ON Sunday April 22nd over 40,000 people will run the Virgin Money London Marathon. Many of the nervous runners will be covering the iconic 26.2 mile distance for the very first time. This will be my ninth consecutive race and I’m still learning how to perfect the distance. Here’s my essential top 10 tips for race day.

1) Make a list and check it twice:
The last thing you need is to waste energy before the race stressing over kit, travel, or preparation. Make sure you have everything laid out, ticked off and know exactly what you are doing before you go to bed the night before.

2) Carb load but don’t overload:
People know to carb-load but don’t necessarily know how to do it to get the best results. For the three days leading up to race day concentrate on eating carbohydrate-rich foods, such as wholemeal pasta, bread, potatoes, fruit, fruit juice and sports drinks. Do not make the common mistake of gorging on a huge pasta meal the night before. The last thing you need race day is to feel full and bloated.

3) Dress the part:
Make sure all your kit has been tried and tested on your long training runs. You may look the part turning up on race day in all brand new kit but you won’t looks so good when you’re hobbling around in blisters or in pain from chaffing. Wear something old and warm you can throw away at the start line. And whatever you do, make sure to get your name printed on your running top. I can’t emphasise how much of a boost you will get from people calling out your name throughout the run.

4) Start slow:
Run the first two to three miles 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. This preserves precious glycogen stores for later in the race so you can finish strong. The most common marathon mistake is to get carried away at the start and set off too quickly. I will be running my ninth marathon and still struggle with this rule. You are motivated, your adrenaline is pumping and everyone around you thinks they are running the 800m Olympic final.

Keep telling yourself it is a marathon and not a sprint.

5) Drink at every station:
You should be sufficiently hydrated by increasing fluid intake in the lead-up. But even if it’s not hot and you don’t feel thirsty I would still take on some fluids at each station. Even if it is just a sip or mouthful. Little and often throughout is better than needing to gulp towards the end. Check what sports drinks are available race day and train with those beforehand too. Water is essential but remember sports drinks also provide carbohydrates and electrolytes as well as fluid. Gels are also great but again make sure you’ve tested them previously on runs.

6) Be flexible:
It’s important to have an idea of split and finish times but remember it is impossible to run 26.2 miles exactly to plan – even for pro’s like Mo Farah. There’s so many variables to consider including race day conditions, weather and your own body. Have a plan but be prepared to be flexible and change it numerous times before the end. Always try to keep your body and legs moving though. Even if it is to a walk. Try not to keep stopping and starting.

7) Remember why you are running:
Let me warn you now. There will be times in the race when you will want to stop. You will be physically and mentally exhausted and your mind will play tricks and tell you you can’t do it. Let me also tell you, you can!! When you’re struggling remember why you are running. Is it in memory of a loved one? To raise money for charity? To prove something to yourself? Whatever it is, draw on it and let it give you strength. Mind over matter is not a myth. Refuse to quit and you wont.

8) Do you:
While these top ten tips are tried and tested you still have to do you! What I mean by that is do what works best for you. Some people prefer running to music, some people prefer the cheers from the crowd. Some people like to check their split times in KM, others in miles and some not at all. Whether it’s running in leggings, shorts, gloves, with a friend, on your own. Do you!

9) Save something for the final five:
In my mind the marathon doesn’t really start until you are at least halfway around the course. If you have a target time don’t go under that too early even if you do feel strong and confident. If you still feel strong with five miles to go then speed up slightly but try wait until the final five km before really putting your foot down. Saving something for the final five means you end the race overtaking all the people who set off too fast, which is amazing for the moral.

10) Celebrate and be proud:
You’ve now finished so soak up the praise and celebrate. Whether that’s treating yourself to a massage, bath and early night or heading straight to the pub for a boozy session. You deserve it so treat yourself to whatever you want. And regardless of whether you ran your target time be proud of what you have just achieved.

By James Ingham

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