7 things you should know before running the London Marathon
It still blows my mind that I ran a marathon.
In fact I have run 6…but London is special, so special I have run it 3 times.
And so as this years race approaches, I thought I would take some time to think about what I would have liked to have known with a week to go.
“If London get the Games, I will run the marathon in 2012”
That’s what I said to my work colleagues as we stood waiting to see if London would in fact be awarded the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games…this was back in July 2005…and my colleagues laughed.
Back then I was in my mid twenties, was overweight and known best for my weekend antics of partying.
I didn’t do sport.
Which was ironic seeing as my job at the time was as Volunteer Coordinator responsible for inspiring thousands of local people to want to get involved in sport.
But when London was awarded the games…I thought it would be a good challenge, and maybe just maybe, having a BIG goal like running a marathon would finally help me to shift some weight and take my health more seriously.
In 2010 I set up this blog to help me share the ups and downs of being a plus size runner. It was totally anonymous, but still had a few thousand followers, and as my training ramped up to race day the pressure was immense.
That 1st marathon changed EVERYTHING…and here are 7 things I wish I had known before getting to the start line.
Number 1 – They hurt
Running your first marathon is like having your first baby, you never know how much it’s going to hurt.
It doesn’t matter how much training you do, running 26.2 miles hurts. When and where it hurts will be different for everyone, but it hurts. For me pain tends to hit around the 18 mile mark and it starts with hip tightness, in 2016 when I ran it for the 3rd time it was blisters…two killer blisters which burst at around mile 22.
Number 2 – You never feel ready
We can always do more training, we could always have eaten better, or got more massages, but most of the time you are ready. London Marathon number twos training was impacted by me falling backwards down a flight of stairs on a night bus…cue 3 weeks of no training and a nasty concussion….but I had to trust that I had done enough in training.
Number 3 – You are already AMAZING
Even signing up for a marathon is an incredible feat, and to get into London, one of the most difficult is a win in and of itself. When you line up on the start line you are already a champion, all that training , all that prep, all that sacrifice…so give yourself credit for that.
Number 4 – Nothing prepares you for the chaos at the startline.
It has been different for me each time, and despite the start areas being well organised, you will possibly be a bit of a wreck. To wee or not to wee. Will you be in the right pen with the right people. Will you be able to get into your stride fast enough? The worry about what will happen over the next few (or many for some of us) hours. I think somehow we can take on the collective nerves of EVERYONE too unless we are careful. So just prepare yourself for it being a bit weird.
Number 5 – The people you meet and see on route will make such a difference to your experience.
People always talk about the crowds, and they are epic, but actually for me it is the individuals. The other runners you get chatting to, the spectators that go the extra mile, the volunteers, and anyone you have on route that is there just for you….there is nothing like a hug from a loved one or even someone you know who you haven’t seen for a while.
Number 6 – Your loved ones may be as nervous and/or stressed as you
Try and be as specific as possible as to what you need from them. Research the route for good sports to be seen. The major landmarks are almost impossible. I ran past my whole family the 1st time round, because they hadn’t communicated where they would be. the 2nd and 3rd time was better. Oh and make a plan for the finish line, don’t reply on being able to phone anyone.
Number 7 – Take it all in
Seriously…take photos, notice the details. Try to remember the sounds, the smells, the feelings, the funny things that happen…because there really is nothing like it.
And write a post race review…make it detailed and specific to you, because the people around you will want to hear all about it, and you will want to remember it back in years to come.
Look, I know there are other marathons. But London really is special…maybe even more so after the pandemic, now the world is getting back to some kind of normal.
I have specifically not given any additional advice for if you are a slower of larger runner.
You will come across all sorts at the London Marathon, and the way runners are treated at the back of the race has really been looked at the last few years.
Just know this…you are a proper runner, you deserve your place, and you get to run your own race on your terms.
Two specific race day tactics which I write about in my book The Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running include…
The 60 second rule…if you do need to walk at anypoint, try and count yourself down and get back at it in 60 seconds.
You may well be using a run walk strategy anyway…but I find having the structure of 60 seconds keeps me moving.
And then I like The 100 Game.
When you get to the last few miles of the marathon it may feel like torture. My London Marathons have ranged from 5.50 for my first to 7.10 for my 3rd…and the difference between those times in terms of spectators on the course and my motivation to keep going is immense.
The 100 game is simple…you just count people you overtake and subtract those who overtake you…this really helped me move through the final few miles….and keep my mind on something else.
Good luck, one and all.
If you are running the event, keep an eye out for the TFTR crew just before the Mile 10 marker…hugs will be available.
If you’d like to come down and join our cheer station, then drop an email to email@example.com and I will send you specifics.
You’ve got this!!!!
I wrote the first version of The Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running in 2017 at which point I had run 3 marathons. (this is the one that has almost 300 reviews)
I recently updated the book (check it out here) to reflect on the impact of Covid on the sport of marathon running for larger women, and to include the further 3 marathons I ran since then, including the epic one in Sierra Leone. (I also addressed some of the spelling errors that slipped through in the first one lol)
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