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.
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.
Stay calm – sit down if its dry. Just remember you have done the training, this is your victory lap. There will be plenty of water and snacks on the course, crowd support the whole way and you get a medal at the end – which didn’t happen on your training runs. YOU HAVE GOT THIS.
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!
Try to smile for the photographers – there’s nothing worse than looking back through your race day photos to see pain etched across your face in every single one (or worse still, the photos where it doesn’t even look like you’re running!). Also studies show that if you smile you increase your pain tolerance!
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 husband’s 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).
I was a pacer last year – you can read all about my experience here.
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.