You’ve trained for months, you’ve planned your route, worn in your new trainers, picked out your most comfortable kit and finally the big race day is here. Many of our wonderful Run Reigate runners will join with 36,000 others next Sunday, to take part in one of the world’s biggest and most famous distance races, the London Marathon. Our local British Military Fitness crew have entered a massive team, running to raise money for The Children’s Trust, one of our own charities and we wish them all the best of luck.
For any first time marathon runner, it can be daunting, and we’re not talking covering the 26.2 miles. It’s more than just physical endurance: the marathon is a logistical, biological and psychological obstacle course. For those of you getting ready to race, the Run Reigate team have come up with a few alternative tips to help you on your way…
Get greased up
Lather yourself in vaseline before you start (including your feet), even in places that are unlikely to chafe – trust us it really helps! Turn yourself into a big slippery sea-lion. Added benefits include sliding your way to the front of your pen. If you suffer from hayfever, rub a big dollop on your nose as prevents the pollen from getting in.
Go before you go
There are loads of portaloos. Hundreds in fact, but they will still have a long queue in the hour before the race. It is OK to stand in line, get to the front, do your business, then return to the end of the queue and repeat … 3 times. You’ll be thankful for this cleanse when you see everyone veering off to the side as soon as they’ve crossed the start line to wee in public.
On your marks, get ready … hang around a bit!
And you’re off … or not as the case will probably be. Unless you are an elite runner, the start can be a bit of an anti-climax as you often have to wait 5-10 minutes to get across the start line and the pace can be a little slow. Distract yourself by loudly humming “Eye of the Tiger”.
Resist the Rhino
There will be an urge to sprint past everyone in fancy dress. Their attire can be deceptive. The guy dressed as a giant penguin is actually an Olympic Triathlete and he’ll mess with your head by speeding up as you attempt to overtake him. It may be a blow to your confidence to find a foam fire hydrant ahead of you at mile 18, but it makes for a good anecdote later. Much later.
The closest many of us will ever come to feeling like we’re in the Olympics, is crossing Tower Bridge. The volume builds as you run down Tooley Street, with an explosion of noise as you turn on to the bridge, people clapping, banging tubes and shouting your name. If you have an unusual name, they might shout something else, but don’t heckle them. It’s OK to wave at people and high five the kids. Spectators – bring hand sanitiser.
Mind your step
Everyone who has run a marathon will tell you to watch out for the drinks bottles on the ground. But seriously, do, and it starts early. One of our team slipped on a discarded bottle at mile 16 of the New York Marathon, horribly tearing her hamstring. Being the tough nut she is, she walked the remainder in agony, doggedly determined to earn that bloomin’ medal! The gel packets are just as bad and slimey. They sometimes stick to your trainer, forcing you to remove it whilst hopping ungainly, racers behind accidentally grabbing you in a hug as they crash into you.
It’s definitely worthwhile knowing where your supporters are going to be so that you can pick them out, quite literally, in a crowd. Banners, signs, fancy hats, unusual cheers or just really really loud voices are useful. Especially in the final stretch, when you’ve forgotten your own name.
Some marathon runners sport an attractive salt beard when they finish the race, which always looks good in the photos and can be a surprise to their partners. Shows you’ve really worked hard! Replace the electrolytes through gels and energy drinks during the race, and fish and chips afterwards.
You’ve made it!
Once you’ve crossed the line it really is straightforward. Be gently pushed by the race marshals towards your photo and bag and start crying with joy. Have cosy clothes to put on even if it’s not cold, as you will be soon. Have snacks in your bag too, not just with your family or friends as they might have eaten them. Really, there should be a big conveyor belt at the end just like the airport, where you are collected by someone, preferably with a wheelchair and a bottle of prosecco in the arm rest cup holder.
Avoid steps, at all costs. If you must use them in the days pending the race, try sliding down like a toddler, as long as you have something or someone to pull you up at the end. Ice baths are also recommended, but may result in weird noises coming from your mouth without your control.
You’ve earned it. Yes, it will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, but also one of the best. The atmosphere and crowds are amazing and there is such a variety of people running that you’ll be continually inspired. You might even be on the TV, so remember to smile, practise your crowd wave and of course, wear your Run Reigate finishers t-shirt for all to see.