Top Marathon tips from five-time Olympian Jo Pavey

The much-awaited day is almost here… this Sunday 50,000 runners will flood the streets of the capital for the 43rd instalment of the TCS London Marathon. With only around 0.01% of the world’s population having completed a marathon, there will be another class of superheroes adding to the total this weekend.

After countless hours of training and preparation, the marathon can still seem a little daunting, so to help settle nerves, we invited five-time Olympian and 2:28:24 marathon runner Jo Pavey to provide some top tips and insight into tackling the big race.

Let’s get some top tips from Jo Pavey

Jo Pavey

Embrace the taper

"You are so close to the marathon and it’s really important to not try and cram in any last-minute tough training.

"Sometimes people have the worries that they have missed that last hard session and need to do it, worrying they will lose confidence. It is all about resting and keeping the legs ticking over. You probably won’t want to completely stop running in the last few weeks building up to the race but equally not doing runs which will take a lot of recovery. Making sure you are tapering right down enables your body to fuel better and your muscles will be really recovered and ready for race day."

Getting into a good sleep routine

"Before a marathon, you are bound to be nervous so it is about getting into a good sleep routine during training and the build-up, but to not worry about the night before and you will inevitably have to get up very early on race day. When you go to bed the night before the race, it will be difficult to sleep with anticipation.

"Throughout your training it is important to get good sleep to help your body to rest and recover ready for the next session."

Keep a gauge on your pace

"Many personal bests are achieved through a negative split; you can lose so much time if you overcook it in the first half of the race and end up dramatically slowing down.

"I found that when I did my first marathon I listened to loads of advice, I worked out my pacing and then I got overexcited by the occasion and went for it. Experiencing this definitely taught me a lot and I was able to use what I had learned for my second marathon where I felt much more in control, and I had paced the race sensibly. If you have worked on your pacing, try and be strict as the marathon can feel easy to begin with and it is surprising how it can turn. I have had marathons where you feel amazing at halfway then get to 18 miles and be finding it very tough. They say in the elite sphere that when you get to 18-20 miles you should be ready to think about racing and you need to make sure you are fuelled for this."

Stick to what you have rehearsed

"Make sure that you are eating something before the marathon which is tried and tested.

"Sometimes people are influenced by others and try something they have seen others using but it doesn’t suit them and can upset their race. It is really important to practice what you want to eat as your pre-race snack. "You should also make sure that you are training in the shoes you race in and be prepared for any blisters or sore patches which may come on race day."

Getting your mind and body warmed-up

"It is important to think about the fact that the marathon is such a long way and your warm-up can be very different to what you might do before a training run or a 5k parkrun. You need to try and preserve your glycogen stores and if you do too much warm-up you are going to be wasting the energy you have already stored up.

"When I have warmed up for a marathon, I have done it very differently to shorter races because I’m not trying to get my body so firing that when the gun goes off it is ready to charge, you have a long way to go. "In a pre-marathon warm-up you can get a feel to whether your body has any specific tightness that you might want to stretch before you get underway. These days there’s a recommendation to do dynamic stretches opposed to static as if you keep the muscles in one position for too long you might feel less ready to run and less primed for action."

Listen to your body

"You may have your pacing strategy and your fuelling strategy. Hhowever you do need to listen to your body.

You need to be aware that you have a target time, however on the day you might be tired. You need to listen to your body to try and get the best performance on the day."

Most importantly enjoy the experience!

"It is one of those things to tick off in life that you have done, and there is all the preparations and strategies, but you have got to soak in all of the atmosphere and enjoy it because it is amazing.

"Seeing the scene on TV of people running down The Mall, to then be able to do that yourself is quite surreal. I remember trying to soak it up, even though I felt exhausted running down the last straight I just took a moment to think ‘wow I am really running down The Mall at the London Marathon’. All the crowds, the music along the way and the camaraderie of people taking part it is really something to savour and enjoy."

Watch along

You can watch the TCS London Marathon live this Sunday 23 April on BBC One from 8:30am.  

Jo Pavey

Photos by Mark Shearman