8 ways to ruin your marathon
With a lot of runners about to embark on the amazing London marathon this weekend, here are 8 common pitfalls to avoid that will mess up all those hard weeks of training and lead to an unhappy day rather than one of the best things you'll ever do.
1. Setting off to fast
It's the most common error by first time marathon runners (including me). It's so easy to do with the excitement, getting swept up with the runners around you and the fact that London starts on a downhill, but it can have dire consequences later in the race as you burn through your fuel too quickly. Even though it won't feel fast at the start it's a good idea to actively slow yourself down or keep a close eye on your pace those first few miles to make sure your pace is where it should be.
2. Trying something new
This goes for kit and nutrition. You shouldn't be wearing anything for the first time as you need to know it won't chafe/cause blisters over 26.2 miles. The same for nutrition, if you've trained without gels don't start using them just because they hand them out. You want to make sure your gels/sweets, breakfast and dinner you have are the same as what you've done for your long runs so you know your stomach can handle it.
3. Fail to prepare for all weathers
Layers are important to take to the start with you. It's looking like a hot one for the London marathon this year, but as you have to be at the start so early it can feel quite cold. Have options so you can change your mind just before you hand your bag over, including caps/sunglasses etc.
4. Not knowing your route/timings
You may not expect it to be busy on the trains/roads on marathon Sunday morning but remember there are 40000 runners and spectators trying to get into place. Make sure you've left yourself plenty of time to get to the right start (it's a fairly long uphill walk to the red start in Greenwich park) and you know the cut off times for the bag drop.
5. Not having a plan for your spectators
The best thing about the London marathon is the crowds, however when friends and family are trying to spot you this can be problematic for all involved. It can be quite upsetting when you miss someone so having a good idea of exactly where they'll be standing, or getting them to wear something that's easy to spot (my mum wears her trusty pink hat!) is a good idea.
Luckily the app is much better now so your fans should know when you are very close, but it's nice to have an idea of where to look out for them as it can get pretty loud!
The same goes for meeting people at the finish as the phone networks often get jammed. If you're doing it for charity then heading straight to the post race venue can be easier for spectators than trying to get to the meeting point.
6. Not having a contingency
Yes you've trained for months and you probably have a clear goal in mind of what you want to achieve. However, with things like the hot weather that's predicted you sometimes need to modify your goals slightly to account for the increased effort. Ideally having plan A, B and C can keep you mind strong and stop you from burning out too early on if it's not going to plan on the day.
7. Not enjoying the day
If things have not gone as well as you had planned for, or if they are going perfectly, remember to take stock of the event and the amazing achievement it is to take part. There is no greater feeling than having the support of so many people around you that you haven't even met, so make sure you take it in and use it to push you forwards.
8. Running sideways
As marathons go London is a busy one. Not just with runners and spectators but because the roads are relatively narrow so you can find yourself bunched up, particularly at the start. Try not to panic and start trying to squeeze past everyone as you'll be wasting precious fuel running sideways! It does eventually space out so take your time and wait for a gap to appear, it's a marathon not a sprint after all!
Remember any marathon is an amazing achievement and if you're getting ready to run one shortly you've already done all the hard work! The day itself is a celebration of all the training you've put in so don't make the mistakes above and make sure you enjoy the experience (at least in retrospect!).