decided to go out for a run during the hottest part of the day. At the time, I told myself that it would be refreshing to sweat a little, but I didn’t bring adequate hydration. I returned feeling completely run-down, dehydrated, and fatigued.
“If you must go out on a run during unfavorable weather, wear proper attire and bring enough water to keep you feeling strong. — Sarah Robertson, marketing education coordinator at Precor and recreational runner
“It took me 6 years to realize that I actually got better at running when I was running longer distances. I started out running shorter distances and wasted a couple years trying to conquer the mile.” — user X Trackster on RunningAhead
“I ran my first and only road marathon in a pair of very structured, overbuilt, and cushioned trail shoes. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought I needed the extra protection to save my knees. In retrospect, I realize why I felt slow and sluggish!” — Joe Grant, Buff USA ultrarunner
“After experiencing some pain in my right knee during a half-marathon, I took off for a couple of weeks. When I started long-distance training again, I had the same issue. I realized I couldn’t fix it by just resting. Now that I know how to stretch properly, most of my IT troubles are fading away.” — Mary Rose, recreational runner and triathlete-in-training
“I have gotten lost and misled more times than I can recall, so if something sounds off or looks wrong — especially on trails — go back to where things looked right and start again.” — Michael Wardian, runner for Injinji
“My biggest mistake was treating running like soccer practice: If I wasn’t exhausted by the end of practice, I felt as though I didn’t work hard enough. I’d run all of my runs at 80 percent effort, or the equivalent of what I now call tempo runs. I wasn’t warming up to the pace or cooling down effectively.” — user stadjack at RunningAhead
“I did not strike when the iron was hot. I was at my peak fitness during a period, and now I regret deeply not trying to PR across the board.” — Seth Ariel Green, former Division III collegiate runner
“Recovery runs should be done at an easy, moderate pace. My biggest mistake in my early years of running was doing too many fast workouts and letting individual runs turn into mini races themselves.” — X Trackster
“…especially ‘down there.’ During the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc ultramarathon, I had to use mud in my nether regions.” — Wardian
“I forgot to change the batteries in my headlamp before a race that required me to run in the dark. It cost me a lot of time.” — Michele Yates, Ultimate Direction run ambassador
“I did a long run without a subway card or money and ended up getting stuck in the rain with no way to get home. I had to sit and wait until the rain let up enough to see. Another time, I got lost and ended up running an extra 8 miles(!) because I forgot my subway card.” — Kunz