The bulk of your marathon training will be done and the taper will have started. All those hard miles will be soon worth it.
You’ll be excited about the big day, and you can never have too many tips. I’ve only done 2 marathons (both London) but the majority of the tips hold up for any race.
Run in your vest – test this out well before race day. Most of the time charity vests are not the greatest quality and some have a seam under the armpit that can rub the inside of your arm. See tip on Vaseline and plasters.
Put your name on your vest – you may not think it’s important. It is! The crowd shouting your name feels great and it’s a really help over the 26.2 miles. There are plenty of places online to get iron on letters.
Toenails – do not cut them the day before the race. Cut them in plenty of time for any mishaps to heal (i.e cutting too short). Your feet including your toes are important.
Buy – some Vaseline and sticking plasters – see below.
Work out how to get there – figure this out and be confident about where you are going and which start you are at. London Marathon runners are able to travel for free on London Underground, London Buses, London Overground, DLR and Tram by showing their race number. You will be travelling early and your train station may not be manned (in which case the barriers will be open) but take you oyster card/contactless card in case.
Kit – be clear on what kit you’re wearing a few days beforehand. Work out what you need to take with you and what to wear afterwards. If your charity is providing showers, do you need to take a towel? Take clean socks and clean pants. It’s recommended that you change out of everything you’ll be running in. You will be much more comfortable after the race. Prepare for all weathers. You want to be warm and dry.
Take a different pair of trainers with you – however comfortable your running shoes are, the likelihood is that your feet with hurt a little by the end. Being able to pull a different pair of trainers on after the race is a good way to avoid all the little pressure points that built up during the race. You want to be “comfortable” as you hobble around London to the pub.
The meal the night before– you need to get/keep your glycogen levels up. Glycogen is converted into glucose by muscle cells. This is the energy storage for your muscles and will be your main energy supply during the race. You need carbohydrate rich food – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, whole fruit. Nothing new. Have food you know doesn’t affect your tummy or gut.
Breakfast – Make sure you know what you are having, that you’ve had it before and it’s tried and tested. Prep it the night before.
Don’t do anything new – A common trick is to go to the expo and buy some new trainers and then run the marathon in them. Don’t. Stick with all the stuff you know and are happy with.
Rest – Try and rest as much as possible the day before. Plan a cinema trip. Stay off your feet. Put your feet up.
Pin your number – on to your vest so it is ready to go. Don’t wait until you’re at the start and you are messing around with safety pins. Make sure you are happy with the location on your vest and it’s straight so it looks good in the photos.
Hydrate – The big tip would be to be well hydrated in the build-up to the race. Carry a bottle everywhere with you for 2 or 3 days before. Sip it throughout the day. You want to be well hydrated but not desperate for loo all the time. There is a tendency to drink too much.
Which takes us to –
Toilets – This is a really big deal. Sorting this out can really make your day a lot more enjoyable and less nerve racking. There’s been many a time I’ve been in a queue for the toilets thinking I’m going to miss the start gun. At London there are loads of toilets but there are also loads of people. Men – there are now normally urinals, that make things quicker.
Don’t wake up on the day of the race and neck a litre of water and then be smashing the Lucozade. You’ll be nervous/excited and you will feel need to go to the loo constantly. Be hydrated before and you will not need to endlessly go to the loo. Sip some fluids to quench your thirst.
At my first London marathon, I was sitting on a packed train from London Waterloo East surrounded by runners, seriously thinking I was going to piss myself. A worrying and stressful start to the day. Luckily, at Blackheath, there was a pub that was open directly outside the station and I was saved.
A quick tip for the guys – at any race, the queue that is winding out the door is for the cubicles. If you just need a wee, push past it and the urinals will be free.
Go for a number 2 before you leave home. Or take a nose clip, some hand sanitiser and toilet paper with you.
If you are in your pen and moving towards the start and want to go again, slip out before you cross the timing chip sensors. Remember your time starts when you cross the sensors.
Take a bin liner – sit on it to save your legs. At London, you will likely get there early and there will be some waiting around (unless you ignored the tip above and are in the queue for the toilets). It also doubles as a temporary rain jacket and a stylish windcheater.
Find/source some old clothes – to wear to and in the starting pens. An old fleece is good. You may be in the pens for some time and you need to stay warm. You can throw it off when required. All the clothing gets collected and sent to charity, so it’s not wasted.
Vaseline – a runner’s best friend. Apply to your undercarriage (sorry), around your armpits, basically anywhere that may have a chance of rubbing. I’ve found a little between your toes helps avoid blisters.
Plasters – Fellas, get two big plasters and put them over your nipples. If you’ve never had issues with jogger’s nipple before, do it anyway. It’s not worth the risk.
Don’t do anything new – If you don’t drink coffee in the morning, don’t buy one on the way. Though a stimulant, it’s also a diuretic. If someone hands you a banana and you don’t normally eat them before you run or whilst running, don’t start now. If energy gels are being handed out on the course, but they are not the variety you use, don’t take them. You get the picture.
Enjoy it. If you’re going for a time, it is not the be all and end all. Keep your head up and take it all in. Remember it. Enjoy the experience. Don’t wear earphones; hear the sounds of the crowd, the bands, the atmosphere and talk to other runners.
Wear your medal all day and the day after if you want!