London Marathon 2016 Tips From People Who Have Actually Run It

Sign up, pick a marathon training plan, train (a lot), assemble sponsors, prepare mentally, eat pasta, run race, bask in the sense of achievement. That’s about it, isn’t it? Well, of course not. There’s a thousand and one little things you could do to prepare which you only learn on your first, second or 35th marathon. Or you can learn from the wisdom of others. Coach spoke with a wide range of runners to find out what they wish someone had told them before lacing up their shoes.

RECOMMENDED: 10 Last-Minute Tips for Acing the London Marathon

Pre-Race

Unlike MasterChef, the London Marathon is not the place to try something for the first time

Runners should not introduce new running gear – T-shirts, trainers etc – on the day. If you
haven’t done it before, don’t do it then. – Catherine Neilan, breaking news and communities editor at CITY AM

Organise your cheerleaders

I was very lucky and saw friends and family at eight different points throughout the course and it gave me a huge boost every time. If you are lucky enough to have lots of supporters, try to arrange it so that they are staggered throughout the course. That way you get the maximum number of boosts, and also you know where to look out for them. I actually ran past a few people who were screaming my name but I was oblivious because I wasn’t expecting them to be there. – Georgia Gannon, first (and probably last) marathon in 2015

Say goodbye to your toenails

If you are harbouring any desire to become a foot model or don’t want to be embarrassed by your feet when wearing flip-flops, I suggest you don’t become a marathon runner. Since my first London Marathon in 2005, I’ve lost nails on eight of my toes. – Tobias Mews, adventurer and Telegraph writer

Learn to love Lucozade

Lucozade is the London Marathon’s chosen product, so if you want to use its services make sure you have tested the products previously. – Runners Need

Lubrication is essential

Obviously can’t speak for the ladies, but blokes don’t want friction burn down there. Put Vaseline under the armpits and around the nipples, all over your testicles, behind them, possibly to the sides and also your penis itself. Otherwise it’s going to hurt, trust me. – Cake, runnersworld.co.uk

Women aren’t exempt

Vaseline: use it, lots of it. I basically lined my sports bra and feet in it, and I didn’t get a single blister. Taking my socks off at the end of the day was still terrifying though. I was convinced all my toenails were missing, but I was fine. Do invest in a good pedicure afterwards. No one wants an ingrown as a trophy. – Georgia Gannon

Take disposable rainwear

Buy a cheap pack-a-mac type thing from the pound shop just in case it is raining. Then just chuck it away when the race starts. – Millsy, runnersworld.co.uk

Tell your supporters to take the Tube

Your supporters can’t go far wrong with the Jubilee Line. Canada Water at nine miles, out to Canary Wharf at 19 (with a short walk to 15 beforehand if they want), then to Westminster at 25 and a short walk round to Horse Guards Parade to meet you afterwards. – Cheerful Dave, runnersworld.co.uk

Pre-empt your post-race rumblings

Book a table in advance for your dinner on Sunday. Eat when you want to, not when a restaurant can fit you in. – Mr Andy Yu, runnersworld.co.uk

Pack flip-flops for the finish

After running 26 miles your feet will have swelled and you will find it hard to walk as you may also have blisters. Flip-flops are perfect for giving your feet some air and allowing the swelling to come down. – Liz Yelling, Olympic marathon runner, London Evening Standard

Think about the consequences

Plan a day off work after the marathon. – Nik Brumsack, Independent

The First Few Miles

Slow down at the beginning…

The start of the London Marathon course is largely downhill, which is nice, but don’t be tempted to go off too fast as, trust me, you will pay for it later. – Abs Thakor, ran his first marathon in 2009, running addict ever since

…but don’t stare at the ground

People tend to look down at the ground when they’re running. That’s unhelpful in various ways – one is that we tend to internalise when we look down. We tend to talk to ourselves more, and feel more pain when we look down. Look up and, instead of staring at things, try to use your peripheral vision. When you use your peripheral vision you go into a kind of light trance, the zone state. The zone is a present state. Even with the very top runners, if they start thinking, “Oh my God! I’m going to win this,” it can have a detrimental effect on performance because then they aren’t in the present – it’s also much harder to feel stress in the zone. – Andy Barton, The Running Blog, The Guardian

Look where you’re going

Watch your feet at the start where it’s congested and they have speed bumps on the roads. Every year someone trips. – Cougie, runningmonkey.co.uk

Weaving will knacker you

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 halfway point, when you can pick people off as the course thins out. – Charlie Dark, Run Dem Crew

Don’t high-five the volunteers

St John Ambulance volunteers are not standing at the side with their hands out to high-five you, they are holding out Vaseline for chafing victims. I worked this out after high-fiving one. – Neil McSteen

Refuel before you need to

In my second marathon, I didn’t take on enough gels soon enough in the race. I started off well and delayed taking any gels, which were thinner than the ones I previously used. When I eventually took one I had about half then chucked it away. At the 18-mile point I started to feel it, badly. The lack of food/gels/carbs was hitting me and my eyes were starting to fall asleep. I knew my blood sugar level must have been low as I can’t actually remember finishing, after which I collapsed. – Pete Hodgson, toenails fell off two months after first marathon

Don’t expect a cultural delight

I find the first half of the course (bar the Cutty Sark) to be incredibly dull. I know the area between miles six to 12 particularly well, but it still doesn’t make it any more interesting. – River Runner

Mid-Race

Disappear into your own little world

I used to count to 100 three times in my head and I knew that was roughly a mile. That helped me break down the mile into smaller chunks so instead of thinking “I’ve got 12 miles left” you’re just counting “one, two, three…” and that’s all you’re thinking about. You will disappear into your own little world. – Paula Radcliffe, BBC

Take stock from Greenwich to Canary Wharf

This part is all about making sure you’re in shape to run those final six miles, keeping hydrated and conserving energy. A good test of your pace at this point is to try to hold conversations with the people around you. If you’re breathing too heavily to talk, you’re running too quickly. – Chris Finill, club runner

You’ll need to savour it

Don’t forget to take in the atmosphere of the race. Tower Bridge is awesome and breathtaking; it’s definitely one of the highlights of the race. – Richard Whitehead, Paralympic gold medallist

Embrace the crowd (and occasionally ignore them)

If you’re used to having your iPod, take it – you can always take out the headphones but it’s there if you want it or want a break from the crowds. But be prepared to be surrounded by huge crowds every inch of the way. I found it a little overwhelming and this year will have iPod and sunnies so I can withdraw from it a little if I feel the need. – Stilts, runnersworld.co.uk

Take a breather from the cheers under Blackfriars Bridge

There were so many people around. The only place where there were no people was on the Blackfriars Bridge underpass, which is really long. All you could hear was everybody’s footsteps and it had an echo to it. Then one person started to sing “We Are The Champions” and everybody joined in. Suddenly you couldn’t hear the footsteps any more. It really gave us a boost and it was an incredible experience. – Gabriela and Monica Irimia, aka The Cheeky Girls

You may not want it to end

The best part for me has to be coming up from the depths of Blackfriars Bridge and seeing the crowds along the Embankment. The noise lifts every little hair on the back of your neck, the anticipation of crossing the finishing line is real. At this point I reflected on the day, and of the years it’s taken me to be here. I slowed down a bit – I didn’t really want to get to the end. It was fun. – Laurie King, Run to Live blog

Relish the crowd on Embankment

Before the race my dad had said, “Kara, when you come under the bridge at Embankment you’ll get this roar, this cheer that makes you well up.” And my dad’s not usually like that, but he said it was so emotional that it carries you on into the last straight. When we went under there I had to do a loud roar myself as everyone had gone home! – Kara Tointon, actor

Devote the final push to your loved ones

Dedicate each of the last 10 miles to someone special – a loved one. Imagine getting to 22 miles. The next one is for your daughter. You’re not going to break down on her patch, are you? – Jack Wilson, Daily Star

The last few miles are agony

The exact point when you feel you can’t go on any more is when you come out of Canary Wharf and you’re going back towards Tower Bridge. You’ve already run past it once! Running up to Big Ben past Embankment was the worst part for me. The last few miles were just agony but I saw my family and got all emotional. – Kate Lawler, radio presenter

Wait till the end for a beer

Having stayed off the booze for three months during your training, all you can think about as you run is that refreshing taste of a pint of a lager. By the side of the course, smug and annoying blokes sitting outside pubs will offer you a drink. You’ll never be so tempted to take up an offer of a pint from someone you instinctively despise. – Tobias Mews

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Post-Race

The finish line can underwhelm

This is probably not what you want to hear at all, but crossing the finishing line, I just felt, well, nothing. I was disappointed with my time and my body for not being in one piece on the day and there was no one I knew near by to hug and say: “Hey look at me, I’m part of the marathon club!” It was the biggest anti-climax ever. – Katie Leach, Huffington Post blog

Pre-arrange a meeting point

When you finish it will be impossible to contact anyone in the area via mobile as the system is overloaded. – Fuelled by jelly babies, runnersworld.co.uk

Avoid stairs on your journey home

I got the bus home after my first marathon and made my worst mistake of the day when I plumped for an upstairs seat. Going back down the stairs backwards was the only option. – Pete Hodgson, can’t remember finishing second marathon

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