If you are signed up for the London Marathon I know what you might be feeling right now. A mix of excitement and trepidation. Have I done enough training? Will I go the distance? Will I run a good time, a great one or a bad one? These are questions many marathon runners ask, whether doing their first or the fiftieth. I’ve done a couple of marathons – here are my top ten last minute tips for anyone feeling a bit shaky right now. First timers might fine them especially useful.
- Don’t drink too much. In my first marathon I fell foul of the advice to hydrate properly and drank too much water before the start. I needed to pee after an hour, and so did lots of other people. Queuing knocked vital minutes off my finishing time.
- Eat properly beforehand. Pay attention to those articles you’ve read about how to eat in the few days before and on the morning of the race. The advice is sound. You are going to need lots of the right type of fuel to get you through. If you’ve not researched this, do it now!
- Get there in plenty of time. It’s better to be an hour early than rushing to make the start line and not having time for that last pre-race pee. Besides, the pre London Marathon atmosphere is fantastic. Give yourself a bit of time to soak it up.
- Don’t start too fast. It’s the perennial problem for marathoners. You’ve got lots of training miles in your legs, and you’ve tapered so you probably feel like you are bursting with power. And you’re excited. The mix of these things can make you start way too fast and you’ll feel great while you are doing it. Resist. You’ll suffer later if you zoom early.
- Don’t worry about being overtaken. Unless you are one of the few who will win their class, and I’m guessing you’re not, then you will be overtaken. It’s fine. You’ll also overtake people. Don’t let it get you down when others go past. This is all about you, not about them.
- Pace yourself throughout. If you’ve done your homework you will have an estimated finishing time, and you’ll have set yourself a pace. Get or make a wristband that tells you how long you should have taken after every kilometre or mile and stick to that pace. Even if you feel you could go faster after six or eight miles, keep to the plan. It’s only worth stretching out when there’s just a couple of miles to go.
- Wear clothing you know. Don’t be tempted to wear the new running gear you’ve been bought, stick to tried and tested underwear too, and don’t wear new shoes. Chafing can be a big problem with clothing, and new socks or shoes can give you seriously painful blisters. You may blister whatever you wear – why make it a certainty? Trust me when I tell you that running on burst blisters is no fun at all.
- Tape it up. If you have, or have had during training, an injury or niggle, tape it up, wear your strapping, or use whatever support you’ve been using. Just because it is race day doesn’t mean that niggle won’t jump up and bite you. Even if you’ve had a niggle that’s gone, take the precaution rather than trying to wing it. 26.2 miles is a long way. Give your body all the help it can get.
- Use the Vaseline. You will see St John’s staff and others offering Vaseline around the course. Take it and use it on those areas where you might get chafing. Chafing is a painful thing, and by the time you notice it, it’s too late. Avoidance is the best strategy, and Vaseline is your best friend.
- Have a friend at the finish. Someone who can help you get home and support you if your legs seize up. You might be very grateful.
Finally, this isn’t one of the top ten tips but something specific to this year’s London Marathon. The news from Boston was shocking and terrible, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a bit of trepidation about London. Try to put that to one side. You are doing something special, something wonderful. Rise above all the jitters and enjoy. You are part of something truly magical.