Last Minute Advice for Marathon Day

Experienced Marathon runner Dr Mike Burdon, shares his top tips for the London Marathon in the final stretch before race day.

With the big day ahead this Sunday, many thousands of runners will be resting ahead of the 26.2 mile iconic race. Some of the runners will be elite and competing for the first places and some will be happy just to get around the course. Perhaps most will be pushing for a good time after months of hard training. 

After having completed three London Marathons myself (PB of 3h 31 mins if anyone is interested) I am aware of what a special occasion this is and to enjoy it as much as you can.

Here are my top tips for race day:

1. Know your limits

One of the key things is of course not to run if you feel unwell before the race. Running with a viral or other acute infection can cause serious harm and it would always be best to withdraw this year and aim for the next one. This is difficult after months of training, but health comes first and there will always be another race. 

2. Racing the plan

Providing you are feeling well with no significant injuries, then it is case of sticking to the race plan and enjoying the great occasion. I would always advise runners not to try anything in the race that has not been tried in training; this includes kit, drinks, snacks etc.  The last thing you want on race day is an upset stomach or another issue. Stick to the tried and tested drinks and food from training. During the race it is of course important to drink fluids to avoid dehydration and most will combine water with the isotonic drinks available. This is generally a good approach and it is best avoided to drink large amounts of just plain water as this can cause a medical problem with low salt in the blood. Most runners will know in advance of amounts of fluid it is recommended to consume.

3. Hitting the wall

One of the well known issues that may arise is called “hitting the wall”. This refers to a low blood sugar level when the body`s carbohydrate stores run out. People may experience some dizziness, wobbly legs and nausea when this happens. Should this occur, consuming some sugar through sweets like jelly babies or drinks / gels can help to settle this down. If needed, just walk for a time and recover before picking up the pace again when you feel able. Most runners will increase their carbohydrate intake for a few days before the race and rest to optimise carbohydrate stores prior to the race.

There are medical personnel on stand-by for any medical issues that may arise, and a huge number of volunteers and first aiders should you need assistance. If feeling very unwell or an injury is worsening it is sensible to seek medical advice on the course before deciding to carry on or withdraw from the race.

4. Enjoy!

Finally, enjoy it! Particularly the finishing line and the feeling of euphoria as you enter the last stretch of the race. Completing 26.2 miles is an amazing achievement whatever the time you do it in!

Good luck to everyone!