10 Half-Marathon Mistakes I learned at Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon

Half-Marathon mistake - Simon Scotting on SapSan train from Nizhniy Novgorod to Moscow May 2015

Finished the Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015... but it was a learning experience

I made all the half-marathon mistakes at my second half-marathon that I should have made at my first half-marathon.

It was a delayed learning experience.

After doing my first half-marathon, I had about a month before my 14 week marathon training plan was scheduled to start.

I had been looking around for another half-marathon to do before the full marathon training plan started, and eventually I found the Nizhniy Novgorod half-marathon. The only problem was this was the weekend after my first half-marathon race.

Running my second half-marathon race 6 days after my first half-marathon was not a good idea, but I was curious to see if I could do it. My curiosity trumped my sensibility, so I entered the Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015.

My first half-marathon the previous weekend was a perfect first race with a great result, but I didn’t learn much from it. You learn much more from your mistakes than from successes. I made many mistakes with this race, so I learned a lot.

Half-Marathon Mistake #1: Not allowing sufficient rest between the races
A half-marathon race is a big exertion like any competitive event. Trying to squeeze out another competitive race so close was never going to be pretty.

Arriving at Nizhniy Novgorod train station from Moscow

Half-Marathon Mistake #2: Not having a clear plan between the races
What should I do during the 6 days between the Moscow Half-Marathon and the Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon? Should I do some active training by continuing to run? Should I do some active recovery involving stretching? Either choice would probably have been good, but I dithered the time away and did nothing. I should have decided a plan well ahead of time and then stuck to it. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Volga River, Nizhniy Novgorod

Volga River view from the top of the Kremlin steps in Nizhniy Novgorod

Half-Marathon Mistake #3: Not resting the day before the race
Part of the appeal in running the Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon was getting to visit Nizhniy Novgorod. The 5th largest city in Russia had an interesting history as an important trading hub on the Volga River.

Nizhniy Novgorod was the only city besides Saint Petersburg connected to Moscow by the highspeed Sapsan service.

There was a Kremlin and interesting old town to explore. I travelled with Irina and we walked around the city all day before the race. My legs were tired and I was slightly sunburnt by the end of the day. Never a good way to feel before a race.

Simon Scotting and Irina Berezina walk around Nizniy Novgorod Kremlin, May 2015

Exploring the Kremlin on foot. Not a great way to spend the day before a half-marathon

Half-Marathon Mistake #4: Not being focused on the race
My mind was still reliving my great performance at the Moscow Half-Marathon the weekend before, and starting a training plan for Moscow Marathon in a few weeks. I was not present in the moment. I felt distracted and mildly panicky the morning of the race. I could not contain and control the raw energy at the starting line.

Volga River cruise ship departing Nizhniy Novgorod

Sunset on the Volga River

Half-Marathon Mistake #5: Starting too fast
I elbowed my way to the front of the race start to avoid getting stuck in the middle. This area had the elite runners, but also had other nervous panicky people (like me) who thought they would get a jump on the rest of the pack. When the starting gun went, I bolted and ran on pure ego.

My first 5km (3mi) were blazing fast, averaging 4:11 per km (6:44 per mi) pace including an insane 3:52 km (6:14 per mi) pace on my first km. The weekend before I ran a 1:35:50 half-marathon at an overall pace of 4:34 per km (7:20 per mi), so my starting pace was absurdly unsustainable. I let the race excitement take over. I should have controlled the energy and forced myself to run slower while I found my natural pace.

Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon at Kremlin steps

Starting area at Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon. I would soon start making more mistakes.

Half-Marathon Mistake #6: Being overconfident
Confidence is the most important part of running. It is the secret muscle for living a fulfilling life in general. Real confidence comes from putting in the work. Before the Moscow Half-Marathon last weekend I had rigorously stuck to a 8 week training half-marathon training plan. This resulted in a better-than-expected first half-marathon the weekend before. Now I was coasting on past work and even convinced myself I could run the distance faster this time.

There was not enough confidence in my bank to cash the cheques I was writing for this race. This was not how I ran my last race. It was ridiculous to expect a similarly impressive result, let alone an even better result.

Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015 starting area

Nervous energy in the starting area

Half-Marathon Mistake #7: Feeling like I had something to prove
I just wanted to see if I could finish another half-marathon after doing my first half-marathon the weekend before. Now I wanted to run a faster race because that would make a great story. I should have run this race for myself, not because I wanted to brag about a fantastical result.

I felt like I held back my energy last weekend and achieved an amazing time without pushing myself hard. I wanted to see how much faster I could run a half-marathon by pushing hard.

My great result last weekend was due to not pushing hard because I was able to find a comfortable flow. Pushing myself hard this time caught up with me around 16km (10 miles) into this race.

Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015 course map and Simon Scotting race stats

Pace per kilometer and course map. Notice the pace of 1-5km, hitting the wall at 16km, and sluggish pace from 18km

Half-Marathon Mistake #8: Letting the negative voices drain my confidence
I could not maintain the fast pace I started with. Eventually, I ran out of energy and confidence. Around 16km (10 mi) into the race I lost my ability to identify and dismiss negative thoughts.

My left knee hurt… My lungs hurt… I cannot keep running… It’s Ok to walk… So, I slowed down and walked.

My willpower was gone and the negative voices were too strong. I felt hungry and thirsty, which is never a good sign. At the next aid station I ate 2 bananas, a few cookies, and lots of water.

I got myself running again, but it felt heavy. My new pace was nowhere near my earlier pace, nor was it near my pace from the half-marathon last weekend. The ego sprint I did for the first 5km of this race wasted my energy and confidence, leaving me defenceless against a wave of negative thoughts. Yet another reason to find a natural pace and stick to it.

Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015 finish

Despite hitting a wall around 16km (10mi) in the race, I managed to salvage enough ego to sprint finish the race. The guy in orange was not happy to be passed at the end.

Half-Marathon Mistake #9: Not having a purpose or goal for running it
I had a goal to do my second half-marathon a week after doing my first half-marathon. This goal was accomplished, but beyond that there was nothing else.

Besides a sprint finish, I had a miserable second half of the race. My final time was 1:53:11 with an average pace of 5:22 per km (8:37 per mi). This was 18 minutes slower than my Moscow Half-Marathon time last weekend. My average pace was 48 seconds per km slower. This showed me how damaging my first 5km pace was for the overall race.

Simon Scotting Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon race results

Race results don’t lie.


Simon Scotting at Nizhniy Novgorod Half-Marathon 2015 finish area

This was not the way I wanted to feel at the finish. The result of various self-made mistakes.

Half-Marathon Mistake #10: Not having a recovery plan
I was starting a full marathon training plan in a few weeks for the Moscow Marathon in September. I didn’t have a plan for what I would do until that was due to start. After this disappointing race, I had a period of inactivity. This did not help overcome my disappointment and I dwelled on the mistakes. Having a post-race recovery plan is almost as important as a pre-race training plan. There are detrimental physical and mental effects on future training without it.

Sapsan first class carriage from Nizhniy Novgorod to Moscow, May 2015

Sapsan high speed train back to Moscow. Plenty of time to brood on my mistakes.

This race was a learning experience. I felt like I made all the mistakes I should have made in my first race but didn’t. The success of my first race did not teach me much. The failure of my second race taught me WHY my first race was successful. Lots to learn from the Niznhiy Novgorod Half-Marathon, now on to new experiences.