London Marathon has long been a special race for me; from watching it on TV as a kid, cheering it for several years and running six marathons before earning a Good For Age spot at London. I’ve run London twice now, and will be back there next year.
Go to the expo as early as you can. It’s open from Wednesday until Saturday, but it gets busier as the week goes on. You don’t want to spend hours on your feet getting there, walking round and then heading home the day before. But you’ll probably want to soak up the atmosphere. So go earlier in the week if possible.
Sort your kit a few days before so you can relax and think about anything else but the race as it gets closer. You’ll also find out in plenty of time if there’s anything you need to get – extra gels, a new pair of socks because yours have a hole in etc.
If you have spectators coming with you, decide with them early on where they’ll be so they’re not asking you where they should stand on race morning when you’ve got enough to think about. Quieter sections I suggest are mile 6-7 after you head out of Greenwich and mile 16 which is just a short walk under the foot tunnel from Greenwich so they’ll be able to do both.
Plan an early dinner and a DVD the night before. If you’re travelling down to London, book your dinner for an hour before you want to eat – that way you’ll avoid any stress over slow service – it’s Saturday night after all.
If you need to defer, you can still do it and secure your place in next year’s race – but don’t forget to pay for it again (some time in the summer when they email you) like I did last year 🙁
Trains get busy heading out to the start, but I’ve never had a problem getting on one. You will probably have to stand, though it’s a completely different vibe to getting on a packed commuter train on a Monday. Make friends with your fellow runners, you’re all in this together.
There are three different starts at London: Red, Blue and Green. So don’t panic if people start getting off the train before you think you should, and don’t blindly follow the crowd from the station. There are plenty of signs and marshals to guide you.
It’s a long wait at the start and you’ll need to check your bag a good hour before the start. So a bin bag and old jumper you can wear and then toss, even on a mild morning, will keep you warm and dry.
If you’re at the Red or Blue start, it will take you a good while to get over the start line. Don’t panic, remember it’s chip timed and enjoy the pre race buzz.
All those people ahead of you starting the race are also going to be ahead of you on the course. Don’t try and weave through them in the first mile, there’s too many and you’ll just waste energy. Take the first mile easy and chill out. There’s a long way to go.
Embrace the crowd. The first year I ran London I had a terrible race and was longing for a quiet section away from the cheers. But it never came, there course is packed from start to finish. Embrace it and enjoy it.
If your race plan doesn’t go as it should, remember that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world apply for this race every year and you’re one of the lucky few actually running it. It’s a privilege to be there and any day you can run 26.2 miles is a good day.
The last three miles are tough, but they’re also the most spectacular. You’ll run along the Embankment, past the Houses of Parliament and past Buckingham Palace across the iconic finish line on The Mall. Lift your head up, look at your surroundings – you’re almost there, take it all in.
And most importantly, get ready for that finisher photo. Check your form, wipe your nose, smile and move into a space so the camera can see you.
For more last minute tips, my ‘How to Run a Marathon‘ guide can help.