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6 Tips For Surviving Your First London Marathon

Algy throws it down at Mile 17 of the London Marathon 2011:Flick by Tom Hull

As the crew heads towards race day I thought I’d drop a few gems for surviving your first London Marathon. At this time of year London’s traditional running routes are choked with runners with marathon eyes clocking up the big boy 18 mile and beyond runs. In my experience the marathon is a twenty mile run with a six mile race and if you don’t get the long runs in the legs then your body never adjusts to the extra effort required to get you through those last six miles when the engine is running out of juice. Skimp on the long runs and you are asking for trouble especially in the London Marathon where your brain knows the course and exactly how far you have left to reach the finish line.

1. Run The Roads
Where possible especially if you live in London make sure you run the last 13 miles of the course if anything to familiarise yourself with the route. The London Marathon plays a nasty trick on you at the half way point when it takes you over Tower Bridge and flings you Eastwards towards Wapping and Canary Wharf instead of West towards the Embankment which your body naturally wants to do. As you turn right off the bridge you’ll see the Elite runners coming the opposite way and the look of terror in the eyes is enough to crush the concentration of a marathon virgin and send your race plan up in flames. If you practice your finish on the course you will be more than ready for the last six miles when you need to be brave.


2. Water Stations
The water stations in any marathon have the potential to be traumatic experiences that cause many a runner to skip them as the race progresses. On a cool Autumn race that may not be so bad but skimp on water at London and you risk cramping up big time in the last 6 miles when you need your legs most. The problem with London is it’s place in the calendar which often results in a warm race day. However most people start training for London in the Winter months when the weather is cooler so a warm race day can totally throw your body for six if unprepared. Take in water and walk through the water stations if you have too, the time you loose will be gained in the final 6 miles when you need it most.

3. Do Not Weave
The London Marathon is a congested course for the less speedy runner and much of your energy can be needlessly burnt weaving around people in the first half of the race. My advice is to sit back and relax and wait for the half way point when you can pick people off as the course thins out. Enjoy the crowds and let your race begin from mile 13.

4. Gun Finger At Mile 18
At the London Marathon last year I ran most of the race in the shadow of Caroline who dropped me at mile 18 after waving a gun finger in the air and turning on the nitro. As her yellow shorts disappeared into the distance the gun finger at mile 18 was cemented in RDC history. In other words, get to mile 18 with a smile on your face and the last 10 is plain sailing. Wave that gun finger in the air so we know you are ok and let the crowd boost you with it’s cheers.

5. Stake Your Ground
It’s your first marathon so never forget that whatever time you run will be a PB, a stake to be placed in the ground and bettered at the next attempt and believe me there will be more. Rather than concentrating on one do or die marathon time pick a gold, silver and bronze to aim for. This takes the pressure off the mind if things don’t go to plan often gets better results than gunning for one objective.

6. Enjoy The Moment
The London Marathon is the only event in London where strangers come together to will other strangers to succeed. It’s a cross section of people from across London of all races, classes and religions coming together for a common cause. To run the London Marathon in an Olympic year is a once in a lifetime experience. Savour every step and run with a smile on your face. You’ve done the training and banked the miles and with a strong mind and a healthy dose of willpower you will get to the finish line in one piece.

The marathon is a great metaphor for life and like life can not be blagged. Under prepare and the road will  be quick to to tell you about yourself when you need it to be quiet. At times like this it’s good to remember how far you have come from your very first run, the days when you couldn’t even run half a mile without stopping are long behind you and here you are about to run 26.2 miles. Don’t think about the distance but instead concentrate on the achievement, take your mind back to the elation you cherished when you ran your first 10k and you sat on your sofa with that smug smile on your face. Imagine how  much of a badass super hero you are going to feel after running 26.2.

That’s about if from me for now. catch you at the finish line.

Charlie Dark





Notes

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