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Top tips for London Marathon rookies

Top tips for London Marathon rookies

AW’s editor offers some last-minute advice for runners taking on their first marathon in London

My marathon PB of 3:07 is nowhere near as quick as my much-faster colleagues, but I’ve nevertheless been running seriously for more than 30 years and, as a former 800m specialist, I guess I’ve compiled a fair record in recent years of managing to survive marathons in places ranging from London (four times) to sunny Barcelona and the foothills of the Himalayas to the third and final stage of the Hawaii Ironman.

So here is some last-minute advice aimed primarily at rookie runners who are taking a jog into the unknown in London…

» There is no training advice in this post. You should have done it by now and certainly should not be trying to squeeze any last-minute long or hard sessions into the early part of the final week! All I would say is that taking a day off the Friday before the race and a light jog on Saturday usually leaves me feeling fresh and loose on race day.

» Leave no stone unturned. Plan and visualise everything you have to do on race day, such as what you’re going to wear, eat for breakfast and how you’re going to travel to the start – and make sure you do it before the Saturday. The tiniest detail, such as wearing plasters on your nipples to prevent chafing, can prevent lots of pain during the race.

» Wash your hands. It sounds simple and minor, but in the final couple of weeks you are going to bump into lots of people on Tubes and at the marathon exhibition – and your race will be ruined if you catch a virus. The best way to prevent this is to wash your hands regularly through the day. Don’t laugh, elite athletes are paranoid about this and you should be too.

» Everyone has a random and bizarre tip and mine is to wear an old pair of cotton socks as you make your way to the start (the journey can take an hour or more depending where you are staying). When you have to strip off to put your clothes in the baggage bus, take these off and put some dry, fresh socks on your feet for the race itself. Then put the old socks on your hands as makeshift gloves (race morning is often chilly) and throw them away when the race starts.

» A word about pacing – do not go off too fast. If this is your first marathon, do not spend the first 10 miles looking at your watch agonising about splits, but instead enjoy the crowds and atmosphere.

» Finally, if you start to struggle, find some fellow sufferers on the road and chat to them as you shuffle along. Whatever you do, don’t light up a cigarette, as I saw one straggler doing a few years ago during one of the many bizarre sights I’ve seen in my time at AW.

» A version of this post was first published on athleticsweekly.com in April 2013

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