Things I learnt running the London Marathon

Tomorrow over 39,000 people will be pounding the streets of London as part of the 38th London Marathon. Every since I used to watch it on TV as a kid it was a dream to take part and I still can’t quite believe I’ve managed to complete it twice – 2012 and 2016.

There are plenty of sites out there providing better advice than what I could give – frankly I’m still amazed I’ve been able to complete it once let alone twice – so instead I’ll share a few of the (lighthearted) things I learnt over my marathon adventures.

Race Preparation

Get your kit ready and laid out the night before – you won’t sleep until about an hour or so before it’s time to get up. Who wants to be running around finding running tops and trainers while still half asleep?

Triple check your route to the start line – both times I did the London Marathon there was engineering works on the trains so the journey to the start line was a marathon itself!

Print your name on your running vest – the shouts of support will encourage you the first 15/20 miles. Then annoy you the rest of the way. Also your arm will ache after about 10 miles of waving to thank people.

Choose your race fuel wisely – six years later I still can’t look at a pack of jelly babies without wanting to throw up.

The start line…

Don’t ignore the recommended station closest to your start line – I was on the blue start in Blackheath both times but that is not the easiest for me to get to. So I thought I’d go to Greenwich and walk. Not my finest idea, I walked at least a mile before even starting the marathon.

Go the toilet as many times as possible and then again – the queues for the portaloo’s will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. Go and then get back on the end of the queue and go again. Repeat until the start time. Avoid the female urinals though.  I mean WTF?

The state of the portaloo’s will also be unlike anything you’ve seen before. By mile 21 you won’t care.

Wave and high five the London Marathon staff and volunteers – they’ll be cheering you on as you walk/jog up to the start line.

Try not to set off too fast – it’s all too easy to set off like Mo Farah. Remember he can keep up that pace. You probably won’t even make it a mile.

26.2 Miles…

Start slow (I cannot stress this enough) – the first few miles you’ll feel on top of the world – enjoy it as it won’t last. By mile 23 you’ll feel the world has caved in.

Try to take in the sights – the route takes you past some of London’s iconic landmarks and some less iconic. In reality you won’t notice most of them.

Enjoy running over Tower Bridge – running over Tower Bridge is one of the highlights of the marathon. If the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand up with roar of the crowds then you’ve no heart. Just don’t look left when you come to the end or at the other side of the road. Those runners are heading to the finish line. You are not even half way. Trust me, it’s gutting. 

High five the kids lining the route – they love it.  Just be careful if you high five a St John’s Ambulance volunteer, you might end up with a hand of vaseline. I learnt that the hard way.

Watch out for a slight incline toward Carnary Wharf.  London is a flat course and on a normal day you wouldn’t even notice a slight incline. On marathon day it might as well be a mountain.

Keep your chin up even a rhino or hot dog passes you – Someone in fancy dress will pass you. Try not to get to downhearted. This is easier said than done, I can confirm there is nothing more soul destroying than a pink lady apple running past you.

Follow the blue line – you may not be an elite athlete but you can run like one. The dashed blue line indicates the shortest route and exact marathon distance. The first time I did London I ran almost 27 miles weaving in and out and taking the outside lanes. Second time I took the inside line better than Lewis Hamilton on a lap round Silverstone.

Take in every moment of the last corner – there is no better feeling than turning into The Mall and seeing the finish line.

Post Race

Wear your medal with pride – It’s totally acceptable to wear your medal for at least a week.  Ignore anyone that says otherwise!

And the most important thing…


Runner running up steps

Photos used: Feature image – Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash


6 thoughts on “Things I learnt running the London Marathon

  1. Toby E says:

    Thanks Em – I’m never going to run a marathon so this was an enjoyable glimpse into the idiosyncrasies of the experience 🙂

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