With London’s biggest running event on the horizon, The Running Works Team has pooled its collective mind to bring you some final tips ahead of, for and after your marathon:
- Stay hydrated. Hydration is more than simply chugging down water on race morning. It is a key and constant part of your marathon prep. Stay well hydrated in the days leading up to the race.
- Check the weather. If the forecast is warm and sunny, do you have sunscreen or a running cap? If it’s going to be cold do you have an old jumper or a bin bag to wear to keep the chill off on the start line?
- Control the controllable (plan ahead). Your race pack contains all of the information you need to plan a stress-free journey to the start line. Read it thoroughly and make a note of information such as which starting pen you’re in and what time you should arrive there. Have a look at the race route to get an idea of where the water stations are. Check train timetables and tfl.gov.uk to see if there are planned disruptions that might hinder your journey to the race.
- Kit prep. Lay out your race kit a couple of days before the race and inventory it in writing. By doing this you know exactly what you’ll need to get out the day before your race and give yourself a chance to sort out anything you’re missing. You know exactly how many gels you’ll need but have you figured out how you’re going to carry them?
- Soothe your nerves. Nerves are perfectly normal ahead of a race but they don’t have to become all consuming. If you’ve kept a training diary, go back through it to appreciate how much effort you’ve put into your preparation. There are various online running forums / social media platforms to chat with other people in your situation or to reassure yourself that you’re not the only person with maranoia*.
- Carb loading. Don’t confuse eating well with a green light to gorge yourself on ALL THE FOOD ahead of the race. Eat well but don’t put your stomach through so much stress that it becomes aggravated or you’re just setting yourself up for an uncomfortable race. Eat sensible portions of good food the night before your big day, nothing new or risky. There will be plenty of time for celebratory curry and beers for after the race.
- Don’t try anything new. Whether it’s breakfast, kit / running shoes or race nutrition, stick with the products you’ve tried and tested during your long training runs. Sure, there may be kind volunteers handing out gels on the course but are they compatible with your digestive system? Mid-way through your race isn’t the place to find out that they aren’t and maybe put you at risk of ‘doing a Paula’.
- Don’t go out too fast. You can spend unused energy later in a race but you can’t get back energy that you’ve wasted too early on. The chances are that you have a finish time in mind and have your predicted splits burned into your memory (if not, don’t worry just pick up a pace band at the Expo). If your goal pace is 8 minute miles and you find yourself flying under this on taper-fresh legs, reign it in. 26.2 miles is a long way so respect the distance to have a hope of a confident finish. Don’t give in to the desire / fear to follow the people tearing out of the start pen. You’ll likely pass them when they’re regretting their actions a few miles in. This is your race and your moment. Do what you’ve trained for.
- (speaking of which) Trust your training. The best part of four months has been invested preparing for this race. You’ve hauled yourself out of bed on cold winter mornings and made the efforts to hit the key sessions in your plan. It’s likely that you’ve felt bad for not being able to attend a family / friend event or gone along and held off having a beer or glass of wine so that you could get your 18 miler done the following day. You’ve made the sacrifices, made the mistakes and learned from them. You’ve built the endurance. YOU CAN DO THIS.
- Say ‘thank you’. Thank the person who hands you your medal when you cross the finish line and to the person who gives you back your bag. Volunteers of any race are the backbone of the event. Most of them have been on site before you and will be there long after you’ve gone off to celebrate.
- Get warm. Your core temperature can drop low and drop quickly after a marathon so regardless of whether you feel like a Christmas turkey, wrap yourself in that foil blanket until you can put more clothes on.
- Refuel. Your body will continue to burn energy reserves long after you finish your race. Try and get food and water inside you within 20 minutes of finishing. A good mix of protein and carbs to start muscle repair and bring your energy levels back up.
- Active recovery. In the days after your race don’t feel guilty if you don’t fancy running but avoid being completely stationary. Try and do some gentle activities to loosen muscles and combat cramps. Go for walks. Do some swimming. Have a massage. Basically be kind to your body as a thank you for completing a marathon.
*Maranoia: Pre-marathon focused paranoia that brings every tweak and twinge to a heightened state of panic. Symptoms include dreams concerning highly unlikely race scenarios and rising terror being in a 50 foot radius of anyone who sneezes.