The TCS London Marathon is one of the most iconic events in the international running calendar, and an integral part of British sporting culture. Our amazing city of London proudly hosts one of the best 26.2 mile (42.2km) routes in the world, and the most notorious of the six Abbot Majors (the other five being Chicago, Boston, Berlin, New York and Tokyo). Alongside the spectacular route, London is most famous for its unrivaled atmosphere, as tens of thousands of supporters line the streets to cheer on the 40,000 brave runners who sign up to this challenge every year. And I imagine, as the 2023 event moves back to its traditional April spot, that may include some of you!
I wanted to share my top five training tips to help you best prepare over the coming weeks, and on the day itself. I took on the London Marathon for the first time in October, 2022, achieving a very respectable personal best time of 2 hours and 40 minutes. But despite this achievement, the highlight of the day was by far and large the process of preparing for the day, the excitement of the day itself, sharing this experience with other runners and the incredible support on the course.
1. Prioritize your long runs
If you haven’t started already, the first thing that should be on all of your weekend to-do lists over the next 7 weeks should be a long run. Whether you’re training for a specific time, or completing the marathon for the first time, inevitably the dreaded ‘wall’ will come on race day, so incrementally building up your training volume through a weekly long run will give your body the best chance to adapt and cope with the marathon distance on the day.
2. Practice your fueling
As well as helping us to build marathon fitness, our long runs provide us with an opportunity each week to practice when to take on fuel during the race, and what we should be taking. When you should take on fuel depends on your pace, but roughly after your first 40 minutes, and then every 40 minutes following that is a good rule of thumb to practice. What we consume for energy will vary from person to person, which is why long runs are important to practice what works for you and your stomach whilst on the run. It’s always good to have a mix of solids and liquids. Good things to try include energy drinks (Lucozade, Powerade, Gatorade) energy gels (i.e. Science in Sport, Maurten), diced dates, jelly babies, fruit pastels, Haribo, energy bars or half a banana.
3. Including at least one speed session per week
Including speed sessions into our training helps our body to build running strength, and also helps with our general recovery. It also makes running at our target marathon pace feel a bit more bearable. Speed sessions can include interval sessions, where we run faster and harder with static recoveries, or tempo sessions where we switch between paces but are constantly moving. If you’re based in London, our weekly Track Tuesday sessions are the perfect way to add some speed into your training!
Otherwise, you can give either of the below a try if you need to add speed to your training.
Interval session = 10 x 400m with 60 seconds rest between each set.
Tempo session = 10 x 2 minute harder effort with 1 minute jog recovery.
4. Don’t go out too fast
The London course starts in Blackheath, and winds its way downhill for the first 6 to 7k into Greenwich and through Rotherhithe towards Tower Bridge. This can make it seem like we’re having a deceptively strong race which may force us to get carried away, when in reality the course topography helps us to a fast start. The second half of the race through Canary Wharf is where it gets tough, so practicing controlling your running early on in your sessions will help you to control your pace in the race. You are likely to lose GPS signal in Canary Wharf, so ignoring your watch and having your split times written on your hand can help to keep you on track.
5. Don’t try anything new on race day!
This is probably my most important rule. Your training block before the marathon is where we should be trying everything we need to give us less chance of anything going wrong on the day. This counts for everything, including your race day breakfast, meal the night before, gels/foods, hydration, running shoes, running kit, headphones vs no headphones, sleep routine, caffeine intake etc. Practicing all of this throughout your block to find the combination of all the above that works for you will make you feel the most comfortable and confident on race day.
All of the points above can be applied to any marathon, even point four. The most important thing for any runner is to enjoy the experience, and soak up all of the amazing support and atmosphere. It is truly a magical thing for any person to complete a marathon, and having done many half and full marathons in cities including Barcelona, Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool, Newcastle and Rome, the London Marathon is a very special day.
If you have an upcoming marathon, are looking to try and get into running, need some tips on your training, or motivation to get one of your weekly runs clocked up, then come along to the one of our Best Athletics morning (7:00am) or evening (6:30pm) sessions every Tuesday in Battersea Park.
I look forward to seeing you there!
For more information, on training or coaching with Best Athletics, head over to our website to find out about our session schedules, monthly membership and coaching options.