Having ran, worked at and spectated at a few London Marathons, I am well aware that nothing can fully prepare you for the emotions of your first marathon. So, I have compiled a short list of last minute tips:
- Sunday is going to be a warm day so ensure you are on top of your hydration. This should occur in the days leading up to the race and not just on race day itself. On race day make sure not to over drink.
- The heat will cause you to sweat so are at greater risk of suffering from blisters and chaffing. Be prepared for this. Rubbing a product, such as ‘Body Glide’ on at risk areas on Sunday morning can be extremely helpful. Also, don’t be tempted to run in a new vest if you haven’t trained in it – runners often complain of chaffing under the arms when wearing new, untested vests.
- Be prepared – lay all of your kit out on Saturday and ensure you have everything you need and are ready to go early Sunday morning. Plan your journey to the start line in advance and when planning train times, be aware that the trains into the starting points at Greenwich and Blackheath get very busy and sometimes the platforms are so packed you won’t get on the first train.
- Have a good dinner on Saturday night and your usual pre-run breakfast on Sunday. You will be aware that carb loading is advised but don’t be tempted to over eat. You don’t want excess, heavy, undigested food sitting on your stomach when you start to run.
- Try and have an early night on Saturday but don’t stress if you don’t get an amazing night’s sleep. You will likely be so excited and nervous that you may sleep less than you want!
- Read the info that the race organisers sent you. Make sure you know where the water and fuel stops are and use them appropriately. If you have friends and family coming to support you, ensure you know where to expect to see them. It can give you an incredible boost to see their faces when you are at your lowest points.
- The support on the roadside is unreal and these encouraging spectators can help get you through those dark moments of the race. You’ll be tempted to listen to music the whole way round but this might mean missing out on the amazing atmosphere and the encouragement it brings.
- Watch out for strewn water bottles on the road where runners have thrown them – I have seen a few sprained ankles mid-race from this.
- Make sure you stick to your game plan. You’ll know roughly what pace you’ll want to run – stick to it as best you can – don’t get caught up in the emotion of the day and go quicker than you would normally as you will suffer for it later. You might even have to run slower than you would have liked to have done because of the heat.
- During the race don’t push through agonising pain. There are St John Ambulance staff along the route to help you and physiotherapists alongside them. They can quickly massage out muscle cramps, tape up an injury, show you an appropriate stretch etc. It is better to stop for 2 minutes for some appropriate advice and management to help you get to the end effectively rather than struggling through. If you have to walk – don’t feel ashamed. 26.2miles is a long way to run!
Finally, good luck and enjoy it. It truly is an incredible experience to be involved in and be sure to soak in the atmosphere and give yourself a massive pat on the back as you cross that finish line.
(and when you need a physio in the weeks after for all your newly acquired injuries from running all that way – let me know!).