London Marathon – the People’s Tips
With the winter days drawing in, it’s even more important to keep your London Marathon training going, so we decided to call in some expert help – from people who know exactly how you feel right now. All our tips below are provided by regular runners. Some of them ran the London Marathon once and got the bug for more. Some ran it once and vowed never again. All of them have great advice, from how to kick-start your training and managing your nutrition and equipment, to what you can expect on the day and how to pace yourself around those all-important miles.
IN THE RUN UP
Plan the longer runs in advance: the final couple of months of training mean that you’ll need to be out of the house for two to three hours at a time, which is a lot, particularly if you’ve got family commitments. I tried to plan these longer runs in advance and get them on the kitchen calendar.
ON THE DAY
Arrive early, try to relax and enjoy the build-up: getting off the DLR and walking up to the waiting area in Greenwich is quite exhilarating, but also anxiety-inducing for a first-timer. I chose to get there early, grab a free coffee from the refreshments stall and chat with other runners for a while. I was calm and ready to go! Also, public transport to the race start is free for most runners.
DURING THE RACE
Have a pace plan and stick to it: I crossed the start line full of exuberance and at far too fast a pace, something which came back to haunt me in the long, torturous hell of the Canary Wharf section, during the back half. I would say the goal is to run the back half of the race faster than the first half, to balance out your energy.
AFTER THE RACE
You’d be surprised at the array of freebies a finisher’s medal unlocks at London’s bars, cafés and restaurants. I got (in no particular order) a free burrito, a free beer, and even a free glass of bubbly!
Get all your kit out and ready the night before – including putting your tag on your trainer and number on your vest. It’s one less thing to think about on the actual morning!
First up: trainers. Get a gait analysis done as soon as possible. This will tell you what type of trainers you need and help to prevent injury. I did all my training runs and the marathon in the same pair of trainers. Don't buy a new pair just before race day – the blisters are bad enough as it is!
Next: clothing. If you are running for a charity, ask them for the top as early as possible, so that you can get used to running in it. Like your trainers, make sure you know exactly what you're going to run in and do a few training sessions in that outfit to make sure that you're happy with it. For training, you need plenty of layers, as there will be horrible days and really horrible days. You don't need to spend loads, but it's a good idea to invest in some decent quality kit. Think about everything from socks to a sports bra and even what pants you're going to wear.
Use your training runs to work out what your body needs. I used to start my long runs at the same time on a Sunday as the marathon and eat two hours before. So, is a slice of toast better than a bowl of porridge for you? How much time do you need to leave before you go running? Try it all out in your training runs until you figure out what's right for you.
It's always good to have water with you when you train, and if it's a really long run you might want to have something extra, like a Lucozade. The night before one training run I hid a bottle of Lucozade in a bush, so that I didn't have to carry it around with me. I also used Lucozade as I knew that was what was going to be available on the course. I wouldn't recommend trying or taking anything new on race day.
I wish somebody had told me how boring the long runs were going to be. I quickly got over the beautiful country views – as nice as they are. Training is tough and you need something to keep your mind occupied. Download some good podcasts. I also used to call my mum halfway through.
I found entering races hugely beneficial – I did a couple of half marathons. The experience of doing these will help prepare you for what you want to do on race day. These should absolutely be part of your training plan.
ON THE DAY
- Get there early. Public transport is busy, so leave earlier than you think to avoid the rush/panic that you might not get there on time.
- Find the toilet. It sounds stupid but I was nervous before and didn't think about going when I got to the start line. I had to stop after two miles, which was just annoying.
- Get your name on your shirt. The support is absolutely incredible on the day: I had loads of people shouting out my name, which gives you a real boost.
- Pre-plan where you are going to see family and friends – they need to spot you so wear something distinctive or colourful and tell them roughly what time you are due to pass through. Don't underestimate how hard it is to find each other.
- Someone told me that at the halfway point I would get an adrenaline boost and to make sure that I kept a steady pace. They were right and for the next couple of miles I went too quickly, so that by mile 17 I had to walk for a bit to recover. Know what pace you want to do and try and stick to it. It's a long way!
- Treat the part of the run up to Tower Bridge (halfway) as a jog to the start line.
- If you arrange to see supporters on the course, make sure you agree which side of the road they will be on – London crowds are amazing, but it is so busy it is not easy to see people. These days there are apps that can help you track your runner, so worth using them.
- Fancy dress is awesome!
While it is possible, provided you have a base level of fitness, to crank up the training to be marathon-ready in six weeks, it's no fun. Give yourself time to enjoy it and some wiggle-room for when things don't quite go to plan.
HAVE A PLAN
Speaking of plans, they're a good idea. You can easily find them online or ask a local coach to tailor one for you. This was one of the best marathon investments I think I made – over and above trainers, physio and go-faster leggings. Don't be a slave to the plan, but make sure you're plotting your key runs each week, both in a training plan and in your diary. It's all very well knowing that you need to do intervals on day three, but if it clashes with a massive work presentation, it's not going to happen.
FORGET ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL LIFE
Ok, you don't have to forget about it, but be aware that marathon training takes up a lot of time. The runs themselves are time consuming, but so are the stretches, good meals and all-important rest that can make all the difference to marathon success.
MAKE IT FUN
Enjoy the long runs. Make cross training as enjoyable as possible. Go with friends. Motivate yourself with the promise of brunches and leisurely coffees at the end. Do your best, push yourself, but make sure you're enjoying it along the way. It's the whole point.
How’s your training going? We hope this has given you a little boost. We would love to hear how you are preparing in the lead up to the big day, if you have any tips of your own Tweet us @ProvizSports