2017 will mark my third London Marathon and my ninth overall. The London marathon is a super special event – one of the biggest in the world with an unrivalled atmosphere. You will be sure to read plenty of tips about the event itself from the excellent brochure for runners and from word of mouth but here are some of the tips that only someone who has run it a few times can pass on.
1) Be prepared to get emotional
There are thousands of people running the marathon for a wealth of different great causes, many of which are usually particularly personal to the runner. Many runners will have their own story displayed on their running vests – you could well be one of them. Standing on the start line, reading about the reason why people are standing there will you is an overwhelming feeling – understanding about the hard yards they’ve put in, a glimpse into the reasons why and the fact that we are all in it together for the race.
2) The London Marathon is NOISY!
Of course, this is bloomin brilliant as the support along the way is out of this world and the atmosphere is electric. On the other hand, if you are like me and like to find the special place in your head where the miles just tick by, then prepare yourself that you might not find it in this race. I don’t train with music and enjoy finding my happy head space; last year I tried really hard to find it from mile seven onwards but it didn’t come as I couldn’t zone out the crowds. I had a mental wobble as I hadn’t been prepared to be so ‘present’. It all worked out okay in the end but maybe this little snippet can help someone else.
3) A Running App User? Get the Earphones Ready…
Following on from my second tip, if you’re accustomed to using a phone app to track your pace and distance (I use Map My Run religiously) then the noise is likely to drown this out too. I gave up trying to hear my pace from mile ONE . A good old fashioned stop watch will do the trick plus one of the very useful pacing bracelets that you will find at the expo (they are free and are provided by one of the sponsors).
4) Get Ready for the High Fives!
You will have already heard that the atmosphere in London is the best in the world. This is true! The pre-race nerves might have you quaking in your boots but try to tune in to the moment if you can and appreciate just how special it is. One of the ultimate highlights when I think back to last year’s London Marathon was high fiving the hundreds of kids lining the streets of Charlton and Woolwich during the first few miles. There is no better feeling as you run with your hand held open dinging all the little hands which is met with squeals of delight from the high fived kids (and sometimes grown ups!) as the adrenalin flows, you’re full of energy as you take on one of the most famous marathons in the world. SOAK IT UP!
5) Pre-Agree a Definite Viewing Point with Friends and Family
If you have friends or family coming to watch then my top tip is to pre-agree specifically where they will see you. Generic ‘we’ll see you around Greenwich’ is a recipe for a missed cheer. The marathon route is jam-packed most of the way around, four or five people deep at certain points. It’s tricky for supporters to find their runner and vice versa. And there’s nothing more soul destroying for the runner than approaching the area your supporter said they would be and not being able to spot them. I say this with experience!
Instead, pick a specific spot. The newsagents at the five mile mark in Charlton for example is where my family always see me – i know they will be there, I run on the side of the road I know they will be standing on and I get the biggest boost ever. So pre-agree your spot and it will pay off in spades with that adrenaline rush that support from a loved one can bring.
6) Beware the long and painful walk at the finish!
You cross the line, you’ve done it! Someone puts the medal around your neck and now all you need is a giant cuddle from your loved ones who are meeting you at the end. The only problem is that they are about a 20 minute post-race shuffle away in St James Park. Twenty minutes after a 26.2 mile run feels like the most cruel joke anyone could ever play! Honestly it really does take about that amount of time to shuffle from the finish line to the alphabetical meeting points. It’s that horrible in between time when the magnitude of what you’ve just achieved starts to sink in. You might start to cry, you might be throwing up (I’ve done both these things at the finish line!), your legs have seized up and can barely put one leg in front of the other but the harsh reality is that you have to keep moving if you want to celebrate with your team support. Now you know about it, it might make it a bit easier for you to deal with it! Plus you can warn the people meeting you at the end to add on an extra 20 mins to your predicted finishing time. It’s a long walk to meet your loved ones after crossing the finish line
I really really hope these tips help some London Marathon first-timers. Wishing you a wonderful race day, I hope it brings you everything you’ve trained for x