How can you have the best experience on marathon race day? We spoke to some of the people who work behind the scenes at big races who have seen it all to get their top, insiders tips on how to have the race of your life, all captured with a great photo.
The Race Marker
Ever wondered why you can run the same race as a friend but they have run a shorter distance? It could all be due to the magic line. At the Virgin London Marathon, you will notice a line marked on the road which shows the exact 26.2 mile distance. Stick to this for the most direct route. But be aware, a lot of runners try to do the same so it can make for a busy line!
Portable loo provider
No matter how many times you go to the toilet before a race, you always feel you need to go again just before the race when there’s a big line. The trip to skipping the queue? Get running.
‘If you are uncertain whether you really need to go, wait,’ advises Abi Sweetman, www.loosfordos.com, who supplies portable toilets for events including the Virgin London Marathon. ‘Most big races have toilets on the course, there won’t be a queue and they’ll be cleaner.’ Study the route map for toilet locations and making a mental note before the race. ‘They are often just before or after a water station, so it’s a natural place to slow or stop anyway.’
‘If you want to follow a pacer, begin at the start line,’ explains ultra-marathoner, Susie Chan, www.susie-chan.com who has paced at the Virgin London Marathon three times. ‘If you join a group later, their pace will be different as they may have started before or after you.’ Be particularly wary in London, which has multiple starts and different pacers for each start which will be denoted by a flag of the same colour as the colour of your start area.
It’s every runner’s biggest worry, getting injured on race day. The best way to overcome this is to see a physiotherapist before the race if you have a niggle so that you can prepare and make an informed decision about what you’re going to if it flares up. ‘If you have ITBS, a common runner’s knee injury or instance, running will hurt but it won’t damage your knee and so you can decide if you want to push through it on race day,’ says GRTW physiotherapist Dawn Buoys, ‘If it’s something more complex, make a plan in your head before the race about where you’re going to stop en-route if it flares up. This will help you feel less anxious and enable you to focus on enjoying the race.’
The Race photographer
‘Marathon photographers use telephoto lenses so you need to be ten metres away and in direct eye line contact to give them the chance of getting the best shot,’ explains Bob James, www.bobjames.com official commercial photographer for the Virgin London Marathon.
If your friends are on the route, arrange a hand signal.
‘If you arrange a sign that you’re going to make at a certain landmark, friends or family can look out for this and be ready to get you for a perfect personal race day photo as you pass.’
The Race Finish Organiser
When all your focus is on getting to the start line and running 26.2 miles, organising the end is often neglected.
‘Finishing a marathon can be a disorientating experience,’ explains Andrew Smith, who has worked as the Finish Director at the London Marathon for the last 14 years. ‘I always recommend you print out where you have arranged to meet friends and family and put it in your race bag because it’s easy to get confused or forget when you’re tired.’
As for the London marathon itself, the finish funnel is half a mile long and ‘At London we have meeting areas signposted with letters of the alphabet for your surname, but if you walk to XYZ, it will be less busy.’
For all things Marathon, our FREE Master the Marathon webinars, specific to female runners, cover a whole range of topics including training to avoid injury, nutrition, mindset, motivation, pacing and recovery. Supporting female marathon runners at all life stages be that after recently having a baby to those running during perimenopause or post menopause.
(this is an abbreviated version of an article that GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston wrote for Women’s Running magazine. click here for the full article)