1. Treat yourself: Buy a good quality pair of running shoes. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, go to a running store, where you can get your running style analysed and the appropriate trainer provided.
2. Back to basics: Mike Peace, one of 15 runners to race every London Marathon, told us, “don’t be afraid; be excited, because it’s a hugely exciting event. Get the basics right. Then, come race day, you can enjoy it.”
3. Up the mileage: One long run a week is essential. Run at an easy, conversational pace, increasing the distance each week. With three weeks to go, aim to cover 20 miles.
4. Forgive and forget: There will be the odd day when you have to taxi your kids about, or cook dinner, or your sofa is just too comfy. That’s fine. Don’t let training take over your life. It’s supposed to be enjoyable!
5. Listen to your body: Equally, if you want to run but your muscles say otherwise, listen to them. One missed day is better than injury.
6. Mix it up: Steve Edwards, the first man to run 500 sub 3hrs, 30min marathons, says cross-training is key: “core work, weights and plyometrics are great for overall body fitness and strength, to help combat the impact that running has on your body.”
7. Start lifting: Keith Hall, sports physiotherapist at Balance Physio, says that ‘concurrent training (strength and endurance) creates increases in strength and VO2 max whilst having a greater effect on fat loss than just endurance alone.’
8. Less is more: Your final three weeks of training need to be tapered to ensure you’re raring to go on race day. Three weeks out, do 75% of your normal mileage, then 50%, and finish on 25% with a week to go.
9. In sync: Try and run at the same time of day as the race. When the big day arrives, your mind, body and bladder will be thankful for it.
10. Eat safe: Do not, I repeat, do not: eat curry, seafood or anything remotely exotic three days before the race. The possible repercussions need not be explained.
11. Pre-race run: Go for a very light 15-20 minute run the day before, to keep heavy legs at bay.
12. Trim your toenails: Don’t underestimate the pain of 26.2 mile’s worth of snagging nail.
13. Dress appropriately: Just as you wouldn’t buy brand new shoes for the marathon, don’t think about running in a new top. Go for a tried and trusted training-run favourite.
14. Be a star: Write your name on the back of your top and lap up every cheer, jeer and heckle from your adoring fans.
15. Rise and shine: Get up three or four hours before the race. Eat a balanced breakfast and maybe even have a hot bath to warm your muscles up.
16. Start light: Ultra-marathon legend, Dean Karnazes, doesn’t like to run on a full stomach: “personally, I like to go light before a race. I typically have a cup of simple Greek-style yogurt (i.e., unsweetened, full-fat) with some berries or a banana sliced inside and perhaps some almonds or cashews.”
17. Carb it up: Raphael Deinhart, Technical and Marketing Coordinator of High5 Nutrition, also recommends a light start: “breakfast should be light and high in carbs. Cereals, toast and porridge are good options.”
18. Lube up: Man nipples may be pointless, but you’d look very silly without them; avoid painful chafing by applying Vaseline – lots of it! Also, stuff some plasters in your pockets, for mid-race emergencies.
19. Chill out: Take time to relax and go through your race strategy. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time and remember, you chose to do this; it’s fun!
20. Know the course: More specifically, know where the fuel stops are. Think of the marathon as a series of mini-races to get food and drink.
21. Pre-wee: Go to the toilet as soon as you get to that start zone. An early loo-break can derail the most promising of starts.
22. Start slow: Avoid the urge to storm off like you’re the next Wilson Kipsang. Start slow, finish strong.
23. Drink responsibly: Over-hydrating can be a bigger problem than not drinking enough. Drink only when you’re thirsty and opt for sports drinks where possible.
24. Play games: Count in your head; spot-the-landmark; imagine you’re running to save the world; follow a nice bum – the simplest distractions can be the most effective.
25. Visualise: When you’re struggling, imagine how you’ll feel that night, curled up in bed, safe in the knowledge that, if circumstances require, you are capable of running from Slough to Watford.
26. Finish in style: As you approach the finish line, make sure you’re surrounded by people you’re happy sharing a photo with. If not, a Mr. Blobby could overshadow one of the proudest moments of your life.