A Runners View of 26.2 Miles

Yesterday (21 April 2013) I ran the London Marathon. The day surpassed all my expectations: the organisation, support, route and even the weather were perfect. Rather than blog about my day in general, I have distilled what I learnt from the experience so that those wishing to partake in future may benefit.

Apparel 

  • Get the right gear. Do not choose trainers based on looks, but have your gait analysed, and make your choice thereon.
  • Understand what type of trainer you need – do you require extra cushioning, or would you rather have a quicker, lighter shoe?
  • Understand the function of compression clothing, capris, ankle socks, kinesthetic tape and which of these (if any) are right for you.
  • Invest in a running jacket for the winter months.
  • Use anti-blister socks.
  • Do not run in a cotton t shirt.
  • Use Vaseline.

Training 

  • This is largely down to one’s ambitions – is the aim to simply ‘get round’ or run sub 3 hours?
  • I would suggest for the novice, a worthy aim is to attempt to run the entire distance.
  • This will require careful pacing, so as not to run out of steam before the finish.
  • Use a Garmin to gage your required pace. As a general rule of thumb – expect to finish the marathon in double your half marathon time, plus 15-20mins.
  • Increase your mileage slowly. This becomes particularly important after 13/14 miles.
  • Irrespective of mileage, I would suggest capping your longest run at 3.5 / 4 hours. Past this point the incremental benefit is much less given the heightened risk of injury.
  • If you cannot comfortably run 15 miles 4 weeks prior to the marathon, you are unlikely to enjoy the day / complete it successfully.
  • If you live in NW London, complete the Finchley 20. This is a 20mile flat lapped road race that is ideal preparation and takes place approximately 1 month before the marathon. Use this as your longest practise run and taper thereafter. Do not get discouraged as the standard in this race is somewhat elite; take heart from the fact that you have completed 20miles.
  • Heavy bodybuilding and long distance running are not compatible activities. Do both at your peril.

Fund-raising 

  • If this is your first marathon, I would strongly advise running for a charity. Not only does this make it easier to secure a place, your sense of eventual accomplishment will be all the greater. To be part of the largest fundraising event in the world is an unforgettable experience.
  • There are a plethora of fundraising tips out there – my one piece of advice would be to avoid mass emails and spread the word in person, in the ordinary course of conversation. You will appear all the more genuine, and will endear people to your cause. They will voluntarily donate rather than being asked to.

Nutrition (the basics). 

  • The 3 macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats should form the basis of your diet. Carbs are most important for the long distance runner: in short it provides you with the ‘energy’ needed to run.
  • Gradually start increasing your uptake of carbs and ‘Carbo-load’ in the few days prior to the run. This does not necessarily mean eating more – but you should aim to increase the percentage of your carb intake.
  • You may well feel a little sluggish and heavy footed – don’t worry – this is simply your muscles becoming saturated with glycogen and will be utilised come race day. Any increase in weight will be temporary.

Injuries 

If you do get injured, do not waste time despairing / praying the injury will go away / diagnosing yourself. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible. This becomes particularly important given injuries closer to race day. Seeing a doctor early could mean the difference between completing and not making it to the start line.

The Marathon 

  • Sleep well the penultimate night before the race as you will be too nervous the night before.
  • Arrive 1hour before the start of the race – you will need this time to walk to the race, drop of your bag, go to the toilet.
  • Stretch. Do not ‘bounce’ whilst stretching as this increases the risk of tears.
  • Start slow so that you can finish strong.

Support

It is a great boost to have friends/family supporting you on the big day.

Suggested support intervals:

  • Mile 6 (Cutty Sark) – runners are fresh faced, and supporters are on one side of the road making it easy to spot runners.
  • Mile 18/19 (Canary Wharf) – a good support point, just when runners are starting to fatigue.
  • Finish (Pall Mall) – great motivation to have your friends/family waiting for you near the finish.

VLM have an app whereby one can track the runner as they come round, making it even easier to spot them.

Final words

Enjoy the day. The pain may well last a few days, but you shall remain a champion forever.

Courtesy of Rajiv Mehta (@mehtaphysical)

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