London Marathon week: top ten race day tips for running a better marathon

Top tips for a successful race

Top tip #7: be aware of those around you

  1. Have a plan – it’s amazing home many people rock up to the start line without a plan. They’ve followed a schedule during training (probably) but seem to forgo this essential part of running a marathon. Have a realistic target time(s) to aim for, even if it’s your first marathon and calculate your splits (5k, 10km etc) based on this time and write them down – on a piece of paper, your arm or create a pace band.
  2. Manage your expectations – running 26.2 miles is tough and sometimes it’s just not your day. Maybe it’s hotter than you expected, perhaps you simply haven’t put in the training you wanted. On race day, if things start to go wrong it’s easy to beat yourself up and get dejected. The solution to this is to create three goals – gold, sliver and bronze works nicely. Your gold time is the best possible time you could run – usually the time you have trained for. The other two are times that you would be happy with given the challenges you face on race day. This is a great way of keeping your head in the game and enabling you to push on if things don’t go exactly to plan.
  3. Be patient – everyone knows that the hardest part of the marathon is the last six miles. But so many zoom off at the start, run through the midway point ahead of schedule and blow up with eight to go. You can avoid this by being patient. Run easy early on. It’s fine to be slightly behind schedule for the first 5 or 10km. Trust in your training and remember that the hard part comes later on.
  4. Run even – while its tempting to try and bag some time in the first half and get ahead of yourself, the best strategy is to run even splits – by this I mean each km or mile is the same pace for the whole race. While this might sound like in conflicts with tip 3, it’s actually complimentary. Aim to be a few seconds per km behind target pace for the first 5-8km and then slowly get back to even pace for the middle miles. If you have done this successfully, you should have enough gas in the tank to run just above target pace for the last few miles, reeling in many of those who raced off at the start. Give them a smile as you run past.
  5. Don’t run an ultra (by accident) – one of the great things about the London Marathon is that, as it’s a World Marathon Major and there’s some serious money at stake, they paint three blue lines along the course. These lines mark out exactly 26.2 miles. Follow these if you can and try to avoid weaving around the course. It’s easy to run an extra .3 or .4 of a mile over the length of the marathon, which could add as much as 4 or 5 minutes to your finish time.
  6. Manage your thirst – I don’t know where the saying, “if your mouth is dry, you are all ready dehydrated and it’s too late” came from but it’s complete nonsense. Drink when you are thirsty and do not feel the need to drink at every aid station. In fact, doing so can cause hyponatremia, a potentially life threatening condition that is far more dangerous than dehydration. Be smart. Take water when you feel thirsty, leave it went you don’t.
  7. Be aware of those around you – more than one runner has had their race ruined by colliding with another. At a big city marathon like London the first four or five miles can be quite congested and it’s easy to trip, or cause someone else to. Be aware of those around you and don’t stress about being held up – see tip three. Extra tip – if you don’t need water or gels at aid stations stay in the middle of the road out of the way.
  8. Be present – this one seems to be on every list but can be a bit vague. By being present I mean focus on the current situation. It can be daunting thinking about how many miles are left to run and this can create a negative mindset and make things feel insurmountable. When this happens focus on your surroundings, listen to your body and give yourself small goals – perhaps to run to the next mile marker or aid station. One of our favourite tips is to break down our running technique and focus on one part at a time. I might ask myself, “am I running with quick light feet?” and then I focus on doing that. Once I’m happy, then I move on. “Am I running tall as though there’s a helium balloon attached to my head?” and so on. It’s amazing how the miles fly by simply focusing on being in the present. Try it.
  9. Smile – high fiving kids, waving at people, clapping the bands and wearing a big smile. All these things can give you a mental boost as you run through the streets of London. We find that the more you get involved, the more people give back. Soak up the energy of those supporting you and use it to spur you on to the finish.
  10. Enjoy – the final and most important tip. Enjoy yourself. Only a handful of people will be running for financial gain, and if you are reading this it’s unlikely that you are one of them. By running the London Marathon you (sadly) wont be bringing world peace or developing a cure for some rare disease. At it’s most basic level it’s just running and it’s your hobby, a thing you do for fun. You are embarking on an amazing challenge, so feel proud to toe the line, smile and try to enjoy yourself. You are more than a number, a time and a medal. Remember that and whatever the outcome you’ll be a winner on race day.


Photo credit: adidas UK

James Poole

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