The 10 marathon mistakes you don't want to make

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Don't... forget to clip your toenails

The last thing you want is long toenails pressing into the end of your shoe every step for 42.2km. It may not have seemed an issue when doing your practice runs, but when putting your body through the stress of the full marathon distance you need to do every little thing you can to ensure you're as comfortable as possible. You’re going to hurt afterwards regardless, but dead, black toenails look horrific, and last a lot longer than aching muscles.

Don’t... eat spicy food the week before

Remember the opening scene in The Phantom Menace where Qui-Gon Jinn is cutting a molten hole through that blast door by pressing his lightsaber against it? That’s how your chest will feel if you get spicy acid reflux. Not ideal if you’re running a marathon.

Don’t... wear new shoes

This may seem obvious but we guarantee there will be some idiot at the start line rocking a brand new pair of sparkly, stiff running shoes that will kill their feet after the halfway point because they haven't been worn in yet. Don’t let that idiot be you - stick with the shoes you’ve worn to train for the marathon. They've been your loyal servants so far and it would be mean to cast them aside for a newer model at the point you’ve both been working so hard towards.

Don't... leave no room for your feet to swell

The heat caused by the constant pressure of thousands of steps will cause your feet to expand slightly. When you tie your laces, leave enough room to accommodate this. Imagine what a fool you’re going to feel when your time is two minutes more than it should be just because you had to re-lace your shoes halfway through. Also, ensure your socks aren't particularly thick (it's best to go for a pair specifically designed for long-distance runs such as Feetures, they have no seams on the toes and are designed to eliminate any chafing between foot and shoe).

Don't... ignore old blisters

If you have any previous blisters from the long runs you did in training, you need to cover them well otherwise they could seriously ruin your race. Even if they seem pretty much healed, after 30km or so they can end up just as raw and painful as they were in their prime. Use blister plasters to cover them and smother the whole area in Vaseline to minimise friction. Even if you have never suffered from blisters, it's likely you could develop some during the marathon.

Don't... forget your balls and nips

Put something over your nipples – whether you use plasters, tape, or strap some cotton wool down over them, just make sure your nipples are covered unless you want your race vest to end up looking like a discarded rag from an operating theatre. Sorry, that's a bit gross and dramatic, it's unlikely they'll actually bleed (though it can happen), but after three hours plus of friction, they will definitely start getting hot at the least. Carry a little tin of Vaseline, just in case. Speaking of which, all that heat, friction and sweat can also be a recipe for disaster for your balls. Vaseline can help make things go more... smoothly.

Don't... go without shades if it’s sunny

The sun will cause you to squint. Squinting causes tension. Tension will cause fatigue. Wear shades to stay relaxed and run your best without any distractions. Who knows? You might even look a little cooler while you're at it. At the very least, they can hide the 'kill me now' look some people acquire around the 35km mark.

Don't... just try and wing your nutrition plan

Your body is a machine and it needs fuel. Ideally, you would have already tested different foods or energy products on your long training runs. If not, we advise sticking with foods you're used to: jelly babies, Snickers and squash, for example, rather than energy gels and drinks. If you're going to use gels, have them at hydration stations and ensure you have plenty of water to guzzle them down and help your stomach digest them.

Don't... forget to make a playlist

If you've trained with music, it's likely you're going to want to run with music on race day. You might not have bothered with playlists up until this point, but trust us when we say there’s nothing worse than a mood-killing track such as a moaning Leonard Cohen number or soul-decaying bit of Burial to slow you down. Make a playlist of tunes that (a) you love and (b) are inspiring There are all sorts of debates about the right BPM to run to, but we reckon your best bet is to stick to tunes that make you smile. Can't be bothered with compiling your own list? The people at Deezer have come up with a 74-track, five-hour playlist full of cheesy bangers to keep you going.

Don’t... get too excited

Your adrenaline will be pumping as the crowds scream and you finally get to do the thing you’ve been anticipating for so long, but don’t let it all go to your head. Have a plan, and stick with it. You might be feeling good a few kilometres in, but upping the pace could cost you dearly later in the race. Stick to your preferred pace, and gently up the tempo if you feel good at the half-way point.

Finally, if you find any of these tips don't work for you, don't follow them blindly – just do whatever works best for you. It’s your race, do it in your way, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Good luck!

This year Cancer Research UK is Charity of the Year for the Virgin Money London Marathon. To support Cancer Research UK’s biggest ever marathon team and help raise £2.5 million, visit

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.