The feeling of elation that comes from completing a marathon is transcendent. Anyone planning to run a marathon should be both excited and ready to put in some rigorous training.
If you've signed up for the London Marathon, we've put together a list of the 10 top tips to make sure you’re fully prepared for the big day...
Book your accommodation as soon as possible
The London marathon is an incredibly popular event with athletes from all over the world. If you’re not local, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance so you don’t end up paying extortionate prices or having to stay outside of the city.
The morning of the race should be reserved for mentally and physically preparing yourself - not panicking about arriving at the start line on-time. Having a bed ready and waiting for you in the city also means you’ll be able to enjoy a nice recovery session once you’re over the finish line.
Decide if you’re going to be sponsored
Completing a marathon is a massive achievement, and a great opportunity to do something good. Many people will be willing to sponsor you to run such a long distance, and there are plenty of charities who would love you to represent them.
Knowing that you’re running for a worthy cause will also spur you on and add to your feelings of achievement at the end of the race.
Get to know the route
It’s worth checking out the marathon route, getting to know what landmarks you’ll be passing and the areas where the crowds are. Having a grasp on whether a route is flat or hilly and where the water stops and toilets are will help you plan your race better.
If you’re not from London you can get to know your race via Google Maps.
Establish your training plan
You need to find or create a training plan that works for you, your current fitness levels and your goals.
If it’s your first marathon, your goal should be finishing the race, so your training plan should concentrate on building up your running distance and running on tired legs. If you’re looking to beat your personal best, make sure you incorporate hill sprints, interval training and Yasso 800s.
Don’t forget about strength training. Runners who skip weight training won’t strengthen the correct muscles in their legs to be able to cover great lengths and are more privy to fatigue and injury. Some of the exercises you should incorporate into your routine include:
- Squat to overhead press
- Jump squats
- Pistol squat
- Long Jumps
Catch your 40 winks
Sleep is something that no marathon runner should overlook. It’s vital for the body’s recovery, and you should be trying to get seven hours a night at the very least. This should increase to eight hours a night the week before the race.
Lack of sleep can lead to stress, weight gain, slow muscle recovery and lack of concentration - all of which are detrimental to runners.
Test out your nutrition
Knowing what to eat before, during and after your race will make a big difference in how comfortable you are throughout the race. This is why you should always test out your nutrition while training.
Find out what pre-race carbohydrates fuel your long runs best and figure out what quick source of calories works best for you during the race - be it gels, sports drinks or nutrition bars.
Never try a new form of nutrition a on the day of the race. You can’t afford to risk any gastronomical problems, so give your body what it’s used to.
Get your kit right
Having the right running gear is essential for any long race. Your running shoes are the most important part of your kit, and you should always ensure you are wearing the right type. If you’ve made the commitment to a marathon, it’s worth having a gait analysis to see how you run, and what shoe would work best for you.
The rest of your kit is also important. Some people love the support of leggings or tights, other prefer shorts. Women need a highly supportive sports bra for their long runs, and no runner should forget the importance of accessories, like gloves or athletic tape.
Just like your nutrition, never try out new running gear during a race. Wear something you know you’ll be comfortable and supported in, and shoes that you’re confident won’t hurt you.
Set up your playlist
A runners motivation differs from person to person, but many people swear by a motivational playlist. Some runners like upbeat pop, others swear by fast-tempo rock, and some find their drive in Lebanese folk music.
Whatever your style is, create a fresh, new motivational playlist that will keep you going for the whole 26.2 miles. Make sure you have the right kind of headphone for running as well - you don’t want to be distracted when you’re in the zone.
Have your morning planned out
Plan properly so you know how long it takes you to get to the start line from where you’re staying. Pack your bag the night before and eat a carb-filled breakfast you know works for you.
A stress-free morning will keep you in high spirits, ready for your race ahead.
Plan your recovery
It’s easy to simply think about the race ahead, but if you fail to plan for your recovery, you’re more at risk of injury and will take longer to recover overall.
Immediately after the race, elevate your legs for 10 minutes to help with blood flow. Ensuring you’re adequately hydrated and have something to eat.
Ensure you have the rest of the day planned for relaxation and sleep, and keep your activity to a minimum for at least two days afterwards. If your legs are in pain, sit in a bath of ice cold water to help your muscles recover. Foam rollers are also a great way to aid recovery after a marathon, helping blood flow back into tight areas as well as back into muscles used specifically during the run.
For further recovery tips, take a look at our post-marathon recovery advice.
Bonus tip - be proud of what you’ve achieved
Relief, pride, exhaustion and elation may overwhelm you at the end of your marathon. After months of preparation, the finish line will be a mixed bag of emotions. Remember what a huge achievement finishing a marathon is, and stick to your recovery plan.
You can now have a break from running and treat yourself to those things training denied you, such as your favourite meal or a glass of wine. You deserve it!