10 common run problems and how to fix them

Fact: if your run’s not up to par, your race will be a flop. Paul Larkins charts 10 of the most common run problems – and reveals how to eradicate them…


Problem: A small decrease in performance

Symptoms Generally fatiguing slightly earlier in a race.


Cure: Consume a sports drink. Even a small degree of dehydration as low as just 2% can result in a decrease in performance. Small, yes, but noticeable. Keep your fluid intake high by drinking small sips every 20mins or so. You’ll have done this on the bike, but try to keep that intake going on your run as well.

Problem: Lack of motivation

Symptoms: Missing more and more vital runs.

Cure: Set yourself some small, easily achievable goals. Goal setting is vital in any triathlete’s training plan and can vary from achieving three runs a week to winning the Olympics. However, personal targets you can achieve are essential for goal-setting to work. They need to be tough – and thus rewarding when ticked off – but not impossible. Too hard and you’ll become demotivated again.

Problem: Fatigue

Symptoms: Erratic speed throughout the run.

Cure: Learning how to pace yourself is essential for great running. Establish exact speeds you want to run at and maintain them for the entire workout, be it a long run or intervals. Start with a slower-than-hoped-for base and slowly evolve it. For example, 8-min miles for 10 miles for a month, then move onto 7:45mins, and so on.

Problem: Short stride

Symptoms: Stride turns to a shuffle, especially towards the end.

Cure: If general lack of fitness is not a problem, consider incorporating 5mins of drills three times a week at the end of a run. Work on ‘perfect’ form over very short distances (as little as 20m, for example). These exercises will help your muscles to learn exactly the form they should take when running. Drills should include high knees, very short, sharp steps and a claw-type action, exaggerating the leg movement you would take during a stride.

Problem: Tight calf muscles

Symptoms: Small and sudden cramping that feels like a pull.

Cure: Distance running is particularly hard on your calf muscles because it’s so high-impact. This is especially so if most of your running is done on the road. Make sure you stretch regularly, but also consider a deep sports massage to really eliminate any problems. This can quickly – and relatively simply – cure a problem that plagues distance athletes.

Problem: Slowing drastically

Symptoms: Start fast but always fade at the end.

Cure: Plan your training to counter this fading. In an interval session, run hard and fast over a short distance at the start, then run several longer, race-pace efforts in the middle, before returning to hard and fast intervals at the end. For example, try 4 x 30secs hard, 4 x 2min normal efforts, 4 x 45secs hard. On a long run, complete the first half easy, then the second half much quicker. For example, 10 miles running the final five miles 3mins quicker.

Problem: Racing performances aren’t up to scratch

Symptoms: Race times are always slower than training times.

Cure: Ease back in training as chances are you’re over-tired. Utilising a heart rate monitor is important here. Make sure training is never harder than 80% of your max, so you’ll always come away from tough workouts thinking you can do more. Training for triathlon is about balancing workouts, always leaving something in the tank for another day.

Problem Results are all over the place

Symptoms: There’s no consistency; one day race results are great, the next not so good.

Cure: It could be that you need the services of a coach. An expert eye will plan your training accordingly with pre-determined highs and lows to the season, helping you peak when you want to be at your best. A coach will also set you a day-to-day programme, again creating consistency – one of the mainstays of triathlon success.

Problem: A cold just won’t go away

Symptoms Always getting ill, especially in the winter.

Cure: Refuelling after training within 20mins is vital in helping your body recover. Consider foods high in carbohydrate such as porridge and oatmeal, perhaps even combining these with a cup of coffee. Research also suggests that chicken noodle soup is a wonderful way to boost your immunity. It’s also quick and simple to prepare, making it easy for you to achieve that all-important 20min window.

Problem: Injury

Symptoms: Knees and quads are sore after the race.

Cure: Potentially shoe-related. Choosing the correct race shoes is hugely important. Many of us believe light is best, forgetting that we’ve already been competing for something like two hours before we even get to the run. Cushioning and support are therefore vital, especially as pronation increases with fatigue. Consider a shoe you would favour for a long run, rather than an out-and-out racer. Your legs will thank you – and your performance will reap the benefits, too.

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