The London Marathon takes place this Sunday with up to 50,000 runners taking on this year’s course. To help get runners ready for the big day, ASICS UK FrontRunner community manager and GB athlete Holly Stables shares her top tips for managing pre-race nerves and how to best warm up your body before taking on the 26.2 mile course.
Holly is a qualified sports therapist, level 2 run coach and has a master’s degree in sports coaching. As a seasoned runner, Holly has run the London Marathon route on numerous occasions and also shares her expert insight below on what runners can look out for along the course.
Dealing with pre-race nerves
It’s normal to feel nervous when you are about to take on a challenge or tackle something that is important to you. Here are my pre-race tips to help with any race day anxiety.
Embrace the nerves and reframe the butterflies in your stomach. Change these symptoms to excitement. You have done all the work, it’s time to enjoy the day. Stay positive.
Control the controllables. For example don’t waste energy worrying about the weather, you can’t control this, but you can control what you eat the week of the race. Don’t stress about the things you can’t change.
Think about your best running performance or a particular session that went well. Remember how that felt and how confident you were during and after the run.
Pre-performance routines can start the morning of the race or even a week in advance. Prepare your kit bag, hydration and nutrition well in advance. Make sure you have booked your transport and have all your timings sorted. Let your friends and family know if you need anything from them on race day. Don’t leave any of these boxes unticked so you can relax on race day.
Don’t compare yourself to other runners and remember you are not alone. We all deal with pre-race nerves, whether you are an elite or a beginner. Running is just as about the mental battle as it is the physical. So, focus on the present, don’t compare yourself to others and use the techniques above to channel that nervous energy to your advantage.
Pre-race warm up
Obviously, you want to conserve as much energy as possible before running 26.2 miles but consider taking yourself through this 10 min warm up to help you achieve a more comfortable race experience.
Start with a brisk walk to the course or around the start area (you should be there with plenty of time before the race starts) making sure you are still covered up and keeping warm.
20-30 mins before the start I would start a gentle jog for around 5-10 mins MAX then begin some gentle dynamic stretches. This involves controlled swinging movements and they will take a body part, joint and muscles past their usual range of movement preparing you for the race ahead.
For example: Hip opener, leg swings, walking hamstring stretch, arm swings and torso rotations. These should all be done on both legs and should take no more than 5 mins.
After this I would jog for a few more minutes before trying a few short accelerations or strides to get the HR elevated and give the legs a feel for running fast.
Course highs and lows
Be aware that the first 5k is really fast as its slightly downhill. It’s easy to feel super fresh and start too fast but don’t get carried away and trust your race pace.
Cutty Sark: at mile 6 you will circle the impressive Cutty Sark (built in 1869) and pass the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Be prepared for thousands of spectators cheering you on.
Tower Bridge is a big milestone. It involves crossing the river and its almost halfway. The crowds are huge but beware to not get carried away and run too fast!!! Still a long way to go.
Birdcage Walk: you are almost there. This is a long never-ending stretch of road which turns in to The Mall with less than 400ms to go. But believe me that 400ms feels like a mile! Remember to smile for the crowds and finish line camera. You are a marathoner!!