An email from a friend popped into my inbox this week. He’s running the London Marathon on Sunday – his first one.
I am very nervous.
Any advice on hydration on the day? I want to try and be a zen warrior amidst the pre-race hullabaloo. Any advice on the start?
What started as a quick response quickly turned into a longer note as I thought back to a year ago when I was getting ready to lace up for 26.2 miles. I had such fun writing this and thought it might be useful to other first-time marathoners who are getting ready for tomorrow.
Nervous is good.
Use that energy, but don’t let it get the better of you.
Sort your kit out the day before.
Fasten your bib. Lay out your stuff so you know you have everything. Wear a jumper or something warm and old that you can then chuck as you start the race (Oxfam collects them and donates).
Write your name on your shirt. People will shout your name. It’s so flipping corny but it will give you such a massive boost.
Pee & poop
Pee as much as you can before the race.
And poo of course.
Stick to your plan.
Run your pace. You’ll have waited for what feels an eternity before the race starts. You’ll want to just get on with it and are likely to start too fast. Slow down. Chill. Use the first mile as a warm-up. Let the others pass you. You will catch them up at mile 20.
Go for a negative split (run the first half of the race slower than the second). At mile 15 or so you’ll have a pretty good handle on where your body is on the day. From there on you can decide to go harder or conserve your energy.
See if you can find pacers or other people going at the same pace as you. Difficult in the first half – well until Tower Bridge really because there are just so many runners – but then, when the field thins out, you should be able to find someone.
Beware charity runners
Watch out for charity runners, especially those in fancy dress. They’re prone to stopping suddenly for photos and if you’re right behind them and not careful, you’ll run right into them.
This depends very much on how hot it is and what you usually do. I tend to skip the first water station but then take on everything the rest of the route. Water is best, unless you’ve trained with something and you know that your body can take it. No experiments on the day – that goes for anything: hydration, nutrition, kit.
A bit about the course
It gets awesome at the Cutty Sark. So many people.
Then of course there’s Tower Bridge. Your brain will explode at the amount of people standing there cheering you on. Turning right off the bridge you’ll want to keep an eye on the elites coming from the other direction. I saw Richard Whitehead powering past on his two prosthetic legs. Dude was flying. Still have goosebumps thinking of the cheer that went up around him – both from spectators and other runners. Machine.
Bit quieter through the Isle of Dogs.
Then you turn around and you come closer to Embankment and the last few miles. The tunnel by Blackfriars is murderous and also awesome – the echo of thousands of runners cheering and wooping in there is epic.
You come out of the tunnel and all hell breaks loose. People are piled five deep along both sides of Embankment. The noise! It’s mental. Soak it in, they’re here for you.
Big Ben comes closer.
You hang a right and swing past Buckingham Palace.
You see the finish line.
Give it the beans dude. You got this!!!
Remember – you’ve done the hard stuff.
You’ve put in the miles. you’ve prepared. Your body is ready. The race is the easy bit. Enjoy it. Smile at people. Get all the high fives you can. Cheer on other runners. Sprint for the line. And lift your flipping arms as you cross – you’ll be pissed if it’s just photos of you crossing the line looking down at your app or watch!