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Common mid-race problems and how to avoid them

mid-race mishaps

Running seems like a simple sport. You just need to put one foot in front of the other, right? While this is true, a host of potential problems could pop up mid-run and turn your fun race into an unpleasant experience.

Mid-race mishaps happen to the best of us, from novices to pro athletes. Luckily, there are things you can do before and during an event to prevent these issues from ruining your race. Here's how to sidestep six common race day problems.


It's a hot, humid day and you're sweating profusely. A few miles into the race, you feel a painful stinging or burning under your armpits, along your sports bra line, on your inner thighs, or on your nipples (ouch!). This is called chafing, and it happens when loose fabric repeatedly rubs against your skin. Wearing tight, moisture-wicking clothing can help you avoid chafing. Also, use an anti-chafe balm, like BodyGlide, and apply it generously to common chafing areas before your run.

Unfortunately, if chafing strikes mid-race there's not much you can do. If the race has medic tents set up, they'll likely have petroleum jelly available. Applying it to chafed areas of your skin can provide some relief.


Blisters are caused by friction and pressure, and they're more likely to form in moist conditions. Wearing shoes that fit well and moisture-wicking socks can help prevent blisters. If you get frequent blisters,applying powder to your feet before a run may help. If you get a blister in the middle of a race, stop at the medical tent, dry your feet well, and apply petroleum jelly to the blister. This will provide short-term relief.

Stomach distress

Experts say the best way to combat any mid-race stomach issues is to slow down. Don't be afraid to use the bathroom or take a walk break until your stomach settles. Sure, this may make you miss your time goal but it may also keep you from feeling miserable for the final ten miles of a marathon.


If you don't drink enough fluids, your pace will suffer. Studies show that even slight dehydration can hinder race performance. Not only will you feel weak and sluggish, but dehydration can lead to more serious problems, like heat exhaustion. Taking in plenty of liquids before and during a race can help keep you well hydrated.

Cramps and side stitches

Muscle cramps are almost always caused by one of two reasons: improper breathing or dehydration. Side stitches  cramps on the side or lower part of your abdomen  are brought on by shallow breathing. Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply from your lungs and don't start out runs too fast. To avoid other muscle cramps, hydrate well before and during a race. If a cramp comes on mid-race, walk for a few minutes until you feel better.

Hitting the “wall”

Your race is going well and then a few miles before the finish, it hits you like a ton of bricks. “It” is the wall and it's every runner's worst nightmare. Suddenly, you have no energy and doubt your ability to even finish. Starting a race at a conservative pace will help you conserve energy resources and ensure that the bounce stays in your step through the end of the race.

Have you ever experienced mid-race misfortune? I learned the hard way to never eat Thai food the night before a half marathon. Trust me on that one.

Written by Jenilee Matz, MPH. Jen is writer, runner, and new(ish) mom living in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C.

Related: Race tips from Coach Jenny