The London Marathon is fast approaching. For some, it’ll be the first time they attempt the big race which can be daunting and hard to prepare for. A group of Bupa’s experts including our Clinical Fellow, Clinics Director and Health Advisor all share what they wish they knew before they had embarked on their first marathon.
Bupa’s Clinical Fellow, Dr Jemma Batte has run 5 marathons. Here are her top tips.
Music – For many people, music is key to getting across the finish line and not. Ask your friends which songs they listen to and add them to your playlist. When they come on, it’ll give you a boost and make you think of them while you’re running.
Also, know where you usually hit a wall while running; you’ll be able to identify this during your training. If you know that you begin to struggle at 10 miles, make sure you have a pumping track to look forward to and help you past that hurdle.
Bupa has developed a Marathon Motivation Spotify playlist - listen to it here.
Spectators – Your friends and family will want to support you during the race and seeing them gives you something to look forward to along the course. Make sure you know exactly where on the side-line they’ll be cheering you on from so you don’t miss them.
Doubt – Doubt is a powerful thing that can stop people in their tracks if they don’t overcome it. When you’re training, identify what makes you doubt yourself. Is it your shoes not fitting correctly? Maybe you don’t think you’ll be able to run the full course. Do hills intimidate you? Overcome your doubts during your training period and remind yourself during the actual marathon that you’re well prepared and there’s no reason to doubt yourself.
Energy – During your training go to the sports shop and try all of their energy foods, pretend you’re a kid in a sweets shop and you’re allowed to try everything! Identify which ones you like and dislike, and which ones give you the biggest boost. On the day of the marathon, the last thing you want to be doing is eat energy foods that you don’t like. My personal favourites are jelly beans, and I usually have about five before a big hill.
What to wear – I know it sounds strange, but if it’s cold on the day of the marathon, wear merino wool. The wool is a natural fiber and will keep you warm. It also regulates your body temperature and will stop you overheating.
Shoes - Before the marathon, go to a running store and get fitted with a pair of running shoes. The sales assistant will be able to find the right pair of shoes that are appropriate for you based on your measurements and running style. Marathons are tough enough, you don’t want to also be battling uncomfortable shoes that blister or pinch your feet as well.
Bupa’s Health Clinics Director, Phillip Luce has run more than 10 half and full marathons and says technology is the key to staying motivated.
While you are training for the marathon, monitor your progress with a running tracker (garman, smart phone app etc). I find this helps keep me motivated as I can see the rapid changes to my times and distances during the training period. On the actual day, this data can help assure you that you can get to the finish line. If you begin to doubt whether or not you can finish the race, remind yourself of how far you’ve come from the start of training to now. This always helps me keep those doubtful thoughts at
Stephen Parkinson, a Health Advisor at Bupa Clinics is a keen marathon runner, with 6 under his belt. He says he needs three things to make sure he gets across the line.
Compression socks - I always sleep in compression socks the night before the race and the night after. They help increase blood flow to the calf muscles meaning your legs feel more refreshed when you wake up and I find they aid with the post-race recovery. Some people like to wear the socks during the marathon itself, but I personally find them uncomfortable to wear whilst running.
Deep Heat - I find rubbing deep heat onto my legs helps relax the muscles and makes them work better for the race. It’s also a mental thing for me as the smell of deep heat makes me think of competing which weirdly makes me feel more motivated ahead of the race.
Jelly babies - I always have 5 or 6 jelly babies in my pocket on race day to help me get past ‘the wall’. I remember my first half marathon back in 2010 was a struggle; at the 10 mile mark I didn’t think I could keep going, but a spectator gave me a jelly baby and it helped me push through. The sugar kick helped replenish my glycogen stores and helped me finish the race. Since then I have always carried jelly babies in my pocket during a race and eat one when I am feeling low on energy.
For more tips, or to learn more about marathon running, check out Bupa’s Health Information page, for free expert advice.