I’ve coached runners to great things at London; the planning, the long runs, the workouts and the nutrition. When it comes to race day, there are the golden rules that apply to every big race. Feed up, rest up and have your kit laid out the night before. Stick to your race plan, avoid getting carried away at the start and don’t do anything different on race day. Check and prepare for the weather and try to enjoy yourself.
We mostly train on our own terms in familiar surroundings. We know where we are going to run and we leave when we are ready, most of the time. There are few surprises along our trusty running routes and we get our heads down and get on with it. When you find yourself at the start line (or crammed into your allotted pen) at a big city marathon for the first time, there are nerves flying about and a mix of anxiety and excitement. Even after you have poured over the course map and soaked up the event expo, a first time race can still throw the odd curve ball, or googly if cricket’s your thing. This can be especially true in the great city of London. So, I have gathered together the wisdom and experience of runners who have run the London Marathon many times. Here are the top tips for the London Marathon from those who have been there and done it.
Unless you are in the elite field, you will be assigned to a pen according to your declared pace. It can take a quarter of an hour to inch forward to the start line where your chip activates and your race begins. Just relax and stay loose. Talk to the runners around you, it will calm your nerves and theirs.
Take this time to remind yourself to take it steady at the start, let the excited folk sprint off, you have a plan, stick to it. The first five kilometres or three miles are somewhat downhill, so use this to your advantage, but don’t get carried away.
Around mile 2, all the start lanes come together so expect some congestion. Keep your head and watch your pace. Don’t waste energy sprinting through gaps or weaving too much. Stay cool.
Although London is fairly flat, mile 3 to 4 is the sharpest downhill section. Running with the brakes on is a waste of energy, so relax and don’t worry if your pace creeps up a smidge. Try to take advantage of this slight downhill without getting carried away.
At mile 6, the roads narrow towards Greenwich and The Cutty Sark so beware of the potential bottleneck congestion. Grab some water at Greenwich and Keep your cool, physically and mentally.
Mile 10 the crowds build again giving you an injection of energy. Mile 12 ushers in stunning Tower Bridge and some great views, soak it all in, letting the energy lift you without speeding away from your race plan.
Mile 16 is a huge chunk in the bag. Allow the nutters to speed off, keep your head, find a new shoulder to sit on if necessary and smile to yourself just a little bit.
Around mile 18 the roads narrow and twist and turn through the quays and Canary Warf. Watch out for tired runners as they slow in front of you and the narrow streets get busy. Take energy from everyone you pass, you’ve paced it well.
Mile 20-22 is a quieter stretch with fewer spectators. take advantage of the calm and give yourself a little high five and a pep talk. Tell yourself that you have been here before in training, but that this time you have your taper on your side.
Mile 22-24 be prepared for things to get dark! If they do, say “thank you, but I’m cracking on!” Look forward to the full spectrum of London Landmarks that await you. It’s a flat finish from mile 25 so, if you have it in you, quicken your feet and run tall for the finish.
Bonus Tip 1
Organise precisely where your supporters will appear along the route. Aim for quieter spots where you’ll see and hear them over the crowds. Know which side of the road to find them. The London course can be hard to navigate so prioritise sections along the route where you think you’ll most need the lift you get from the cheers and familiar faces of your loved ones.
Bonus Tip 2
The London Marathon is famous for it’s fancy dress runners. Don’t be disheartened if you get dropped by a T-Rex or runners in full army dress. Instead, be inspired and tell yourself, if they can do this, so can I.
So there you have it, my top ten tips for your best London Marathon. You’re well into your taper period now, so enjoy those shorter runs and get ready to unleash your potential on race day 28th April. If you want to fine tune your warm up read this. Thank you to all who contributed and to my Team Iffley team mates, Steve, Tom and Nick for sharing your secrets. My best wishes to everyone running and supporting the London Marathon in 2019.