The London Marathon is here, and whether it’s the pros or public participants taking part, they will have all spent multiple months training up for the big day.
To help ease any pre-marathon nerves and give advice on the most essential race-day prep for runners of all experience levels to keep in mind, Ian Scarrott, a running coach and personal trainer at PureGym Loughborough has compiled the following tried and tested tips.
Stick to what you know when it comes to food and drink
Everybody is different, so what works for you nutrition-wise might not work for someone else, making it really important to stick to the types of food and the levels of fluid intake that you know work for you. You might see a pre-marathon food type or drink recommended online, but now is not the time to take chances and potentially upset your stomach. By now, you’ll know what you can and can’t eat, so don’t change it.
What you do need to change however is your carb intake, as in the 48 hours leading up to the marathon, you will want to slightly increase this to give your body more fuel.
You will also need to be prepared to allow some movement for change when it comes to your strategy for fluid intake during the marathon. The weather can affect things, and it could be hotter than you have trained for, or the rain is making you feel weary. Don’t be afraid to take on more water (whilst not overhydrating), energy drinks or gels if you need to, as you have to allow yourself to be flexible during the run.
A marathon packing list
The marathon is a big day for everyone, and if you’re travelling to the event like many are, you don’t want to forget anything essential. With that in mind, it can really pay to prep a number of days before the actual event.
For example, with a marathon on Sunday, I would recommend laying out everything you need for the big day on either Tuesday or Wednesday the week before. This will allow you to spot anything you need to wash, or buy. Checklists differ but I would recommend:
- Your running vest/top
- Running shoes
- Vaseline to reduce chaffing (rub on underarms, nipples, crotch and between toes/on bottoms of feet to reduce soreness)
- Any running pack/belt you might have for your water/gels etc.
- Any accessories such as your running watch, sunglasses, cap etc.
Once everything is laid out and ready, I tend to pack everything in a separate bag, to place within my main bag – so everything is in one place and ready the morning of. I would also recommend packing a kit bag with a treat drink and piece of food that you feel you will be able to stomach, to give to whoever will be meeting you at the end of the marathon/to the race attendees, alongside a warm change of clothes and a towel.
Dealing with ‘mara-noia’
It’s entirely normal in the final days leading up to a marathon to begin to feel nervous and question yourself. You can begin to notice every cough, sniffle or ache and wonder if you’re fit enough to do it. Most likely you are, and it can often be a case of training yourself to recognise those thoughts, and deal with them properly.
For many, this comes in the form of scenario planning, and running through every eventuality mentally. What might happen, and how can you deal with it? What if your train is delayed, or if you wake up on the day and your stomach doesn’t feel quite right? Playing through these scenarios in your head beforehand can help to change the ‘why is this happening to me’ moments, to calmly working out ‘how can I solve this’.
Using the likes of box-breathing or apps such as Headspace can also help to eliminate these pre-race nerves.
Have a marathon mantra
Following on from dealing with ‘mara-noia’, I have also found it helpful personally to have some sort of mantra you can tell yourself, or think of during the marathon. For me, this is a mental image from mile 20 of my first ever London Marathon. I remember the crowds cheering and a huge rush of adrenaline, which spurred me on to run my fastest 10k of the entire marathon. Remembering this helps to spur me on whenever a run gets tough now.
This will be different for anyone, but think of a moment, or even some words that could help during the times where you might need to dig deep.
Relax and enjoy it
While it could feel that there is a lot riding on Sunday, the main thing I would want any runner to do is to relax and enjoy the moment. It is just a race at the end of the day, and by now you have trained for it and are ready to go the distance.
So on the day, just make sure to take it all in and soak up the fact that you are running in the biggest marathon in the world, and will have 26.2 miles of an amazing atmosphere of people from all walks of life coming together to cheer you on. There’s nothing else like it, so make sure you take it in.
Ian Scarrott is a L3 Personal Trainer and Running Coach at PureGym, and has been a club level runner for 20 years. Having represented his age group for Team GB in 2016 and come back from a triple ankle break in 2018, Ian is an expert in overcoming adversity and getting the best results.