Mara's Marathon Tips
11 April 2014
It’s mid-April – it must be Marathon time! For all the runners who’ll be lining up on Blackheath this Sunday for the Virgin Money London Marathon all the hard work has been done, right? Wrong!
Through my ten years as an elite athlete, I learnt that the final few things you do before race day can make a big difference to how you perform. So, what are those crucial things that will help to make your 26.2 mile journey a successful and enjoyable one?
- Go through your kit bag in good time – do I have every last thing I need, and a spare of the really essential things e.g. contact lenses, socks, plasters. (Beijing Olympic Champion Sammy Wanjiru apparently forgot his racing shoes and still won wearing his warm-up shoes, but this is not a course of action I recommend!)
- Decide on a goal if you haven’t got one already. It can be anything – to finish, run a certain time, break your PB etc. Not having a goal means not having something to motivate you when it really gets tough.
- Remind yourself of all the training you’ve done. Forget about what you’ve missed. The time for training is over, so focus on all you have done, and make the best of that.
- Friday night’s sleep is more important than Saturday’s. Few people sleep really well before a big event, and a good quality sleep on Friday will ensure you’re well-rested for Sunday.
- Don’t panic if your taper is making you feel bad. Sluggishness is a common complaint of tapering marathon runners. You just have to trust your preparation plan, and keep faith that by race day your taper will make you feel bouncy and fresh.
- Avoid drinking too much water before the race. Starting the race well-hydrated is important, but over-drinking is an easy mistake to make. Think carefully about how often you’re going to the toilet, and how much you’re drinking – too much won’t help you to feel good.
- Check the weather forecast. Are you ready for what’s coming? Do you need to adjust anything accordingly e.g. wear gloves, take a waterproof in your finish bag?
- Ensure you have a post-race recovery drink or snack ready for you asap after the finish e.g. put a drink in your bag, or ask a friend/family member to have one ready for you at the finish. This will really help your body’s recovery afterwards.
- Figure out how you will get home/to your hotel/friend’s house afterwards. You may not have thought beyond the finish line, but bear in mind your legs might (or rather will!) be sore afterwards, so minimising unnecessary walking/travel/hassle will help you recover.
- Enjoy yourself. This is the most important tip in my marathon toolbox! Soak up the experience, put your heart, body & soul into it, and look forward to a good rest afterwards.
Has the London Marathon inspired you to give running a try? Then what are you waiting for? Running is a brilliant sport – simple, cheap, easy to start, sociable, and fun. Running has given me so much pleasure over many years, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. And you don’t have to start with the marathon – shorter distances such as 5km or 10km are a great place to start. Run England has hundreds of running groups nation-wide, which welcome all abilities including complete beginners. So why not give one a try?
Or you could start your own group. The Leadership in Running Fitness course, provided by UK Athletics, is a one-day course which qualifies you to start your own running group. So in addition to enjoying running yourself, you could be inspiring others to give it a try.
Finally, GOOD LUCK to all the marathon runners on Sunday. I will be commentating for the BBC’s red button broadcast, and cheering you all on from my TV studio!
Mara Yamauchi is a top British marathon runner. She is also a qualified Run England group leader after completing a Leadership in Running Fitness course last year.
In April 2009, she set her personal best of 2:23:12 in the London Marathon, a time which ranks her as the 2nd fastest British female marathon runner ever.
Mara came 6th at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing which equals the best place ever by a British woman in the Olympic marathon.
Having spent 5 years living in Tokyo, she moved back to the UK in February 2011 to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics. She lives in London with her Japanese husband/coach, Shigetoshi.