The gun goes off for the start of the 2012 London Marathon and I’m standing in the queue for the porta-loo.
Thankfully, I remembered that my chip wouldn’t start until I crossed the start line so I went to the loo, then raced to join the ranks of charity runners at the back of the pack.
I’ve teamed up with The Watch Gallery to share my last minute London Marathon race day tips below. You can also check out Bradley Simmond’s marathon tips in this post – he’s partnering with The Watch Gallery and Tag Heuer to tackle the VLM this year! I already knew that Tag Heuer was the official timing partner (what a crucial job!) of the London marathon – as well as Boston, and New York, however it was only recently that I learned they make sports watches too.
London Marathon Race Day Tips:
Get in the queue for the loo as soon as you arrive in the race village. If you’re anything like me, it’s probably wise to get straight back in that queue after your first nervous wee. Bring loo roll with you, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Start slow. The race is long, you don’t need to shoot out of the starting pen and try not to waste extra energy weaving around other runners – you can make up the time with a negative split. Focus on your form, getting into a good stride and if possible, following the painted line in the road to avoid too much extra distance. (I typically run an extra 0.2-0.5 miles during a marathon).
Vaseline/Body Glide EVERYWHERE. I literally cannot stress this enough. Under your sports bra, your armpits, nipples, inner thighs, ass crack, waistband…. ignore this advice at your peril. I’ve cried in the shower after marathons! There are also lovely volunteers handing out sticks with vaseline on if you need any extra mid-race (also good for sore lips).
Write your name in large letters on your race top for extra personalised encouragement from the crowds. Run on the edges of the road when you need a pick me up from the supporters, however if you need some more quiet time then run in the middle of the road. Sometimes the crowds can feel a little overwhelming!
Dress for 5*C warmer than it is outside but bring throwaway clothes so you don’t get cold at the start line. You’ll always warm up while your run and there’s nothing worse than overheating…except chafing. Chafing is the worst. And don’t wear a brand new top on race day (or anything new), wear the top, bottoms, socks, shoes etc that you’ve been training in for months.
Drink little and often along the route, even at the start of the race. It’s also important to take in electrolytes either from sports drinks like Lucozade at aid stations 5, 10, 15, 19 and 23 or your gels. Personally I often use Salted Caramel Gu to ensure my salt levels stay topped up.
Station your support crew where you’ll need them – the miles through Canary Wharf are notoriously quiet – and have them text you their exact location (Zoe even sent me a pic of where she was standing) so that you don’t miss them. The tracker often doesn’t work in the crowds and it might be easier for you to spot them than them to spot you. Find My Friends is a great function to use if you have an iPhone. It might also be worth having them stocked with your favourite gel/energy drink/painkillers/plasters etc or anything you might need – even if you don’t use them it can be reassuring to know its an option.
You will hit the wall. It’s OK, you will come through it. Keep pushing forwards. Even the elites have moments where they are in a pain cave according to Paula Radcliffe – but you have to remember that it will pass. Have a technique that will help you, whether that’s a mantra, a song you can play or a special spectator you can get a hug from!
Have flip flops and your finishers t-shirt ready for you at the finish line. The t-shirts are usually pretty soft and pleasing to wear post race, and your feet will be grateful to be released from the trainers you’ve been wearing for most of the day. You can also establish how many black toenails, missing toenails and blisters you can boast about.
It’s also a good idea to organise somewhere beforehand to meet up with your supporters, a pub or your charity afterparty. If you do meet up at the friends and family meet & greet, then it might be an idea to meet at letter X or Z rather than the more common letters of the alphabet!
Enjoy the post race beer, but don’t forget to hydrate and eat too. After the London marathon in 2012 I had three ciders, then nearly vommed in my friend’s boyfriend’s (now her fiancee, yay!) new car on the way home…
Don’t ignore the recovery. Have an epsom salt or arnica bath, foam roll, stretch, look after any blisters (I’ve discovered that if you don’t have any TCP/antibacterial then vodka works just as well).
You can read more last minute London marathon advice in last year’s post here, or read my 2012 race recap here. Tom ran the London Marathon in 2015 – here’s my recap from the day.