Mark Armstrong: Running a marathon? Here's some friendly advice

Neil Featherby going past Cutty Sark at the 1986 London Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby

Neil Featherby going past Cutty Sark at the 1986 London Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

All thoughts will be on the London Marathon this weekend as the most illustrious running event of them all takes place. 

Forget about the fuel crisis, you’ll be able to power the capital with all the nervous excitement going round this weekend and I’m thoroughly envious of anyone running it. 

Running a marathon is a huge achievement and the distance remains the toughest challenge I’ve ever undertaken. 

With that in mind I thought I would dish out several things to bear in mind for before, during and after race day. 

It's okay to be selfish... 

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This isn’t the time to be thinking about your nomination for man/woman of the year. You need to do what’s right for you in the couple of days before your marathon. If that means someone else has to take up the slack for a couple of days so you can rest up then let them. Yes, it’s selfish, but you didn’t do months of training for it all to fall down at the last minute. You can make up for it in the weeks to follow. 

Have a plan... 

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Hopefully you will have done months of training in the lead-up to Sunday’s event. Even if you are only running it for fun, it’s important to have a rough pace you know you can cope with for 26.2 miles. If you try and wing it then it could all get pretty turbulent, to put it nicely, in the last few miles. 


If you’re going to the London Expo then, first of all, have a great time. It’s normally pretty awesome but just keep in mind why you’re there in the first place (because you’ve got to run a marathon on Sunday). Don’t spend too long on your feet and for goodness sake don’t try to ‘Run at Kipchoge’s pace’ on that giant treadmill as tempting as it is. Get your number, have a browse round the stalls, then rest up. 

Don’t be swayed by others... 

Everyone wants to tell you about their race plan – that's great for them. But don’t let it get into your head. Hopefully you will have practiced everything you need to in your long runs in particular. Even if ‘Sally’ has decided she is going to take a gel every five miles that’s great for her but it might not be great for you. You know what’s best for your body to complete the distance so be confident enough to stick to it. 

Don’t go off too fast... 

You will probably be stood on the start line for a little while and by the time you’re allowed to get going then you might feel like a coiled spring. You’re going to feel great in those first few miles as you drink in that London atmosphere but it’s also important to concentrate and stick to your race plan. If you go off at your 5K pace then things won’t end well. 

There will be tough moments... 

Accept it now. There are likely to be moments when you find things really hard but you can plan for that now. What are you going to tell yourself when you’re having negative thoughts? Try to adopt a positive mindset and think back on those good runs you had in training or keep in mind the reason you’re doing it. 

Arrange a meeting point... 

You’re likely to feel pretty spent after the event – if you’re anything like me then you’re going to be craving salty chips (must remember to take on more electrolytes in next marathon). With London in particular and how busy it is, it can be tricky to find your friends and loved ones after. Try to arrange a spot that’s convenient for you to get to after. 

Don’t stop... 

You’ve just run 26.2 miles, I get it, but it’s important if you can, to get some more fluids in, have something to eat if you can stomach it, and then keep walking. After my first one I was in a foul mood as I had to walk about a mile and a half to the train station after. However, it was the best thing I did in terms of recovery and started that process straight away. 

Enjoy it... 

All sorts of emotions will be going through your head now and leading up to the race. Try not to exhaust yourself mentally – be confident in the plan you’ve got and execute it. Give yourself permission to enjoy running what is widely regarded as the best marathon in the world. Revel in that support and make yourself, and others, proud. 

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