How to prepare for the London Marathon: Experts reveal what NOT to do – including running with friends and wearing a watch (but do go for an ice bath after the race)
- The London Marathon is returning on Sunday 2 October this year
- Around 50,000 runners and thousands more spectators expected to take part
- If you are new to the game, FEMAIL has you covered with ultimate guide
The London Marathon is returning on October 2, and runners around the country will be powering through their training in preparation for the big day.
50,000 runners and thousand more watchers are expected to descend on the streets of the British capital along the 26.2 miles separating the starting point of Blackheath to the final stretch of The Mall, in front of Buckingham Palace.
Experienced joggers will have perfected their diet and training regime to give the best performance, but if you are new to the game, do not fear: FEMAIL has you covered.
With the help of fitness experts, we’ve put together the ultimate training guide to the marathon, from which training hacks will help you run longer, and what are the best snacks to turn to when you are preparing for the run.
Here, the experts also reveal what to eat on the day and what you should never do before a marathon – from heading to the pub to running with a friend…
50,000 runners and thousand more watchers are expected to descend on the streets of the London for the Marathon on October 2. Runners should keep on top of their hydration levels and eat snacks throughout their run (stock picture)
Before the race
The week before a marathon, you should make sure you eat plenty of carbs for energy, and so that your body is full of glycogen, a substance in your skin’s tissue that store carbs and energy.
‘How you run and recover is highly impacted by your nutritional strategy,’ Lifesum’s nutritionist Signe Svanfeldt told FEMAIL. ‘Nutrition provides carbohydrates for quick release energy, protein for vital maintenance and muscle nourishment and fat as an energy source.’
On marathon day, Svanfeldt recommended that runners should ‘focus on eating a larger breakfast rich in energy, carbohydrates, protein and fat at least two hours prior to the race, for example, oatmeal with banana, peanut butter and Greek yoghurt or scrambled eggs on toast and banana berry smoothie.’
Closer to the race, smaller, easily digested, snacks should be consumed.
‘These should be rich in protein to nourish muscles and carbohydrates for quick release energy, for example, banana pancakes or a smoothie with low-fat Greek yoghurt and fruit.’
‘Avoid large meals close to the race as this could lead to digestive issues and stomach aches,’ Svanfeldt explained.
During the race
So what is the best food to eat during a marathon? Snacks can give a much needed energy boost during the race. You should pack energy bars or bananas to stock up more carbs during the run.
Svanfeldt stressed the importance of maintaining blood glucose levels by eating carbohydrates and replacing fluids.
‘Simple carbohydrates, such as a banana, a sports drink or a sports gel, should be consumed as they’re easily digested and quickly release glucose (energy) into the bloodstream,’ added Svanfeldt.
If you are feeling thirsty, specialist energy gels can also do the job. You can also have isotonic drinks or sports drinks.
However, you should stay away from sodas, fruit juice and cordials, because they are high in sugar and can cause stomach pain during the race.
What you eat after a race is as important as the food you eat beforehand.
Hydration is key to recovering from a race, and you should turn to Isotonic drinks, which contain a concentration of salt and sugar that’s close to the human body.
It would be best to avoid drinking alcohol in the 24 hours after the race, because alcohol can cause dehydration.
A good nutritional strategy should not end at the finishing line, and Svanfeldt recommended the best foods to eat post-run for recovery.
‘As soon as the race is over, replace lost fluids and eat easily digestible carbohydrates, for example a banana or rice cracker, and fill up on glycogen as well as protein, for example a boiled egg or tofu, to nourish muscles and prevent muscle breakdown.’
Coming up with a training plan
In order to prepare well, it’s best to plan ahead and begin to train 16 to 20 weeks before the marathon, so you have time to increase the length of your runs (stock picture)
Training will depend on how much of an experienced runner you are, but whether you run everyday or every February 29, it’s best to plan ahead.
The London Marathon is 26.2miles-long, and requires a lot of stamina and mental strength to complete.
Most training plans out there take 16 to 20 weeks so that runners can gradually increase the distance they run each time without being too hard on their body.
According to Runner’s World, racers typically train three to five times a week so they can run for longer period of times in the lead up to the marathon.
But the specialised publication also recommends doing some cross training on the days when you are not running in order to build on your other strengths and to rest your legs.
Depending on their experience, some runners might train with a goal time in mind, while beginners should just focus on finishing, no matter what time it takes.
However, all training plans request the runner to run at different paces to keep the body engage and avoid burning out in the lead up to the big day – or on marathon day itself.
If you’re wondering how fast or slow you should run, there are race pace calculators available online to help you figure it out. They will take in consideration the stats from some of your latest runs.
Training will get increasingly harder as you try to stretch the distance and time your cover, however, you should listen to your body when training
What to do if you miss some of the training
Some runners might skip on some of their planned training sessions due to illness or emergencies.
If you’ve missed up to three weeks of training, you can still make a come back and have time to do some longer-times runs, which are key when you are preparing for the marathon.
However, if you have missed more than four weeks of training, it might be best to postpone your marathon because you won’t have time to make up for times lost.
What to do if you get a last minute marathon spot
Runner’s World recommend doing a dual training of both running and walking if you end up taking part last minute.
You should also not be running with a time in mind, as it might be hard enough to complete the feat without a time constraint. They added that alternating between a brisk walk and running might do less damage to your body.
These tried and tested tips will help you deal with the unexpected things that might come up before, during and after the marathon.
Don’t try to stay with your friends
Don’t run with a friend and keep at your own pace. They might mess up with your rhythm or make the pace more uncomfortable for you (stock photo)
Jess Hillard, nutritionist from leading sports nutrition brand, Warrior, said: ‘Unless you have trained with your friends and are running at the exact same pace, I would suggest you avoid trying to stick with them through the marathon.
‘Starting with them is great, as you will be able to motivate each other and it will be a nice way to settle your nerves before the race starts, but once the buzzer goes off you need to focus on yourself and your run.
‘Trying to stay with your friends the whole way round could really impact your race, as they might be running faster or slower. Remember, this is your marathon, no one else’s.
Drinking a banana smoothie before a race
According to Runner’s Goal drinking a banana smoothie before the race could help prevent cramps.
This is because cramps can be caused by dehydration and low potassium. Bananas are rich in the latter, so will give you the boost you need to finish, and the liquid element of the smoothie will help replenish your hydration levels as well.
Focus on an object in the distance to run faster
If your goal is to complete the marathon in a certain amount of time, focusing on a particular point like a tree or a sign might help you reach that goal.
According to The Atlantic, this trick, called ‘attention narrowing,’ can make distances feel shorter, which will help you more quickly.
Make sure your shoes have been worn in
Professor Paul Lee, sports & orthopaedic surgeon, London Cartilage Clinic said: ‘It is vital that you check firstly that you wear good quality, supportive running shoes that fit correctly and have been worn in.’
You might want to avoid equipping yourself with a watch, as it will only add more pressure to your marathon experience (stock picture)
Ditch your running watch
Sport training expert Jess added: ‘There are several reasons why you should ditch your running watch, the one being that they make you focus on pace too much rather than enjoying it.
‘Especially if this is your first marathon, allow yourself to enjoy it rather than constantly looking at your watch the whole time. Use the pacers in the race instead and enjoy the atmosphere!’
Practice being ‘in the zone’
Kunal Makwana, Personal Trainer and owner of KMAK Fitness told FEMAIL: ‘From a physical standpoint, take into account any niggling injuries you may already have sustained previously and be prepared to avoid exacerbating those if possible.
‘You also need to be mentally prepared to get through the marathon, so practice being “in the zone” and blocking out all other thoughts about what’s going on in your life whilst you’re training. ‘
Morgan Mitchell, Olympic Runner and F45 Training Ambassador, added that ‘to be in the moment’ is ‘so important’.
‘I focus on my race when it is time to focus on it, stressing about race plans and preparations earlier than expected just wastes time and energy,’ added Morgan.
‘Breathing exercises are great and can help with this a lot. Also, to listen to and trust your coach, and stick to the plan accordingly. They have your back, always.’
Go for an ice bath to supercharge marathon recovery
A personal trainer for KYMIRA, the technology brand specialising in infrared performance apparel, told FEMAIL that runners should go for an ice bath ‘to supercharge marathon recovery.
They said: ‘This is incredibly popular amongst elite and amateur athletes alike as it is believed to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
‘There is an ever growing body of evidence that shows how it can help after a big endurance race. Take a nap after this and it will further enhance the recovery.’