Race tips for marathon day

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(Image credit: Virgin Money London Marathon)

As the official apple of the Virgin Money London Marathon, we have been excitedly gearing up for the big day on Sunday 23rd April. We recently teamed up with Veggie Runners, who are no strangers to long-distance running. During their training session with two of our runners, Maxime and Phil, who will be completing the distance dressed as Pink Lady® apples, The Veggie Runners shared some helpful race day tips.

So whether you’re running the marathon later this week, or want to build upon your experience of racing at medium or long distance, here are our top tips for race day.

Pre-race carb-loading: start 2 or 3 days before the race. Most runners will be planning to eat plenty of carbs the night before the race, however it’s important to prepare yourself prior to this too. Think about your body’s “energy tank” – you’ll need to start filling it up 2 to 3 days before the race itself. In the days before the marathon, have low GI carbohydrates with every meal to get your body prepared. Things like pasta, porridge and rice are ideal.

If you don’t think “I’m running too slowly” in the first few miles, you’re definitely going too fast. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement and enthusiasm when you first set off. With so many runners around you, it’s important to be conscious of getting swept along by everyone around you, and darting off the start line too fast. Pace yourself; make an effort to slow yourself down in the first couple of miles. If you over-do it and go too fast at the beginning of the course, it’ll be really hard to re-gain all that expended energy when you really need it later on in the race.

• Try to keep everything the same for race day. The psychological side of training is almost as important as the physical, so try and keep consistency. If you’ve been running with music during your training runs, use the same playlist on race day. If you’ve been using energy gels or particular energy drinks, stick to those for the marathon itself. If you change one element it could knock you off your stride, so try and keep as much the same as you can.

If you feel hungry, it’s too late. When running such a long distance, it’s important to keep your energy levels up to avoid your body’s “energy tank” getting empty. Once your body sends the signals of hunger to your brain, it’s too late. Start taking energy on board one hour into the race, then every 20 minutes subsequently. Whether you’re using sports gels, isotonic drinks or gummy sweets, take them on regularly during the race to keep your energy levels up – it’ll make a huge difference in the late stages of the race.

Be mindful. Your brain’s main energy source is glucose, so if your blood sugar is low, it can affect your mind-set as well as making your body feel tired or hungry. Being aware of this is key – if you’re feeling grumpy, dejected or annoyed during the latter part of the race, this is just part of your body getting tired (and why it’s important to keep taking on sugary drinks or gels to avoid it happening). It’s very easy to get frustrated by other runners getting in your way, but try and be mindful and think positively. Remind yourself that you’re all completing the same challenge, and encourage others as you would wish to be encouraged yourself.

Recover with protein, water and resist the urge to stop moving. At the end of the race, it’s normal to want to lie down on the ground and rest, and it’s also common to not feel hungry. Try and fight both of these instincts! Lying down won’t allow your muscles to cool down properly, which will leave you very achy the next day, so keep moving and stretching when you cross the finish line. Protein helps your muscles repair, so try to eat something when you finish – peanut butter spread on an apple is a great option. Hydration is also key after the race, so try and take on plenty of water for the remainder of the day.

We can’t wait to watch our four runners Maxime, Andy, Jon and Phil cross the finish line, all in support of Action Against Hunger. Find out more about the charity and the work they do here. We wish everyone taking part on the day the best of luck, and hope that our top tips contribute to a happy and successful race!

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