Each year the London Marathon host a day in the capital full of training tips, tricks and ideas from nutritionists, athletes and celebrities who have run the best marathon in the world. As a gold bond runner (someone who gained a place through a charity on the condition that you raise money for them), I was invited to come along for free to take away as much information as I could before the big day in April.
I must admit I was a little nervous about going. I wouldn’t normally like to go to something like this on my own but with Martin Yelling, Sophie Raworth, Vassos Alexander, Adidas and Runner’s World in attendance I knew it was a day not to be missed!
The day started with host Geoff Wightman opening the festivities. Geoff owns the voice that around 38,000 runners hear before they cross the start line at the London Marathon. The voice I’ll be hearing in 11 weeks. Geoff took great delight in telling us how long we had left until Sunday 23rd of April opening with, ‘In 11 weeks and 23 hours you’ll be crossing the start line to run 26.2 miles’. Cue lots of groaning …
He took us through what to expect on the day from the fact that they have female urinals (I’ve got no idea) through to meeting points and not relying on your phone signal when you finish. Geoff pointed out that not many runners have surnames beginning with X, Y and Z and gave us a pointer to meet your supporters in one of those zones which, for a runner getting cold and hungry at the end of race day, is invaluable advice. Geoff finished by showing us some pictures of race day 2016 including the half way point at Tower Bridge. I’m not ashamed to say I began to well up! Any one who knows me knows that I love bridges (yeah, weird, I know) so I think I’m most looking forward to this point on the day!
Hugh Brasher was up next. Hugh is the Event Director and he told us all about the origins of the event along with some pretty amazing facts about 2016.
- A record £59.4 million was raised by charity runners last year. No pressure on this year’s runners! The total raised by charity runners since the event started in 1981 is a mega £830.3 million!
- Since the event started in 1981 The London Marathon Charitable Trust has allocated £65 million to sport and recreation projects in and around London.
- Last year, a female runner from China who has a visual impairment, broke the world record in her category with a time of 3 hours and 13 minutes.
- Kipchoge won the elite men’s race with a time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 5 seconds. He was only 8 seconds off the world record – those 8 seconds would have seen him earn another $100,000 on top of his prize money for winning the race!
Hugh finished by reminding us of Gemima Sumgong. If you watched the 2016 coverage you will remember that Gemima fell during the race hitting her head in the process. She still managed to win. A lesson that if race day doesn’t quite go to plan you can still pick yourself back up and cross that line with everyone else.
When Hugh was finished we met Shannon Foudy who ran last year – she came in as the millionth finisher! The London Marathon ran their #oneinamillion campaign to mark the fact that, in 2016, we knew that millionth finisher would cross the finish line since the event was born. It was her first marathon and one she will never forget!
Train Your Brain came next with sports psychologist Dr Josie Perry teaching us that fear only holds us back! I took away away loads from this session as I tend to suffer from race nerves at those events that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. When we travelled up to Newcastle so that I could do the Great North Run I felt sick with nerves, something that I’d never really felt before. I’d wanted to do this particular half marathon for a long time and, for the first time ever, I actually cried at the start line before Dan had to leave me in my start pen! After Josie’s session I will definitely:
- Plan for the ‘what ifs’. Plan for those moments out of your control. Josie gave an example of being stuck on the train on the way to the start line. Use that time to warm up on the train and jog to the start line so you’re ready to go!
- Break down my performance goal. I want a sub 6 hour time but so far I’ve failed to break this down any further. I need to look at what this means for my split times so I can keep track of how fast I’m going!
- Log evidence. Suggestions for a paper diary seem strange when we have all the technology to track our runs while we’re actually out doing it but a paper diary means you can write down how you felt as well as your times and distance. When you have a good, strong run you can recall this on the day if you’re nervous.
- Have a mantra! Something that you can repeat while you’re waiting to start, while you’re on course and something you can shout as you see the finish! I’m yet to come up with one that feels right for me so answers on a post card for suggestions.
Next up was Runner’s World Magazine. They will have pacers on the day that you can follow if you’re aiming for a certain time so they were teaching us all about how they work plus how to pace yourself if you don’t want to latch on to someone else. You can visit their race pace calculator to find out what your split times should be to hit a certain time. Something I will definitely be using, it creates a band that you can print, cut out and wear on the day to help you reach your goal. They ended by saying, ‘an even pace enjoys the race’ … maybe this should be my mantra!
Baasit Siddiqui from Googlebox was interviewed next. He completed the London Marathon last year for the first time and will be back in 2017! He told us all about what it’s like to be part of a huge show on TV and how the kids he teaches react to his fame!
After hearing from Adidas about the technology they use in their shoes and clothing and how to get your race day look right without giving up comfort, it was time for a break. I got some lunch, spoke to St. Mary’s University about injury and how to prevent tight calves (something I’ve suffered with since forever!), picked up the books I won in a London Marathon Facebook competition, got them signed by the authors who were there on the day and took a wander round the clothing that was on offer. With 10% off the VMLM official range who could resist?!
After the break Geoff Wightman (who now told us we had 11 weeks and 19 hours to go until race day!) introduced Martin Yelling. He spoke to us about training for a marathon and said that 98% of starters actually finish the race so there was no need to panic! You could almost hear a sign of relief go round the room! The theme of Martin’s talk was about consistency. Urging us not to over promise and under deliver, he talked us through easy, steady, threshold and fast runs and how to tell the difference, when to do them and what they can help with. He told us to listen to our bodies and embrace the breathlessness which is something I will definitely be doing! Laughter filled the room when he said that the most common question he’s asked is, ‘What is the wall and how much does it hurt when I hit it’!
I managed to actually meet Martin after the talks had finished and I asked him about race day nerves. I told him about my experience at the Great North Run and his advice? Catch those butterflies and harness their power! Use them to power you through and get you to the finish line! I will remember that conversation when I’m stood on that start line among 38,000 other runners 🙂
Vassos Alexander, co-host of the Chris Evans BBC2 radio breakfast show and author of one of the books I won, entertained us next with tales of running round London all night in an attempt to train for an ultra marathon before going straight to the studio to work on the breakfast show! He recalled being in Regents Park when the sun came up and seeing other runners just emerging to start their run while he was finishing his. He told us about his many adventures going to European countries with his cousin and eating whatever local delicacy was on offer (huge onion covered in spices and cheese anyone?!) the night before the race. Admittedly dangerous but something of a tradition for them now.
Another author of one of my books, Anita Bean, taught us about nutrition and fuelling next. Anita has written a book full of amazing vegetarian recipes so I’ll be trying a few of those out! It’s a fact that runners need more carbs for fuel, protein for recovery and fluid to replace what’s lost during training so I’ll be taking on her top tips to help me on race day. The three Rs that she swears by are rehydrate, refuel and rebuild – perhaps this is another mantra for me!
The talk I’d been waiting for was next – the fundraising masterclass from Virgin Money Giving. I got both tons of ideas from this and motivation to keep going with it. One idea I definitely want to do is get a charity shopping list from the Dogs Trust. This is something that helps your supporters to see where their money goes and something that I don’t have yet. I’ll be emailing the Dogs Trust first thing on Monday to get their help! They told us that people often think that most donations come in of an evening or weekend but most actually happen between 8am – 11am on a Monday morning when people are pretending to work! If you want to use me as an excuse to bunk off, visit my fundraisng page on Monday!
Last but not least was Sophie Raworth who has finished the London Marathon 5 times. She told of the first time she did it when, in an attempt to beat her husband’s time, she went out to fast and ended up in an ambulance just two miles from the finish line. Scary but definitely a lesson to keep an even pace! She did eventually finish that day after convincing St Johns Ambulance that she was well enough to keep going (they made her walk in a straight line to prove it) and now only has to run Tokyo and Chicago before she finishes the six World Marathon Majors! She is doing both this year so by October she will have done the very thing I’m aspiring to do myself.
When Sophie had finished it was time for me to think about leaving. I grabbed a goodie bag (excellent as always London Marathon Events!), met Martin Yelling, had my picture taken in the #ReasonToRun booth, bought the jacket I had my eye on all day and stepped out into a London street very close to where I’ll be running in April.
After talking about it all on a rainy Saturday in London, I can’t wait to run those streets in 11 weeks!