More than 30,000 runners will be taking on the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday – so we’ve called in some running legends to give you their best tips. Click through for inspiring advice from Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Scott Overall, David Weir and Richard Whitehead.
I’ve trained quite a few people for marathons, if it’s your first one, there are two key pieces of advice:
Firstly, do not let yourself think for one second that you’re not going to finish. No matter how badly it goes, you’ll get to the finish line. It doesn’t matter if you have to walk, you’ll get there.
Secondly, don’t assume you’ve suddenly turned into a great athlete overnight. When you’ve gone through five miles three minutes quicker than you usually do, it’s because you’ve got excited on the day and adrenaline has kicked in. Stick to your game plan. Plan your race until twenty miles – then after that you won’t know what will happen, even the elites don’t know.
Image: Steve Cram at a recent event at Nike Town.
Top tip for beginners:
Enjoy it and don’t worry too much about the distance. If you’ve done the training you’ll be okay. If you haven’t, the crowds will have a great impact and they’ll get you round. Just try not to think of how far you’ve got left and take your mind off it - think of it as a sight-seeing trip around London
Run with others:
If it does get hard use the people around you for a boost. Around the 18-20 mile mark everyone is going to be going through the same emotions and pain. Try to run with someone else who is struggling and you can spur each other on – it’s always easier running with someone else.
Read our Team GB profile of Scott Overall and find out why he’s pacing at this year’s London Marathon.
Image: Scott at the 2011 Berlin Marathon (credit: Frank Sygusch/Getty Images)
On London Marathon crowd support:
I’m definitely conscious of them [supporters] and I definitely pick up on the energy… Every fast mile split came when there were a lot of people around me. I don’t think that’s a coincidence – you pick up on that, and you pick the pace up without even thinking about it. Birdcage Walk was amazing. I imagine it’s what running through the crowd at Wembley stadium would be like.
Make sure you eat well the night before and the morning of the race, and make sure that you’ve got enough fluid inside you. And keep warm at the start; take some old kit that you can throw away because your kit will have gone on the buses to the finish
Read the full interview with Paula Radcliffe.
Image: Paula setting the marathon world record at London in 2005 (credit: AFP/ Getty Images)
Favourite part of the course:
The finish! It’s a great finish because of the backdrop of Buckingham Palace, all the British flags and the huge crowd there – it’s the best race finish in the world by far.
Another point I like is Tower Bridge. You’ve got to climb Tower Bridge, then you come back on yourself and you know you’re almost halfway through.
Top tip for beginners:
Pace yourself and don’t go off too quick. Do what you did in training, make sure you’re timing yourself and not going too quickly in the first half, or the second half will be pretty tough.
Image: David winning the Virgin London Marathon wheelchair race in 2011 (credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)
Inspire the world:
The London Marathon is an event that inspires people to take on challenges. You hear about people cycling across Britain or swimming the Channel - and many of those people are inspired by the London marathon.
When you come on to the mall after 25.5 miles of pain and really pushing your body and you see hundreds of thousands of people on the road supporting you, it’s simply amazing. The last five miles of the London Marathon make all the training worthwhile.
Read the full interview with Richard Whitehead.
And from the Runner's World Team...
Kerry McCarthy, Gear Editor and organiser of the RW Pace Team:
Route of least resistance:
Unless you're looking to shave seconds off a marathon PB and need to stick to the racing line, go wide round the outside on corners. You may end up running a few extra yards in distance but this is well worth it to ensure you don't get bunched/tripped/trodden on/elbowed by the mass of people all looking to take the quickest route.
Find out how the RW Pace Team can help you hit your target on the day.
Neil Tillott, Advertising Director and sub-2:55 marathon runner:
Whether you’re going for a sharp sub-3 or looking to simply get round, the race really starts at mile 20. Hopefully your training will have got you here and the last six miles is where you grit your teeth and dig in. The crowds are probably at their loudest as you head up Embankment in the last miles – make the most of their support to get you over the finish line.
Don’t underestimate nutrition and hydration – take both on board as early as possible in the race – even when you don’t think you need it.
Andy Dixon, Runner's World UK Editor:
Match the last 10 miles to 10 friends and family, and think of them during tough moments to pull you through.
Harness the Poplar High Street effect (20 miles in): think of the remainder as one 10K (or two 5Ks). Get a boost from the fact that you are now facing west, directly towards the finish.
And visualise your reward meal during tough moments (mine is steak, chips and an ice-coldbeer). Then go and eat it!