Health: Last minute marathon advice from the experts

Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99. Picture: PA Photo/Eddie Jacob/

Real Women Run by Sam Murphy, published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99. Picture: PA Photo/Eddie Jacob/Kyle Books. - Credit: PA

Some 36,000 runners are set to pound the streets as they compete in the Virgin London Marathon, on Sunday, April 21, cheered on by thousands and watched in admiration by millions more at home.

Odlo's waterproof Nebula jacket, £205 from Odlo (www.odlo.com). Picture: PA Photo/Handout.

Odlo's waterproof Nebula jacket, £205 from Odlo (www.odlo.com). Picture: PA Photo/Handout. - Credit: PA

The line-up includes professional athletes from all over the world and this year Olympian Mo Farah will run a half-marathon.

Eat a carb-rich breakfast some three-four hours before you start the race. Picture: PA Photo/thinkst

Eat a carb-rich breakfast some three-four hours before you start the race. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. - Credit: PA

Others will run for glory, for charity, for a laugh, with some wearing the usual array of whacky fancy dress costumes, and some for the first time.

Sam Murphy, author of Real Women Run, published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99, says stick to your tra

Sam Murphy, author of Real Women Run, published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99, says stick to your training routine when running the marathon. Picture: PA Photo/Eddie Jacob. - Credit: PA

Whatever the reason, everyone wants to finish the challenging 26.2-mile course.

“Getting to the start line in one piece is in itself an impressive feat when you consider that up to 70 per cent of runners sustain an injury in any given year,” says Sam Murphy, running coach and author of Real Women Run.


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“But even assuming that the training has gone to plan, there are many pitfalls to avoid on the day itself. By far the most common race day error is starting off too fast.”

Runners who are fresh, because they’ve tapered down their training so they’re on top form for the big day, will be raring to go, but also nervous, she points out.

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“Once the gun starts, runners often caught up in the atmosphere throw caution to the wind and all but sprint the first mile. Big mistake!” she warns.

“Another error is drinking too much while you wait for the start gun. It’s likely to be nerves rather than thirst that you’re feeling, and simply rinsing your mouth, rather than drinking, will alleviate the problem.”

Even if your goal is simply to make it across the finishing line - regardless of the time on the clock - you need to have an idea of a realistic pace to run at, she advises.

Once you’ve established your goal finish time, you can break it down into a “per mile” pace, which will enable you to keep tabs on your speed as the race progresses.

Stick with the familiar, advises Murphy, whether it’s the food for your pre-race breakfast, running shoes, sports bra, a warm-up routine or sports drink.

Follow the experts’ tips to ensure you perform your best on the day:

Walk-run compromise:

If you haven’t trained as conscientiously as you should have, it’s worth considering using a “walk-run” strategy, says Sam Murphy.

There’s good evidence that building set periods of walking into runs can help extend “time on feet”, she says.

It will help minimise fatigue and leave a runner less susceptible to injury by giving regular breaks from the continual stresses of running.

It must be done from the outset, according to Galloway, who advises: “Early and often is the rule. For maximum benefit, you must start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, from the first mile.

“Also, don’t be tempted to abandon the strategy halfway round just because you are feeling good.”

Last-minute preparations:

Training should be tapering down in the last couple of weeks, says Lucie Noble, a senior physiotherapist at London Bridge Hospital.

Runners should focus on shorter workouts with more speed and pay attention to technique, she says.

Mind games:

In the last week before the marathon, you should be preparing your mind as well as your body, advises Lucie Noble.

“Running a marathon is a huge mental challenge as well as a physical one. Some people claim it is as much as 90 per cent mental,” she says.

“Visualise the race and picture yourself running each stage of the race - especially crossing that finish line!”

For many people, marathon running is less about the athletics and more about personal fulfilment through achieving a different goal, she believes.

On the day:

On marathon day, replicate what you’ve done on long training runs, says Lucie Noble.

“Wear the same running clothes and trainers, eat the same breakfast and take on the same fluid and snacks that you have been eating in training,” she advises.

“Your last meal should ideally be a carbohydrate-rich meal eaten three to four hours before the start time, plus a further snack one hour before.”

Practical hints:

Pack a blister pack and put a thin layer of Vaseline on your feet and around your toes to help to reduce blisters, she says.

Wear an old jumper and tracksuit pants that you don’t mind throwing away. The latter can be used to keep you warm at the start and avoid your muscles seizing up. Apply sun screen and take a toilet roll.

Marathon wear:

Staying dry and comfortable is essential so that your performance isn’t affected, and waterproof running wear can protect you from whatever the weather throws at you on marathon day.

Odlo’s functional sportswear includes a new waterproof, windproof Nebula jacket, with Gore-Tex Active Shell, which means the fabric also allows air circulation.

Information: Real Women Run by Sam Murphy is published by Kyle Books, priced £14.99. Available now.

For information about the Virgin London Marathon, visit www.virginlondonmarathon.com

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