On 22nd April, I ran the London Marathon and actually finished it! I’m still rather surprised at myself actually. It was always something I used to wake up early for on a Sunday morning and stick it on the TV! I was incredibly lucky to run one of the best marathons in the world and the hottest London Marathon on record (may I add). So, if you are thinking of running the London Marathon, or another anytime soon, here are 10 things you should know…
1. Take a phone or GoPro, you won’t want to miss capturing this.
My GoPro was suitable to hold in my hand during the marathon to make sure I didn’t miss capturing moments like running across London Bridge, but it is also good to take with you on the whole journey including Expo! Charge it well beforehand, and remember it is waterproof so you can run through all those showers on course, worry free! You’ll thank yourself for all the photos and clips afterwards. I made mine into a little video…
2. Expo is going to be BUSY!
Expo will run several days before the marathon, and most importantly, this is where you will collect your number and tracking tag. If you are from London or the surrounding areas, you’ll be advised to travel down before the Saturday prior to the marathon. If not (like me) you’ll end up going the day before the race, which is when most people go that don’t live locally. So, with that in mind prepare for it to be busy!
Expo is great fun so make sure to bring your family and friends (especially those into their running). There are talks by experts and marathon ‘celebrities’ which are great for some last minute tips to take to the start line. There are also games to win prizes, free gifts, athletic brands and, if you are running for a charity, they will most likely have their own stand so you can get an extra boost before the big day!
3. Make sure you know your gate number before the race starts.
Running my first marathon meant I did a lot of planning beforehand, but don’t just focus on where your hotel is, make sure to plan for the start-line too! We got there early for some must-have pictures in the park, stretching and a toilet break (prepare for the queues and lots of waiting). Once you are into the start-line area, and have said your goodbyes to family and friends, you’ll need to find your gate. This will relate to the very small number in the corner of your main running number, and is linked to the predicted time you gave the organisers – and thus your start wave! Avoid unnecessary running to make it on time.
4. Pack your kit bag wisely.
You will be given a kit-bag at Expo and a sticker with your running number to place on it. At the start line this goes in a lorry, so make sure that you put everything you will need into it for when you cross the finish line. If you haven’t ran a marathon before, think of some quick snacks, freeze sprays, plasters, a jacket and a portable phone charger! If your phone is with you, you might need to give it a boost to make sure you get in contact with your family and friends. You’ll also want that text message with your finish time.
5. Look out for the course photographers.
Photographers are dotted all around the course to capture you looking your best (or maybe not). Make sure you keep a look out for them and pose, these are the photos you’ll want to keep. When you cross the line and get your medal, don’t forget to get that infamous picture with it – your family members will want this one framed.
6. You’ll hit a wall, and probably more than once (sorry).
Running the hottest marathon on record in London was not ideal for my first, especially because the training conditions in rainy Manchester did not prepare me for it, at all. Conditions in mind then, I hit the wall at about 12 miles and felt like I never got back from it. At times I felt like I couldn’t go on, the enormity of it stood before me, my legs were hurting and I was very tired – but in these circumstances you can go on (and expect other runners to help you too). All you need to do is think of all the long runs you did in preparation, everything you have learnt about your abilities and most importantly, your reason to run.
7. This is the only time strangers will cheer your name and offer you free things, without it being strange.
There was not one part of the London Marathon that was quiet. The crowds came out in full force and I can’t thank them enough for that. They will help you more than you will know. People will cheer your name (so make sure you put it on your vest), and give you free things to help you on your way from energy boosting sweets, cups of water between stations, wet wipes and oranges, and maybe just a sweaty hug. On my travels I saw people from balconies with S-Club 7 blaring from speakers, a horse, priests, a marching band, and a guy singing a rendition of ‘If you are happy and you know it run a mile‘.
But most of all, nothing feels as good as coming up to your charity cheer point. If you are running for a charity they will probably have a cheer point or two along the course, and if you can’t remember the miles they are situated on it is always the best surprise. My family and friends were situated on miles 23 and 25 which kept me going. The best feeling was giving them a hug while they all cheered in my ears!
8. Enjoy the finish line, you’ve earned it!
You’re at Embankment, the end is so close. You turn the corner at Buckingham Palace and you see it there right in front of you – the finish! Make sure you enjoy it, scream and shout and lift your arms – this is your moment. If you aren’t running in a crowd and you can cross on your own then do it for that perfect finish photo.
9. Get a sports massage afterwards, your legs will thank you!
I was lucky enough to go to a charity after-party where I was given a free massage by some amazing volunteers. The difference this made was phenomenal and I felt instantly better. My legs were still aching the next day, but I imagine they would have been much worse without one. If this isn’t possible, make sure to get a deep sports massage a few days later, and try and brave an ice bath too.
10. A time doesn’t matter, you did it after all.
If you are aiming for a time, like I was, you might not always reach it. At first, I was upset that I didn’t achieve my predicted time, but I was battling against the weather and tried to put my well-being first. But aside from the heat, a time does not matter. You ran a marathon! If people ask you about your time, you might want to say, “yes, I had a great time thanks!”.
The London Marathon 2019 ballot closes on 4th May, are you feeling inspired to do it?