New Runner: 5 Common Mistakes Newbies Make

Staying patient and sticking to your limits are two of the keys to becoming a better runner.

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This story is part of an ongoing series aimed at new runners.

A bag of marshmallows and a bunch of 4-year-olds can teach new runners a valuable lesson.

Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment in the 1960s. He gave a group of children two choices: one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows if they’re willing to wait 15 minutes.

Predictably, some kids gobbled up the one. Others tried to wait but couldn’t, and still others were able to hold off for two. Mischel then followed those kids into adulthood and found that those who had discipline often had more successful lives.

So what does the famous marshmallow experiment have to do with running? Quite a bit.

“New runners are very impatient,” said Jason Fitzgerald, founder of and a coach based in Washington, D.C. “Running is a long-term kind of sport. The people running the fastest have been doing it for over a decade.

“There’s a quick-results kind of mentality that a lot of people have, especially today. I tell runners, you need 2-3 years of consistent training to even see what you’re going to be capable of.”

That craving for instant results gets in the way, and often leads to common rookie-runner mistakes. The good news is most of them are easy to correct, which will help you avoid the two most devastating pitfalls new runners face: injuries and burnout.

Here are a few that running coaches see over and over again: