London comes alive on the day of the marathon. Here’s what I hope is some helpful advice for London marathon runners.
The excitement in the air is palpable. It brings out the best in runners, in the fantastic marshals and volunteers and organisers, and those 10s and 100s of thousands of members of the public that line the route. Bands are playing. Some make a day of it with picnics. Others are drinking wine or beer. It’s a day that brings out the best of everyone. I’ve included a few photos of what I’ve seen as a spectator and marshal over the last few years.
If you’re in or near London, even if you don’t know anyone running it, go along and cheer us on. It’s a day you’ll remember.
And for us London Marathon runners, it’s all a little bloody intimidating. So I thought I’d offer a few hints and tips for those of you running it.
I’ll say upfront I’m not an expert. This is my second London Marathon, and only my second marathon. I’ve been plagued by injury in the past. This year I’ve done what my physio has been telling me and focusing not just on running but injury proofing my body.
These pointers for London Marathon runners come from my own disastrous efforts in 2014, having marshaled a number of years, from hearing from others who have done it and from Run and Become’s pre-marathon session.
Let me know if you’ve run London and have suggestions for additions – I’ll add them in!
And some advice for London Marathon runners…
Nothing new on race day
- This means for any running kit and shoes you’re planning wear, practise now. You don’t want to find you’re chafing in nasty spots on the day.
- And you guys out there, please sort out the nipple situation – over the years I’ve seen way too many men with blood stained shirts with a lot of miles still to do – painful to see!
- You should also know what you’re doing fuelling wise – whether that’s jelly babies, gels, handfuls of nuts – whatever works for you.
- This is where you’ll be picking up your number and timing chip. You’ll be surrounded by other London marathon runners. Have a wander, take some photos, buy some new kit to use on days other than marathon day! If you can, go early on in the week and rest those legs of yours. You’ll need all the energy you can muster for the running!
- If you don’t already have your name printed on your running top, get this done. You can get this at the Expo if you haven’t already. On the day, it will make you feel like a rock star – random strangers will be screaming your name from the outset.
The night before
- Chances are you won’t sleep very well. This is very normal. Just ensure you get some good sleep on the Thursday and Friday nights before.
- Get your kit and bag sorted. Pin the number on your top and put the timing chip on one of your shoes. Get your bag ready. There’s nothing worse than having to faff first thing in the morning.
- You’ll also be given a bag with a sticker with your race number at the Expo. It is essential if you want anything transported to the finish line that you use this bag otherwise they will not take it on the baggage trucks.
- Sort out how and when you’re getting to your specific start line. If you’re unsure, with your running number in hand, look at the final instructions.
- Public transport is FREE for runners on London Underground, London Buses, London Overground, DLR and Tram so wear that race number with pride.
- You might also want to write yourself an idiot’s guide to who you’re meeting, where and when at the end of the race. This is because when you finish, you might find it a little hard to think straight.
- Temperatures in London can be fickle. Check the weather in the days leading up. Trying to determine what it will be like 2 weeks out is best left for clairvoyants!
- It’s likely you’ll get to your start point early-ish. There will be some hanging about so take along a jacket and perhaps some tracksuit bottoms – something to keep you warm that you can dump to the side when the race starts. These items are then collected and donated to charity.
- Portaloos – go when you get there, line up again, and perhaps line up again. Better that than needing to go 2 miles in.
- Enjoy the atmosphere. There is a real buzz being at the start line. But remember, you’re about to go for 26.2 miles! No need for running around and using up those energy stores if you can help it.
- After the horn sounds, off you go. It will take most of us 5 to 15 mins to cross the start line. Unless you’re right towards the front, there is no need to race to the start line – there’ll be lots of folks pretty much sprinting on the spot.
- In the first few miles, unless you’re one of the elite or extremely speedy folk, it will take some time to find your pace. People will be passing you in seconds eager to get moving and racing. Remember your plan.
- Enjoy the fact you have folks screaming out your name.
- You will also see kids on the sidelines high-fiving the runners – lots of fun. Great to do if you want to but it will take up energy.
- You will also see lots of folks handing out sweets – jelly babies and gummy bears. I must say the marathon is the only time I’ve ever taken sweets from strangers!
- Water stations are every mile from mile 3. Think about slowing a little around the water stations – there will be bottles all over the road which are really easy to roll an ankle on. BEWARE!
- Please, please, please – if you’re running with friends, don’t run more than 2 across – you will be irritating to other runners!
- If you need to walk or stop for a little break, get to the side of the road before you do otherwise you’re a danger to yourself and others.
- If you see anyone ill or injured on the course, if they’re not already being helped, call out to the nearest marshal. Only If you need to and it’s safe, help them to the side if they’re not already there. Keep going as you don’t want to cause congestion.
- Enjoy!!! And do those miles. But remember, plan your pace and stick to it or go slower. Unless you’re a really experienced marathoner, going out faster than you have planned in the first half could mean a disastrous second half.
- Smile! It takes less energy than grimacing.
- If you do start feeling ill, there are marshals right along the route as well as St John Ambulance stations. Be extra nice to these folk, as well as everyone at the water stations – they are giving their time to make sure you have a great day!
- If you’ve got family and friends coming to cheer you on, between miles 16 and 20 are pretty much the most helpful. By this stage you might be starting to get a bit tired and it can feel a little grim. Be very specific about where folks are cheering you on from – the crowds are huge. Ask them to hold up a sign.
- Along Embankment, past Big Ben and down to St James Park is where the crowds can be 10 deep. You’re almost there. Embrace the cheers!
- Once you’ve finished, you’ll collect your medal and a goodie bag, get a photo or two taken and then pick up your bag from the baggage truck. It’s brilliantly organised so no waiting about.
- Focus on hydration and getting a little salt and fat into you – your body will appreciate it. So go the milkshake with burger and fries.
- From the physio at Run and Become – while it might seem like a great idea to get a massage straight after, don’t. Give it a few days for those blood vessels and muscles to settle down.
- Have a cold shower if you can or get some cold on your legs. But unless you’re staying in a hotel close by and not going straight from the race to the pub, this will be tricky so don’t worry about it.
- Feel free to have a pint or two – though much more than that will make recovery take a little longer.
- And trust me on this, stairs will suddenly emerge from places you never noticed. Stairs will be your enemy for a couple of days. Embrace the pain, laugh at it because no one made you do this amazing thing and wear that medal with pride!
Wishing all you London Marathon runners a fantastic day!
If you’ve run London before, let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed.