Help! I'm Running the London Marathon for the first time this Sunday, What Else Can I Do To Prepare? April 11 2014, 0 Comments

Tips and tricks for first time marathon runners; what to eat, what will help you sail through that ‘killer mile’, and what you can't afford to do without…

So you’ve been training hard all the way through the dark, cold…and very wet winter. The end is almost in sight, but what are the final preparations you can do to make sure you make it to the pub on Sunday afternoon with a beaming smile and gleaming medal around your neck?

You probably have one well thumbed issue of Runner’s World (that you bought back in October when you got your place!). You downloaded the training app, you’ve kept to your training plan (well, kind of), hell, you’ve even given up drinking these past few weeks, but what else can you do to ensure you cross that finishing line?

Here are some tips ‘n tricks from some of our nearest and dearest marathon runners that have been there, seen it, done it.

Now, run Forest, run!


Thank you to our marathon marvel contributors; 

Liz Reynolds, ran 2013 (4h15min), Emma Cranston, ran 2008 & 2010 (3h52min & 3h14min), Philip Lawrence ran, 2006 (4hr58min), Jenny King, ran 2010 (4hr55min), Gemma Lovesay, ran 2011 (4hr44min) and Emma Bullock ran, 2009 (3hr51min).



Liz Reynolds | London Marathon Year: 2013 | Age: 30 | Time: 4.15

What was your 'last supper' the night before the race? I ate as much as I could fit in my stomach! Chicken, brown rice and vegetables, a meal replacement drink (for extra calories) and brown toast with boiled eggs. I tried to keep it as healthy as possible and not eat anything new that I hadn't tried ahead of training runs.

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? I woke up around 6am in order to get a good breakfast to sustain me, despite nerves, I managed a boiled eggs on brown toast, a bowl of porridge and a meal replacement drink.

What did you eat/drink on the way round? Before the race I sipped on a Lucozade and for the extra glucose boost during the race I ate Jelly Belly Sports Beans which I find much easier and tastier than gels.

Music or no music? I ran the entire race without music. The crowd truly carry you; to have complete strangers willing you to succeed was enough. I was astounded by the support, it would of been a shame to not get the full experience.

What was the one thing you couldn't have done without during the race? VASELINE!! I think at approximately mile 16/17 my arms were rubbing on my vest as it was such a hot day and it was totally new to me. Thankfully St Johns Ambulance were there standing with huge handfuls for you to grab.

What are your 'must do' tips and tricks for people running for the first time this year?

"My best advice is EAT! Calories equal energy, regardless of whether you can stomach it or not, you will thank yourself when your leaping like a Gazelle at mile 21."

It hurts and it is a roller-coaster of emotion but you are mostly battling with your mind on the day, your body is totally capable- keeping pushing! You have done the hard part so just relax, enjoy and soak up the glory!

Where would you say is the best spot to watch the marathon from? I think if you are there to support someone then between Isle of dogs (18 miles) and Royal Mint is the best place. It's when you start to struggle as a runner and as a supporter there is decent space to receive a sweaty hug and wipe a few tears.

Where did you head to celebrate after the race? My first drink I was double parked with a large Gin and Tonic (slimline- obvs) and a Prosecco. I drank in The Scolt Head surrounded my best friends!




Emma Cranston | London Marathon Year: 2008 and 2010 | Age: 27 & 29 | Time: 3.52 & 3.14!

What was your 'last supper' the night before the race? Pasta!!! with chicken and veg! Ideally it would’ve been with a tomato based sauce but from memory I was losing the will to live so had a spinach and ricotta…cheese is probably not the best idea!

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? A multi-seed bagel with a bit of butter.

What did you eat/drink on the way round? Pre-race I had a banana, Lucozade and two Ibuprofen! During the race I had three strawberry flavoured Torq gels, the supplied Lucozade drinks, plenty of water.

What track got you through that 'killer mile'? Superstylin by Groove Armada!

Where would you say is the best spot to watch the marathon from? A couple of points, it's killer around Canary Wharf way, which I think is mile 17-18 and then at mile 23. It's good to see the crowds but you just want to finish, gotta dig deep though, you won't remember the pain when you finish!

What were your race highlights? The buzz, the crowds who come out and see you, even in the rain (fingers crossed no rain this Sunday), the amazing sights of London, knowing how much effort you have put into this race and knowing the 30k people running along side you have also put as much effort into it...all for this one day!

"There are so many reasons why people do the marathon, when you are running it you see that! A quick chat or knowing look with another runner, something silly or funny can really spur you on a little're in it TOGETHER!"

Definitely get your name on your running top, it's cheesy but does pull you through when people are shouting your name! Take all the free jelly sweets and high five the kids (the ones with clean hands!)

Any other little nuggets of advice for people running this year? Make sure people get there in plenty of time to put bags away, stretch and to try and do a final toilet trip. Don’t panic if it doesn't come, your body will have other things to worry about when running!

Get your head in right space just before run, I like to be on my own.

"Plan your route! Know where your friends and family are going to be standing and give them a heads up before on your number, your estimated time and your starting pen."

(If you’re in pen 9 then it can take up to about 10-15 mins to cross the start line). Plan the mile marker and which side of the road they are going to stand on as you don't want to be looking left and right the whole time! This way they are looking out for you at the right time and you know where they are going to be.

Also plan at what water stations you are going to take your gels, it's all about small goals! For example, when I get to mile 9 I will take a gel, this will get me to mile 9 and will feel spurred on for a little after.

"The night before, try to relax, stretch and take your mind off it. But if you can't sleep with nerves then don't panic, you are still in bed relaxing so you will be still on fighting form the next day"

Where was it that you really 'needed' the crowd? It's good to see people around the Docklands as it can be quite quiet there. As a spectator I quite like mile 23 to give that motivational push

What was your first 'drink-drink' after the marathon and where was it? Prosecco!!!! You need to make sure you plan a good after party venue, everywhere close will be super busy. A few of us hired an area at a venue called Caminos in Kings Cross which is away from the marathon route but has great connections so easy to get to (nice court yard). Make sure you reserve, as most places are busy on marathon day.




Philip Lawrence | London Marathon Year: 2006 | Age: 25 | Time: 4.58

What was your 'last supper' the night before the race? I ate wheat pasta, chicken and tomato sauce and two bananas. Then I went out for dinner with friends, I hadn’t planned on eating with them but thought I could use the energy, so had a steak.

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? Two pieces of brown toast and strawberry jam, two bananas

What did you eat/drink on the way round? Hadn’t actually planned on eating anything so I was very grateful for the sweets and oranges people handed out on the way.

Music or no music? I wanted to be able to hear people on the way round, to be honest this encouragement was better than music. I was wearing a banana outfit and people kept on shouting ‘Come on bananaman!’ all the way round. It was actually really motivating to hear people cheer you on so enthusiastically.

Though they played Spencer Davis Group keep on running in one of the pubs just after the start. That gave me an extra kick for a while.

Mile 18. I had such bad cramps I couldn’t bend my knees fully. I remember stretching up against a wall next to a lady who had the same problem, we were laughing at each other through the tears. I hobbled through that mile, then had to stop again underneath a tunnel near embankment. I leant against the wall because of all the exhaust fumes ended up smearing dirt all over my face, which added to the dishevelled look. It’s so hard because at 18 you think ‘I still have 8 miles to go’ and you feel like you can hardly go any further.

What moments stood out for you across the 26 miles? Going over Tower Bridge with thousands of people cheering you on. That was the first time I had been over Tower Bridge.

People cheering ‘Come on Bananaman!’ Running behind a guy wearing just a thong, bow tie and cufflinks. Running with a Liverpool fan who sang ‘We won it 5 times, in Istanbul’ for about 3 miles.The generosity of people handing out fruit, sweets, Vaseline etc. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. Being in a banana outfit and being chased by a guy in a gorilla outfit near the start.

"Running past mile 25 with all my friends on a bridge overhead cheering me on. I got a text from my friend Emma which said ‘I was wet and cold and seriously considering leaving as we had been waiting hours, but I am so glad we stayed because seeing you still running at mile 25 was an amazing moment and we’re very proud of you!’. I’m welling up now!"

What advice would you give for people running for the first time this year? Make sure you take Vaseline and apply it before running – I had to wait until mile 6 and my thighs were red raw by this point.

"Don’t panic! You can walk if you want, just as long as you finish! Savour the atmosphere and enjoy it, it’s an amazing experience."

It sounds obvious but pace yourself. If you go out too hard you’ll have nothing left by the end. You’re going to struggle but need to keep as much as you can in reserve.

What's your recommended top spot for people to go along and watch the marathon? There is a bridge near Embankment Station, it’s really close to the end so you can see people in absolute agony and you can see all the way down embankment.

What did you do after the race? Had a pint of lager in a Wetherspoons in Westminster, to be honest I could only handle one, then went back and collapsed in the bath!



Jenny King | London Marathon Year: 2010 | Age: 28 | Time: 4.55

What was your 'last supper' the night before the race? A big bowl of fresh stuffed pasta with a side of broccoli.

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? A bowl of Shreddies and a cup of tea, I am a creature of habit and didn’t want to do anything different on the day!

What did you eat/drink on the way round? I didn’t train with gels so I didn’t dare use them on the day, I alternated between Lucozade Sport and water.

What was the one track that got you through the 'killer mile'? ‘About You Now’ by the Sugababes, don’t judge me, I don’t know why but I love it and it’s been on my running playlist for years!

I didn’t have one killer mile, I had two! Miles 21 and 24.

What 'kept you going' on the day? The spectators were amazing - when I hit the wall and I found myself slowing down and starting to walk it was the spectators shouting “Jen, come on you can do it” that spurred me to start running again. Also, having friends and family dotted around the course was amazing too as they give you such a boost when you see them, and it gives you something to focus on when you know you’re coming up to the mile where you should see them.

"The fancy dress was cracking me up – a personal highlight/lowlight was being overtaken by a man running with a fridge on his back and overtaking Princess Beatrice as part of Team Caterpillar."

What advice would you give for people running for the first time this year?

"Only put one of your earphones in as you will want to hear the crowd support as you go around and make sure you put your name on your top."

Where would you say is the best place to watch the marathon from and why? Anywhere near a pub!

What was your first drink-drink after the marathon and where was it? A pint at Henry’s in Covent Garden.



Gemma Lovesay | London Marathon Year: 2011 | Age: 29 | Time: 4.44

What was your 'last supper' the night before the race? Pasta, lots of pasta!

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? Porridge. But not too much, you don’t want to get a stitch… then a banana about 30 minutes before the start

What did you eat/drink on the way round? 5 energy gels. They save you! The Torq ones are the best. I drank cherry Lucozade, which the organisers hand out.

What was the track that got you through that 'killer mile'? ‘Do Your Thing’ – Basement Jaxx. Mile 21 was the killer. Concentrating on music was a good distraction from here!

What really stood out for you during the day? The spectators make the day. The shouting of your name, the random bands that play at different points, and the ultimate encouragement from everyone you see! Always good to run with other people, there were 4 of us that ran together until the 16th mile, which made it more fun.

What advice would you give for people running for the first time this year?Definitely use running gels. Use them to train with. Take your first one about 20-30 mins into the race, before you’re even really tired, as they top up your energy levels before you let them get too low.

"Stick to a training plan. Most importantly, don’t run too fast at the beginning, pace yourself. Because there’s a reason everyone else around you is running relatively slowly at first, and I didn’t realise this!"

Where would you say is the best spot to watch the marathon from and why?  I think something like the 11 and 21 mile points as they’re really close to each other so you can get to both of the points. Between mile 21-26, spectators are needed the most!

What was your first 'drink-drink' after the marathon and where was it? A vodka and diet coke! I went to the Old Queen’s Head and met all my friends and family.



Emma Bullock | London Marathon Year: 2009 | Age: 28 | Time: 3.51

What was your breakfast on the Sunday morning? Porridge, raisins, honey and a banana.

What did you eat/drink on the way round? I drank Lucozade sport and water. I also had a Torq gel.

"I would just stick to what you have taken on your practise runs as you wouldn't want anything upsetting your stomach on the day."

Music or no music? I actually didn't listen to music. The atmosphere was amazing, live music and festival atmosphere kept me going the whole way! Its always good to take your music anyway though, just incase!  Killer mile was from about 21 onwards but the crowd gets you through it..I promise!

Any things that particularly 'kept you going' on the way round? I had my name printed on my top, so many people were shouting out my name which really kept me going!  I had lots of friends and family who told me where they were going to watch, along the course, so that also really helped

Any other little gems of advice, or motivational talk for people running this year?

"Relax, be confident and enjoy the experience! You have done all the hardwork and this is the fun bit!!.  It's truly an amazing marathon and day so saver every minute of it!"

Where would you say is the best spot to watch the marathon from? I would say Shadwell. Its close to the 14 mile mark and also the 21 without having to walk to far.  The 21 mile mark is a great place because this is where lots of people start to flag and they need the extra encouragement to keep them moving!!

What did you do after the race? I actually walked about another mile after the marathon to find a pub, it was a hot day so my friends and I hung outside a bar around the West End and enjoyed the sun! My first drink was a pint!..It tasted so good..and I had quite a few more after to follow! It was well deserved and all that!! :)



#londonmarathon #heyholla #marathon #run