Former Elite Marathon runner Paul Evans gives his inside hints and tips on how to make the most of race day for any big city marathon including the London Marathon.
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Before the race
Make sure you get there in plenty of time, make sure you know where you’re going, and make sure you know where your start is, especially if it’s a big city marathon because there are going to the thirty-five thousand other people who are going to be there on the day. Make sure you know where your start is and you’re not rushing around with your heart rate already up.
Don’t do anything different on race day which you haven’t done in training, ie, don’t wear new shoes, don’t wear new kit because it could rub and be very painful. Don’t experiment with any drinks that you haven’t tried. That is the key one. So many people I mean I know at London will have their drinks sponsors, make sure you’ve used that drink in your training runs because there’s nothing worse than getting an upset stomach at 21, or 22 miles and ending up sitting at the side of the road.
Always take loads of warm clothes because you never know, if you’re talking about London, any big city marathon, any marathon, come to that, it could be cold and it’s always best to have too many clothes because you can take them off, I mean even if it’s gloves and hats, to begin with, you can always peel them off as you start the race. So, I wouldn’t stand there in a vest shivering, you know, even if it’s having a long sleeve T-shirt and cutting the hole so that your numbers sticking out, you know, there are all sorts of things like that that you can do.
Keep it steady
Make sure you don’t run the first few miles too quick. Because it’s very very easy to do because you’ve just had a week of training, you haven’t done any training, it’s the day of the race, you’re all excited or what have you, that gun goes and it’s so, so easy to get caught up in somebody else’s race, somebody else’s pace and believe me it will find you out somewhere along the line.
From Tower Bridge going right out to Canary Wharf which I always used to call, I think it was what Eamonn Martin used to call the dead zone. Because you’re running away from the finish, it’s where the crowds get a little bit thinner and it’s a time in the race where, you know, if you’re going to lose it, mentally that’s where you’re going to lose it. I used to have to really concentrate for that six miles and it used to be really really tough because if it’s going to fall apart, that’s where it’s going to fall apart.
It’s very very important that you drink early on in a marathon, if you don’t, a lot of people leave it until they’re thirsty, it’s too late by then, and you’re dehydrated. the best thing to do is always drink a little and often. So at your first drink station take a drink. Make sure you’re well hydrated before the race, and obviously the night before as well. Just make sure you’re drinking loads in the three days leading up to the marathon.
My diet used to be about eighty-five per cent carbohydrate. So I would just make sure, the evening before the race I would have a little bit more carbohydrates than I would normally have as well. So you’re standing on the start line, it doesn’t matter if you’re standing on the start line and you feel about a pound overweight, it doesn’t matter at all, in fact, the sign is it’s a good way to be.
Hitting that wall
You do lots of your training during your long runs too, so you can actually try, train your body, to actually keep going when you do hit that wall. There are lots of drinks, lots of isotonic drinks, you’ve all heard about the pasta parties and things like that, that all helps, because it gives you glycogen which your body uses as fuel anyway. You run out of glycogen, your muscles run out of glycogen when you hit the wall. So you can stand on that start line really loaded up with glycogen and drink, some good fuel and hopefully that will take you through the twenty-six mile. I just used to write my splits on my arms, so I went through at five k, I knew what I wanted to go through at five k and ten k and if you went through a bit quicker you could slow it down.
I think everybody should do the London Marathon at least once in their life because it’s such a fantastic experience. Yes it is a long way, it’s twenty-six miles but you know it’s just the camaraderie is just absolutely fantastic between the athletes and every mile there are bands playing, it’s really a lot of fun. And crossing that line is just a unique experience whether you’re running two hours and six minutes or you’re running six hours it doesn’t matter. New York’s the same, New York, you go to New York and the atmosphere there is absolutely unbelievable as well and to run around one of the major cities in the world. Yeah, Big City Marathons are very very special.