Given so many of us are training for it I thought Iâ€™d pass on some of the ideas Iâ€™ve developed over the last few years on running the fastest race you can. This isnâ€™t about training. Iâ€™m assuming youâ€™ve done some of the standard training. This is not for the â€œget you round brigadeâ€ who havenâ€™t trained, nor for those who donâ€™t want to embrace some real discomfort (to put it mildly!). As â€œTime waits for no manâ€ Iâ€™ve updated this article again for the last twelve monthsâ€™ insights, education and feedback.
Successful planning and execution of a race like this is very hard but going in with no plan has to be worse than having some idea of what you can do. All your plan needs to be is a realistic estimate of how long the first mile will take allowing for the congestion of the start. If you didnâ€™t know it can easily take 10-15 minutes for the last runners to cross the start line, they will also have to accept a stop/start pace for the next few miles, although nearer the front it is a few seconds. The organisers believe this slow start is the cause of their high completion rates as it acts to stop people going off too fast. But itâ€™s very frustrating all the same if you are in one of the last bins. NB London does try to record times from the start line as well as from the gun.
The next part of your plan is to estimate the average minutes per mile you want to do the first and second halves of the race in. Forgetting congestion, a highly accurate benchmark is to take a good comparable (flat) recent half marathon, double your time and add ten minutes if you are in the 3 to 5 hour range. Another good benchmark is to take the time of a twenty miler you raced in your build/ training phase and assume you will be able to maintain this pace for the full 26. Ideally you want to run a negative split with the second half of the race taking 49% of your time compared to 51% for the first half, although this has been hard as the first half of London is generally thought faster than the second half. Many quality PBs including the current world records are set this way, and there is a reason, which Iâ€™ll come to later. There is no evidence that says negative splits only work for the elite.
All this thinking comes to a head during the week before the marathon. Itâ€™s very easy to adopt completely lunatic strategies even at the last minute as your friends give you their wisdom or people egg you on to try something thatâ€™s got no record of working for you (or anybody else!). Try to keep a level head about your form, health, the weather etc. You are the best judge of how hot or rainy conditions affect your running. The quicker runners may find themselves obsessing about minutiae of speed and splits. What may be better is to accept a possible range and then rebuild your plan when you are actually running. One of the nice things about a marathon is you have loads of time once youâ€™ve started to assess how youâ€™re feeling before things get serious.
April is an unpredictable month and we usually get lots of small anti-cyclones spinning in off the Atlantic. What this means is that the 5 day forecasts available on the Wednesday before are typically 99% wrong. Also the weather can change from sunny to showers very easily during the course of the race. If rain is likely you have two strategies. Wear very little and let it dry off when/ if it stops, wear more to keep warm and accept the weight gain. The prevailing winds are usually from the WSW but if we get a SE wind then it will be worth 1-2 minutes off your time. You should try to factor an adjustment into your target pace for the wind as you go round the course. Do spend time trying to memorise the direction you run each segment in if you can, it can be very comforting to know that the slow mile youâ€™ve just done was due to a wind factor and not early fatigue.
The simplest safest thing to do is to make sure that you have high carbohydrate meals in the two days before the race (rice, pasta, potatoes, lentils) and a similar light breakfast on the day itself. There are other strategies out there including a period of several days carbo starvation followed by 100% carbo intake but Iâ€™ve never had the nerve to gamble three months intensive training on what sounds like a high risk food plan in the last week. Regardless, remember you are training much less hard in the final week and donâ€™t need to eat as much as you have been. Carbo loading is not about stuffing yourself until you feel sick.
Anyway, breakfast is very important as you have not taken in any nutrition during the night and your liver stores will need topping up. Breakfast should be of foods your gut is familiar with anything like; toast cereal, porridge. Force it down, even if you are feeling nervous. Face it, youâ€™re going to inflict far worse on your body a few hours later! Coffee? Caffeine is a diuretic which may affect some people, but there is also evidence that it can enhance endurance ability, particularly when a final kick or sprint is required. My view is that if you normally take it then sticking to your normal routine probably wonâ€™t do you any harm.
Donâ€™t pack your bag the night before. Lay it out so you can see what you have. If you pack it you will be unpacking it in the morning to check you have all the stuff. Hopefully youâ€™ve got a good list of all the clothes stuff you want.
Getting to sleep may be tough. Thereâ€™s little evidence one nightâ€™s poor sleep will have much a detrimental effect on an athleteâ€™s performance. Equally a small beer, glass of wine whatever your fancy is will probably do you little harm for the morning.
You basically have two sources of energy powering your muscles through the race;
Body fat in your tissues and liver.
Glycogen resident in your muscle fibre.
Muscle glycogen is excellent stuff, it doesnâ€™t need to be transported to where it delivers energy, nor does it need anything else to release itself. In fact one of the by products of its use is water, which helps your hydration balance. This is what we developed to escape those sabre toothed tigers and is what sprinters rely upon. The problem is that you carry vastly more energy in your body fat (even though youâ€™ve reduced your body fat percentages during training). Body fat is why you can survive for weeks and months just drinking water. Turning body fat into glucose requires oxygen and once this is done you have to transport it via your blood stream to your leg muscles. In all running other than sprints we are tapping both sources, but in a marathon you need to maximise your use of body fat. The main technique is to run as aerobically as possible for as much of the race as possible as this slows your consumption of muscle glycogen which is effectively a finite resource you will exhaust. Anaerobic running also hastens the decline in muscle efficiency so running aerobically for as long as possible also makes it less effort overall. The combination of these two are the reasons why negative splits off slow starts produce faster overall times.
The easiest test I use to confirm that Iâ€™m running aerobically is to chat with other runners during the first ten miles. If you can speak comfortably then you are running at the right pace. If you canâ€™t then you are going too fast and MUST SLOW DOWN. This is your goal for the first five miles, stay calm, keep it slow. Remember this is a longer race than anything else youâ€™ve done so the pace has to be slower than the pace you would set off for a half marathon or even a twenty mile race. Donâ€™t worry about this, you are in a drug fuelled frenzy of adrenaline and endorphins. Remember your plan. Iâ€™m coming to the view that the mental discipline required to go slowly enough in the first half is comparable to that required to keep your pace up in the last few miles. It feels slow, you are being passed by other runners all the time. Sit tight, you have many miles to catch them up later. Make the most of this bit, youâ€™re running well within your limits, enjoy the race! You wonâ€™t later!!
One thing you can do to take your mind off the pressure is to â€œhigh fiveâ€ some of the children lining the early miles of the course. Itâ€™s not a lot of effort, they enjoy it and it calms you down which is a good thing.
Running too fast early on accelerates the inevitable muscle fatigue. This is a major cause of slowing down later. World records are set by well-prepared top athletes, on good courses, in good conditions. Most marathon world records also show good execution of race plans with â€œrelativelyâ€ slow starts and very swift second halves. For the rest of us a pace early on which is 5 -10 seconds a mile too quick can easily result in a fall off of 30 seconds – 2 minutes a mile later. You also increase the likelihood of hitting â€œthe Wallâ€ (see later)â€¦.There are really very, very few runners who are able to achieve marathon PBs with a â€œFast start and hang in there for several hours!â€ strategy. Despite all the many reasons why itâ€™s tough at the end a good third of marathoners simply state â€œTotal Exhaustionâ€ as the issue they faced in the last part of the race.
There are three starts, Blue, Green and Red. Blue is; Elite, AAA Championships and the faster club runners. Green is â€œGood for Ageâ€ (and no Iâ€™m not there yet!) plus celebrities, e.g. soccer players who generally are great over 20 yards but not experienced at a continuous 26 miles, but every year there are some very creditable exceptions. Red is fast overseas entries and most of the fun-runners. The race is started by a celebrity on Blue. Blue and Green meet up after a few hundred yards while Red takes its own route rising very slightly through Charlton until merging with Blue/Green as they come down to the Thames flood plain. Most people do a fairly short warm-up. All you should aim to do is to loosen yourself up enough to be able to manage the pace you will be doing early on. If you are stuck back with the masses, no warm up at all may be needed other than to calm your nerves. Equally to get a good position in your starting bin you will want to reach it in good time. Donâ€™t fret about this just set off calmly. If you havenâ€™t been able to warm up as much as you would like donâ€™t try to set off at your target pace. Go a bit slower and think about all the energy you are conserving as you warm up.
One thing I have done is go for a 5 minute very slow jog just after breakfast. It will be a warm up. It helps settle your stomach and get your digestion going and minimise issues later. You are under no pressure at that time. Do check out your route to the start. If it involves catching a train from London Bridge expect hugely crowded conditions. Itâ€™s better to arrive much earlier and then just lie down and rest for a bit than get stressed out fighting to squeeze onto a train that is way over its legal passenger limit let alone the animal welfare rules and spend fifteen minutes being squashed out of shape and asphyxiated.
Thereâ€™s a lot of waiting around before the start. Stay calm, grease any bits of your anatomy which could chaff. Your body will be sending you plenty of discomfort signals without you provoking it. If you do miss a bit there are St Johnâ€™s ambulance volunteers on the course with Vaseline should you need it.
Donâ€™t agree to run with anyone else for the whole race. A few seconds/mile difference in pace between you will make one of you feel like they are being held back while the other will be dragged along too quickly. Do try and find people (in your starting bin) to run with in the first 5-10 miles but make sure the pace you agree is the one you all want to do. Running in a group like this gives you a buffer against the constant temptation to speed up early on and stay with the people who are overtaking you constantly. Remember you are running slower than in any other race you do and it will feel very unnatural. Staying with your group gives you stability in the face of this pressure. Most such groups I have been in tend to drift apart by 10 miles quite naturally. I suggest you agree beforehand to just let this happen. By this stage everyone has calmed down and you will find people who you donâ€™t know who are running at exactly the pace you want to follow. Donâ€™t be afraid to introduce yourself! For the truly introverted (whoâ€™ll be studying their feet) you can always spot someone wearing the same shoes and ask them how they find running in them.
To point out the obvious it will be congested at the start. Even where I run in the 6:00 min/mile section we are jostling elbows for the first few miles. Donâ€™t let it affect you, just stay calm and recognise that you wonâ€™t get to run at exactly the pace you want early on. You may need to surge slightly (but keep it calm!) to get past some people or have an easier few minutes while you wait for an opening. Waiting is always the best strategy. You will be amazed later at how hard it is to increase your pace.
If you didnâ€™t know, the course drops from its initial elevation to the Thames at about miles 3/4. You should expect to pick up about 30 seconds down the hill over these miles if your way is clear. Most people donâ€™t go down the hill fast enough, but this is something you need to practice in training.
With luck this wonâ€™t be necessary. Get well hydrated when you get up and then drink very sparingly in the hour before the race. Get to Blackheath early and take full advantage of the immense number of portaloos. After the gun, donâ€™t drink for the first half hour (tiny sips donâ€™t matter). If you feel you need to go then do stop and go because it wonâ€™t get any better but do wait a short while to make sure itâ€™s not just nerves. You will feel better and run faster straight after and make up the time loss. The course has plenty of stations. FYI once your body warms up and starts sweating (to keep you cool) your gut stops sending fluid to your bladder as it knows you need it elsewhere so this should not be a problem after the first hour, if at all.
The Middle Bit
I have a number of things to do in the middle bit. This is the comfort zone of the race when you should be happy with the pace youâ€™re doing (relative to how you feel). One big thing to do is to relax. All the race start congestion and adrenaline is gone and you need to conserve energy for later. Just find someone whoâ€™s doing exactly the pace you want and tuck in behind them, not necessarily right behind them but just treat them as an anchor point and switch off. Try relaxing your shoulders, lowering your hands and reducing your arm swing a bit. I even close my eyes slightly and try to drift off into a trance like state. Donâ€™t trip over, so keep your eyes on the road, London wins no awards for the smoothness of its road surfaces although the Western end of the Highway was resurfaced last year and Narrow Street has just been done this year. Even if you only manage it for a mile or so it will have saved you effort. There is research which shows that runners asked to give 96% effort went faster than when they were asked to give 100%, because they were less tense.
If you are worried that your joints, shins etc may not be able to stand the distance itâ€™s even more important to try and move smoothly. Itâ€™s the peak impacts that you want to reduce and watching the road surface intently will enable you to compensate each footfall. Yes, very boring but you donâ€™t want to crawl the last miles because some weakness resurfaces with a vengeance. A further question is where to run on the road. Thereâ€™s a blue line which follows the most direct route and this is a good thing to do especially when youâ€™re tired as itâ€™s quite easy to go slightly off course, particularly along the Embankment. Another factor is the camber of the road. Few runners are totally symmetric with both legs being exactly the same length. You will find it more comfortable to run on the side of the road where the camber compensates for you leg length discrepancy, i.e. if your right leg is longer than your left, run on the right side of the road. If you donâ€™t know, experiment a bit and should easily be able to tell which side feels nicer.
The other thing to do is some serious calculations about your total time and what minutes per mile you want to be doing at the end. These days I treat the race as 26 separate one mile time trials to break it up. PS You should be running faster than you were at the start now although it will feel easier as youâ€™ve warmed up. The course is measured several times but there are a few points that seem many years to be slightly quicker or slower. Mile 10 seems to be a bit uphill and can take 10-15 seconds longer than the miles around it. Also the mid-point and Mile 13 have been a bit out of alignment sometimes. Donâ€™t get stressed by any weird splits. One year all the clocks after Mile 4 were exactly a minute out, check with the runners around you before panicking.
Donâ€™t be worried about running behind somebody, particularly if there is a headwind. Itâ€™s legal. All the pros do it. Often I talk to the runners around me and we agree to share the burden so everyone goes quicker. It can be worth 10 to 20 seconds every mile particularly if itâ€™s windy. It will make you appreciate the vast difference in stride lengths runners have. Beyond the obvious fact that taller runners take longer strides, older runners are less flexible and stride length shortens with age. Donâ€™t look at their feet, watch their shoulders.
Going through a bad patch is something many marathoners experience. Roughly half the reports from the professionals speak of periods when they struggle to maintain their pace. Lots of things can cause this; hydration or glucose dips, and they can happen at any time even in the first few miles. However do not assume that this is the end. Most times they go away naturally unless youâ€™ve fallen into the trap of going off too fast. Just stick with it and remember this is very likely to be a phase that will pass. Marathons can also bring out stitches for runners who never get them at other times. The current medical view on stitches is that youâ€™re stressing the core internal stability muscles one of whose jobs is to keep your internal organs in place while you bang your body around. If you get a stitch, try breathing out just as the foot on the opposite side from the stitch hits the ground. The theory is that you will reduce the stress on the muscle spasming and it will go away.
Cramps are another very common problem, particularly at the end. Unfortunately most of the guidance is focused on prevention through training and conditioning which is not much good in the actual marathon. There is some research which suggests a fifteen minute stretch of the particular muscle before you start may help. Again very useful for the clairvoyant amongst us. If you think you are on the verge of cramping up then itâ€™s probably better to ease up for a few minutes as the alternative may be rolling in agony in the gutter while the ill-informed crowd eggs you on to get up and run. Again the key is to relax and just think, â€œIâ€™m having a deliberate easy patch and I will save this to expend laterâ€. If itâ€™s a wet day expect your calf muscles to do much more work than usual. Your calf muscle works hard during your toe-off and in wet conditions your toes slip constantly requiring your calves to have to work much harder to achieve the same cruise.
One comment accepted by many experienced marathoners is that the race doesnâ€™t start until the last six miles. This is certainly true at the front where in many years it seems to be a fast twenty mile elite group run which then turns into a 10k race. Another truism is that the mental effort is about the same to run the last six miles as to run the first twenty. The key is to keep going and to hold your pace. This is the point when mental toughness counts as much as running ability. Unfortunately, you will see many runners who are slowing dramatically, walking or even stopping. Ignore them. Donâ€™t look at them, donâ€™t think about it. They are not part of your race. Your race is about chasing the person who is holding their pace in front of you and trying to pass them or not get dropped by them. Concentration is essential. All the waving and looking for friends is for the first ten miles. The last six is just raw focus and will-power. When you sprint as fast as you can for 10 seconds, all you do is look where you are going and focus on making your body move. You can feel each muscle and tendon and joint as it tires. This is exactly the same, you just have to do it for a lot longer! (This is a point where it helps to have practiced this!)
One sad reality of the last few miles is that you can put a push and then find at the next mile marker that youâ€™ve merely maintained your pace, or even worse that youâ€™ve slowed. Donâ€™t tense up, be aware this can happen. Think about floating and running fluidly. When Kelly Holmes won her second gold medal in the Athens Olympics as she ran the last 50 metres to out sprint her opponents she was saying to herself, â€œRelax, Relaxâ€, Not â€œPunch! Punch!â€
There is evidence that athletes who can keep ideas of â€œstrengthâ€ â€œpowerâ€ â€œThere is no painâ€ in their minds out-perform those who are thinking â€œGod this hurts so muchâ€ â€œI will have to slow downâ€. You are in charge of the ideas you think about during the race.
For those whoâ€™ve run the race before last year, both sets of cobble are now gone and there are fourteen less turns on the new course. This is thought to be worth 1- 2 minutes overall.
There are a very small number of runners who find theyâ€™ve run the first twenty so conservatively that they really can speed up in the last part. Obviously go for it and feel exuberant.
There are also runners who find theyâ€™re going to finish inside their target time. The real risk to these runners is that they take their foot off the gas and ease up. Donâ€™t Do This!! Think of a better target that truly stretches you and go for it! Now youâ€™re in the same situation as the rest of the field, striving to achieve something that seems slightly out of reach.
Sorry about thisâ€¦â€¦ It is going to hurt. A Lot! All over! Especially that section between your ears and your toes. Whether you do 2:10 or 5:00 hours, your own pride, determination, crowd pressure will make you push yourself to the limit.
Accept this reality, embrace it, put it in a mental box, throw the box into the Thames and just carry the thought â€œYou signed up for this. You knew it would hurt. Stop whinging about it. Everyone else hurts too. You are not unique in this. Everyone is wishing you to do well. MOVE ON!!â€
Instead try focusing on, say;
1) Fighting the classic technique flaws that appear later on;
Excessive arm swing
2) Chasing the person in front!
The experts are split over whether it exists (itâ€™s proved hard to isolate medically). Most of my friends are convinced it does. My view is that you reach a point where your muscle glycogen is gone, and your consumption of energy exceeds the rate your blood stream is able to feed glucose from your fat cells, and your body just concludes energy expenditure rates exceed acquisition and you have to get back in balance (i.e. stop right now!). Additionally, your brain relies on glucose in your blood for power so your mental processes probably get affected too. Iâ€™ve heard a theory that your body after waiting a few minutes to check that you really do need this rate of energy expenditure starts to break down muscle fibre itself to supply energy. We know that many animals (including humans) have emergency override processes for life threatening situations. Two things seem clear. If you are really determined, a second wind does appear after about 5 minutes but you really do have to force yourself for a few minutes. Secondly, it takes several months to fully recover from a really hard fast marathon, so itâ€™s pretty feasible you are damaging/destroying a few things along the way.
It may not look it on TV but the run in from the final corner to the finish is a pretty long sprint. Practically, if you want to get that authentic â€œJim Petersâ€ stagger at the line you need to wind it up and go semi-anaerobic about Parliament Square. This will hurt a lot, last several minutes but guarantee all the attention from the St Johnâ€™s Ambulance staff you ever wanted and give you the satisfaction that whatever else happened, the last kilometre was as quick as feasible that day. Personally I find itâ€™s a natural transition from the manic, panting, jarring, aching torment of the Embankment, you just overload your lungs, pump your arms and go for the line. And fall over!
1. You need to drink fluids regularly. As your stomach contracts during the race this will get harder and we all end marathons dehydrated to some extent. If it is truly hot you need to make a really hard effort, particularly early on. Itâ€™s estimated that it takes up to 30 minutes for a drink to do you good, and your thirst reaction is known to be a very crude signal of how much and when you need to drink. Getting this wrong will have a much greater impact on your performance than anything to do with salts or energy levels.
2. Slower runners are able to drink more than quicker runners (although they do not need more fluid). Water stations are easier to navigate, and they are on the course longer than their quicker fellows. Organisers are now worrying about the number of cases of jogger/walkers spending many hours walking the course drinking constantly and ending up with hyponatremic collapse through leeching sodium from their bodies. They are recommending less intensive drinking. If you have trained properly you should know how dehydrated you are after a long run and have a feel for this. The marathon is at race pace rather than a training long run and will get you hotter but you should be much less wrapped up too and the two have opposite effects. Form your own judgement. This is why I recommend races in training to give you personal data about how different conditions affect you. There is no simple â€œone size fits allâ€ answer here. Without being prescriptive anyone who expects to run under four hours will probably not drink enough on a normal day and need to drink 50% than normal more on a hot day.
Anyway, there is plenty of water on the course. After the early stages there is water every mile so there is no need to worry if you miss a station. Anyone around you with their own camelbak didnâ€™t read the race instructions.
3. Any form of isotonic drink gets absorbed faster than pure water and this is its key advantage over ordinary water, but frankly this only matters in very hot conditions (like 1996). When itâ€™s very hot, the rate at which fluid leaves your stomach to your tissues matters, and isotonic drinks are better for this. But we are describing extreme conditions. Most runners would not choose or be comfortable drinking at this rate even on a very hot day without practicing. Isotonic drinks are also available from stations on the course.
4. There is a sound principle that if you are depleting energy stores then any means of replenishing them will help you maintain effort levels but this is much clearer in ultra marathons than in marathons. There is no product in the world today which instantly restores muscle glycogen, so they canâ€™t give you the main energy source youâ€™re running low on. Gels definitely give you a short term glucose boost but you will need to drink more water partly to wash them down and also because the chemistry of digestion consumes water. Your running performance is not thought to be dramatically affected by the consumption of trace elements like potassium contrary to the marketing blurb.
If you do want to take gels then itâ€™s worth practicing on your long runs just to sort out the logistics carrying them, unwrapping them and then smearing goo all over your face when you miss your mouth. When you take them is a personal preference. I currently take one just before the start (why not add a sugar rush to the adrenaline high?) and then one each hour. You may not feel like taking one when youâ€™re out running so itâ€™s best to decide a schedule before you start. Those who can break the taboo of taking sweets from strangers often find the jelly babies offered randomly round the course and I know of a number of people who claim very good experiences from them.
The only other legal substance which appears to help is caffeine which some gels include. This is my current choice and is a good example of something which tastes disgusting at rest but OK in the race.
Creatine is being researched heavily but seems to have two effects; firstly it seems to aid recovery from hard strength training and secondly it increases body weight. The second effect probably makes it detrimental for marathons although this is still being debated and researched as some of the research suggests the body is actually storing more water which sounds like a good thing for endurance running.
5. The bulk of the scientific â€œfactsâ€ about these products are not based on independently funded research by reputable scientists. Most of it is from the marketing departments of companies whoâ€™s goal is to get you to buy the stuff. The demand for serious sports drinks/gels is tiny compared to the vast number of wannabes who just want a sweet fizzy drink with a cool label that does no good (e.g. Gatorade, Lucozade).
6. The hard long miles you did in January and February will do far more for you than any product during the race.
London is warmer than most other parts of the UK, Winter should be over, and you will be surrounded by lots of people. Overdressing exacerbates the heat/dehydration problem. Leggings are winter wear and slow you down. Iâ€™ve never seen anyone who looked like they needed more layers at the halfway point. The opposite is more common. Modern wicking â€œcoolmaxâ€ fabrics are well worth it particularly if it is hot or you encounter a series of showers. March 2006 was the coldest on record, however April is a different season. Donâ€™t assume Winter is still here. Beyond coolmax the only special idea is one adopted by the finest female marathoner to date by far. Paula wears compressions socks which are the same socks promoted to prevent deep vein thrombosis on long air journeys. The theory behind these socks is that general vibration is one of the causes of the muscle fatigue and the grip these socks provide will lessen the vibration and fatigue. I know of no evidence this is effective, beyond the obvious of Paulaâ€™s achievements.
Donâ€™t wear anything you havenâ€™t done a decent run in before. Your feet swell significantly during a marathon and you donâ€™t want to discover that your flash new shoes rub. The same is true for clothing.
Racing shoes are generally only advised for runners going under three hours. There is a tradeoff between the speed from their lightness versus the leg fatigue brought on by running in a shoe with less cushioning and support. Shoe manufacturers now supply a huge range of shoes and many people settle for a lighter trainer. Virtually no one attempts a truly lightweight shoe. Some shoes work better or worse in different conditions. Asics are the top FLM brand but have no reputation in wet conditions, while Nike struggle for consistency between their frequent editions of the same models.
There are two popular strategies on socks. One is to pick a brand like Thorlos and get extra cushioning. There is a potential disadvantage in that they are so thick they can hold enormous volumes of fluid, particularly on a wet day. Alternatively many runners opt for the two layer blister free socks. These work by allowing the layers of fabric to slide over each other avoiding the stress on the skin and preventing the blister. Go with what felt best in training.
Do make sure you have enough clothing to be warm and dry afterwards particularly if rain is forecast, i.e. a complete change of clothes plus some extra layers. You will have no energy to do anything to keep yourself warm so you may need to overdress. I have never regretted putting extra thermal layers in my bag, if itâ€™s wet they all go on until I am inside for the rest of the day .
And Do take a bin liner to wear while you line up for the start or a old T-shirt youâ€™re happy to throw away after the first couple of miles. Bin-liners may sound naff but theyâ€™re very effective. If you also bring an empty bottle of water with you it can double as a private portaloo for the blokes while you wait in your starting bin!
Taking phones, I-Pods on the raceâ€¦â€¦..Get a Life! Leave them with your post race bag. There is plenty of excellent uplifting music on the course.
Iâ€™m generally against heat rate monitors for two reasons. The pressure of the monitor band on your chest for several hours must slow you down. Secondly I donâ€™t believe it is realistic to compare data youâ€™ve gained mostly from training with the peak stresses of racing. Most people use heat rate monitors in training to do two things, 1) to record general easy run/ long run rates and 2) to see how hard they can stress their heart during effort like intervals. Neither of these relates to marathon racing. Youâ€™ll only be out of breath in the last few yards. I think itâ€™s better to listen to your body. The only athletes who regularly race with such devices are professional cyclists and triathletes but both groups are notorious for being gizmo mad!
Keep walking, moving (slowly) for as long as possible, ideally several hours. One of the most common causes of runners collapsing at the end of marathons is the pooling of blood in the lower limbs (postural hypotension). One simple cure is to lie on your back with your feet up in the air for a while if you are feeling dizzy. You will be dehydrated and will need to drink a lot for the next few hours. Eat the plastic sandwiches/sweets in the goodie bag if you can. There is evidence that eating within 30 minutes of finishing a hard run has a dramatic impact on your bodyâ€™s glycogen recovery. After all, youâ€™ll be spending the next week analysing your performance and convincing yourself that you will be doing another one because youâ€™re sure you could train and execute it better.
If this has provokes comments, questions, knowledge of quality research into the subject please feel free to e-mail me.
If you want to look good in the pictures practice smiling naturally in the mirror while someone is sticking a skewer into somewhere painful. Otherwise give up and just look intense! Most photographers are on Tower Bridge and the Embankment plus the finish.
For the Ladies;
Karie recommends carrying lipstick in your shortsâ€™ pocket for the finish zone pictures.
Pack high heels because you have the perfect excuse for any wobbles. Plus any alcohol afterwards will go straight to everyoneâ€™s head so your chances of pulling are 100%. Of course your chances of being able to do anything are 0%!
And if you thought the long runs were boring wait till youâ€™ve had the twentieth conversation on the Monday on â€œWhat time did you do? Did it hurt?â€