I sit here writing this with slightly sore legs, achy feet and a glowing sense of achievement. Recently I ran the Brighton Marathon for Mind – a charity that helps people with mental health problems and their relatives. Now that I’ve crossed the finish line and the endorphins are wearing off, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I’ve accomplished. Covering 26.2 miles is no small feat so to help you ahead of your own race, here are some top tips from myself and fellow runners.
A marathon isn’t one race
If you’re running the London Marathon this weekend, the majority of the hard work is already out the way. Although race day is the main focus, to get there you’d have covered hundreds of miles on your training runs – probably by yourself in the middle of winter. That’s an accomplishment in itself, one which you don’t get a medal for. Not losing sight of that will help you get round the course.
Lay out your kit the night before
I’m very lucky to have a friend who lives next to where Brighton Marathon started. On Saturday afternoon, I packed my bag and drove over to her flat, ready to flop on the sofa and stuff my face with pasta. Unfortunately, about a mile from her home, I realised I left my trainers behind – a pretty vital bit of kit!
The moral of this story is if you’re not travelling to the marathon in your running gear, check and double check you have everything you need before leaving the house. When you’re nervous, it’s so easy to forget something essential so take the time to prep everything at the earliest opportunity.
Don’t pass up the chance to munch an orange segment
Marathon crowds have a reputation for being a generous bunch – a reputation that Brighton Marathon supporters definitely lived up to on Sunday. Cheers from the side-lines spurred me on. However, the people I loved the most were the ones handing out chunks of oranges. Trust me, nothing tastes as good as a juicy, citrus segment at mile 16. If you see someone handing them out on your run, don’t pass them by without taking one.
Running the London Marathon for Stars Foundation for Cerebral Palsy
It’s a pretty obvious one but it’s crucial. Lots of people use gels – in all honesty, they aren’t the best but damn do they work. I also carry some old-school Lucozade tablets for an instant sugar kick. I once did a half marathon and they were handing out Percy Pigs – trying to run and chew on a confectionary pig is tricky!
Invite loads of friends and family – make sure the world knows you’re there
You’ll spend the whole run looking at the crowds, trying to find your loved ones. Even if they don’t end up making it along, you’ll think they are there and that carries you along so much. Make sure you have your name in big letters on your top, front and back as everyone from loved ones to strangers will call your name.
The chafing is real
Feeling like a celebrity is the fun bit. The blisters and nipple chafe are not! To prevent any discomfort, I can wholeheartedly recommend NipGuards – they look like verruca plasters but really save those precious nips!
Think of how lucky you are
Not only are you fit, you are one of the lucky ones who gets to run an iconic 26.2 miles. Not many people get to do that. Many certainly will never be fit enough to. You’re surrounded by people who all have different reasons for completing the course. When you’re hitting the wall, think of the finish line and how amazing that feeling is going to be to tick it off your bucket list, be the envy of friends but also most likely; have raised money for a fantastic cause. The pride of your achievement is indescribable. Use that to carry you along!
Running the London Marathon for Multiple Sclerosis Society
Start hydrating at least two days before
You don’t need to drink excessively in the days before your race as the human body can’t store loads of fluids to use later. However, keeping your water levels topped up will mean you’re in good shape on the start line – and will avoid over-compensating by drinking too much on the way round.
Don’t just run
If you still have a few months to go before your big race, don’t underestimate the importance of engaging in other forms of cardio whilst you’re training. Mixing it up is good as you’ll build strength and keep your mind engaged.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
If you miss a training run for whatever reason, don’t stress about it and try and catch up. Stop, rework your schedule and move forwards. Also, don’t forget that one of the reasons for tapering a few weeks before a race is to let your body recover. Resist the temptation to push yourself further as you’ll regret it later.
With race day approaching, it’s likely that’s all you can think about. However, a final tip from me is be prepared for the post-run blues. Training for a marathon can take over your life and when it’s over, you can end up feeling deflated. First and foremost, give your body time to rest and recover before slipping on your running shoes once more. When you are ready to work towards a new challenge, magazine.co.uk has a great selection of running magazines to support your training.
Best of luck on your marathon – share your running stories in the comments below!