As runners know, marathons are composed of weeks of preparation leading to a comparatively short time frame when it comes to the big day and there’s no way to predict what can happen en route to the venue or during the race.

We asked runners, “What happened to you at a marathon that remains unforgettable?” and share five of the best responses with you. Think about these tales next time something turns your marathon day into a nightmare!

Wrong Cheers

When Daniel’s doctor ordered him to get off his butt and start a fitness program, he took that advice to heart. He didn’t have to think hard to decide on the physical activity: his wife had run marathons for years, so he decided to join her. She guided him throughout his training and at last the day of his first marathon arrived.

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Standing at the start line, Daniel found himself awash in the excitement of the moment as he took in the crowds and once he began running, he reminded himself of his wife’s advice: “Pace yourself!” The thought that friends and family would be at finish line to witness his accomplishment added to his euphoria.

As he drew near the finish line, the crowd began to scream! Assuming these accolades were for him, Daniel began waving to spectators like a monarch acknowledging his subjects – until a celebrity runner sprinted past him, the obvious recipient of those cheers. Sheepishly, he continued, adding this self-advice to his repertoire: “Just because a crowd cheers, that doesn’t mean it’s for me!”


Having fallen for the advertising message on a particular brand of “technical fabrics,” Shay spent a bundle on her running gear so she would be all decked out for an upcoming Singapore marathon. Feeling fashion forward, trendy and hot in her matching shorts and tank top – fabricated of a wicking textile – she moved forward confidently at the flag off, but the more she ran, the more people began to point at her.

When the race ended and Shaylin headed for the nearest bathroom, she looked into the mirror over a sink to discover that sweat had collected in perfect circles around her nipples. Her shorts? There was an equally perfect silhouette of her crotch at the crease line. Everything about her anatomy was clearly marked!

Her face turned scarlet. It dawned on her why spectators had focused on her starting at the race midpoint, at which time she had thought smugly, “This sweat-wicking fabric is the bomb.” Shaylin skipped the post-event party, went home, washed her new togs and donated them. “Let someone else worry about looking X-rated next time around,” she laughed!

Unlucky Lucky Shorts

The big marathon loomed and in honour of his hard preparation, Leighton’s wife bought him a cool new pair of running shorts that matched the marathon T-shirt he found in his race packet. He was touched that his wife had been so thoughtful, and was happy to retire the ratty old pair that Leighton jokingly called “my lucky shorts.”

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Dressed in his new togs on marathon day, Leighton had a super start and kept his pace to maximise his endurance. With several markers under his belt, he felt confident, but in the next moment, he came to the realisation that his new shorts were — well, dipping and in danger of showing more of his posterior than he (or his wife) would find comfortable.

The problem? He lost weight while training and hadn’t bothered to try on the shorts. As the reality of what could be a most unfortunate revelation approached, he did what any dude would to maintain decorum: grabbed the waistband of the shorts and kept going.

He didn’t make his PB but he kept his dignity — until he noticed the look of horror on his wife’s face as she caught him holding on to his waistband for dear life. Suffice to say, this story has been retold repeatedly!

Avoidable Accident

Mark was the first person to admit that he tended to get bogged down as a result of suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but he found creative ways to deal with it. As a matter-of-fact, marathon running was one of the coping skills he adopted to keep his OCD in check.

As a particularly daunting marathon approached, Mark decided to treat himself to a brand new running watch that did everything but brew tea. He could check his progress, time, pace, heart rate — a wonderful gadget to have, he thought as he awaited the flag off on the morning of the race.

Feeling empowered, Mark hadn’t travelled far before he checked his watch against markers and realised that he was doing better than he hoped. Heartened at the thought of a PB, he found himself obsessively checking the watch — until one glance too many landed him in the path of another competitor. You know how it ended: OCD meets IO (immovable object). The watch wound up in his jewellery box next time he competed.

An Unplanned Condition

On the morning of the race, Jessica felt optimistic and hopeful. Even the weather was perfect. But as she moved forward, she started to lose momentum and slipped into a place with which most competitors are familiar: The Valley of Do I Quit or Keep Going?

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Despite all of her best-laid plans, Jessica knew that she had already kissed her PB goodbye at the halfway point and when she had to queue at hygiene and hydration stations repeatedly, time was slipping away and out of her control. Would she even finish? Still not certain what to do, she kept going until she noticed a woman standing alone on the sidelines. She held up a huge sign.

As she drew closer, Jess could make out the words on the sign: “Run like there’s a hot guy in front of you and a creepy dude behind you!” She started to laugh as she passed the woman, giving her a thumbs up sign and feeling re-energised after that laugh. No PB today for Jess — but she did finish just before the cut-off time. Sometimes, inspiration comes from some pretty weird places, she decided!

What story would you like to add to our chronicle that demonstrates just how wrong a marathon can go despite your best preparations?

Nathan Lin

Nathaniel is a certified personal trainer from Hong Kong and holds a master’s degree in psychology and exercise physiology. As a columnist for RunSociety, he aims to provide the readers with the information they need to make educated and informed health and fitness decisions, yet often adding in his funny observations.

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