Lacing up for London Marathon 2024 ? Here are 33 Crucial Tips Not to Miss

arms spread in elation, a participant taking part in the 2023 tcs london marathon on 23rd april 2023 in london, united kingdom the london marathon is a long distance running event, which was first run in 1981 and has been held in the spring of every year since the race is mainly known for being a public race where ordinary people can challenge themsleves while raising great amounts of money for various charities photo by mike kempin pictures via getty images
33 Last-Minute Marathon TipsMike Kemp

After months of juggling wintry-weathered practice runs around work, social and life commitments, that end goal is in sight: the marathon.

With mere moments away until you lace up those trainers for the run of a lifetime, chances are you’ll be wondering if there are any marathon tips you’ve missed that could make the experience (dare we say it) a little bit easier.

Whether you’ve run a marathon before or are a 26-miler novice, there are always marathon tips that can help you along. That’s right, even so close to the starting line.

MH asked the fitness professionals to share their marathon tips and the replies were inspiring. Keep reading – here are the words from the wise.

Copenhagen Half Marathon...
Ole Jensen - Corbis - Getty Images

33 Marathon Tips You Need to Know Right Now

1. Flip Your Focus

Ever struggle with lack of confidence pre-long run? Luke Tiberski, health and mindset coach with a specialism in endurance sports, believes it can be as simple as switching up the way you think.

Tiberski expands: 'If you're struggling to keep moving forward and focusing on your pain and dead legs, why not focus on the landmarks around you, or the smiles or banners of spectators? Switch from thinking about how tough everything is, and instead focus on the many positive things are around you.'

2. Find a Friend

If you're really struggling mid-race or training run, endurance runner Susie Chan recommends buddying up. It may sound simple or even a little daunting, but just chatting to another runner nearby or calling a friend may be enough to distract or push you on that little bit further. You got this.

3. Feed Off the Crowd

So, you've made it to the big day. You've heard the rumours of the crowds pushing you on and carrying you – but as above, Chan says that they can be the difference between a good and great run.

She advises ditching the headphones for a few miles and tuning in to the crowds around you for just the push you need. She expands: 'The crowds are just ridiculous and can help carry you along a little bit.'

Resting Marathon Runner
Richard Baker - Getty Images

4. Dial it Back

In other words, don't do too much. As easy as it may be to try and do everything to hit your marathon goals, says Georgie Bruinvels, research scientist. 'Trying to do everything and train crazily whilst working never works. Managing your lifestyle and thinking about the bigger picture – for example, accepting that missing one run won't affect your training in the long run – will help you to put things into perspective.' Hear, hear.

5. Get an MOT and Perfect Your Technique

Your body is a machine after all. HCA at The Shard, part of The London Bridge Hospital, is offering Running MOT Clinics, designed for anyone running the London Marathon. Book up and you’ll receive access to a team of specialists, including physiotherapists, consultants, nutritionists and podiatrists, who can help to improve your running performance by assessing your strength, control and technique.

6. Learn to Breathe

'The dreaded side stitch can be crippling for endurance athletes but it can be avoided with correct breathing mechanics,' says Worthington. 'The diaphragm is responsible for drawing air into the chest cavity but in order for it to do its job, it has to be in the right positive to do so. If it’s not, other muscles will take up the slack; if they get overworked, they can cramp. Avoid this by working on your alignment as part of your race day prep then, during the run itself, if a stitch occurs, try exhaling forcefully for four strides and inhaling for two.'

2018 Virgin London Marathon Apr 22nd
John Patrick Fletcher - Getty Images

7. Take Time off to Stay Injury-free

'Runners can have a tendency to being a slave to a training plan,' says UK elite running coach and running recovery shoe brand OOFOS ambassador, Tom Craggs. 'But if you are going through a particularly stressful period at work or home you might need to reduce the loading of your training plan. Chronic stress will likely have a big impact on your ability to recover, and an extra rest day, or some lighter training might make all the difference.'

8. Stretch Your Toes

'A lack of, or excessive range of motion at the big toe alters the entire kinetic chain upwards,' says Andy Vincent, elite personal trainer at Third Space. 'A joint motion of 60° at the big toe is optimal. Include active and passive big toe flexibility stretches into your strength routine to improve function.'

  • Passive stretch - stretch the big toe up against an angled yoga wedge

  • Active stretch - go barefoot in a standing hip flexor stretch and ensure the joints of the toes stay in contact with the floor throughout the stretch

Man exercising in gym, using barbell, front squat position
RUSS ROHDE - Getty Images

9. Build Your Trunk

'Lateral hip strength and stability is crucial for maintaining knee alignment during running gait. Ensure you do medial glute activation and lateral trunk work prior to running and on rest days. As your training is hardcore and dynamic, focus more on isometric holds to build tension in target muscles, without creating fatigue.'

  • Band-resisted glute bridge holds

  • Side planks

  • Single leg standing Pallof Press or half kneeling Pallof Press

  • Suitcase carries or holds

Unrecognizable senior man resting after exercise outdoors in nature in the morning.
Halfpoint Images - Getty Images

10. Protect Your Knees

'Knee problems are a particular problem amongst runners,' says physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst of Your Pilates Physio. 'This can be a result of weakness in the hip and pelvic stabilising muscles, which can then alter the normal landing pattern of the lower limb, causing the knee to 'knock in'. This will eventually lead to pain. By strengthening these muscles you can improve the landing position of the lower limb whist running.'

11. Don't Scrimp on Socks

'People often focus on the running shoe but ill-fitting socks are one of the main causes of blisters,' says Matthew Fitzpatrick, the lead podiatrist for the London Marathon and Provost of the College of Podiatry. 'While we would usually recommend a breathable cotton sock for everyday wear, they are not the best material for running as they absorb moisture. A damp foot increases the risk of painful blisters. Go for a specific running sock made from a material which will help wick away sweat and make sure the sock isn’t bunching or too tight on your toes.'

12. Consider Insoles

Don’t try anything new on marathon day; obvs. But, in the run-up, especially if you’re prone to foot or ankle injuries (these ankle exercises might also help), you might want to try an insole . These can optimise foot alignment and prevent debilitating conditions such as shin splints, knee pain and plantar fasciitis. Your own body heat will mold them to your feet for a perfect fit.

13. Don't Neglect Your Strength Work

'The cornerstone to being able to complete the volume of work required in a marathon, is to ensure your body is strong and resilient enough to cope with it – and stay injury-free,' says Luke Worthington of Third Space. 'The majority of over-use injuries can be traced back to simply not being strong enough. Prioritise core stability and glutes training.'

14. Keep Calm

Don’t underestimate the power of aromatherapy oils in your marathon training. Not just something to enjoy in a spa, scents such as clary sage and rosemary can focus the mind, activate the body and give you a Rocky-style confidence boost. The Sleep Well candle is great for easing anxieties and promoting quality sleep (key for recovery); while the balms, which come in a portable 1.5g mini size, can be applied to pulse points, for a fragrant pick-me-up on the go. Try Focus.

15. Have a Plan and Run With It

You're laced up and ready to run, but overhear other runners in the start pen discussing their splits and race plan. You're only human if your brain starts going into overdrive. Chan's advice? 'Have your plan—and don't worry about anybody else. They may go off slightly too fast, or be a different pace entirely. Take the first six miles nice and easy and do your own thing.'

16. Know How to Taper

The last thing you want to do in undo all those months of hard work with a hap-hazard taper. 'Don’t be scared of losing all your hard work by tapering your training,' says Origym PT Luke Hughes. 'Not tapering can severely hinder your performance by causing muscular damage, depleting energy stores and affecting your mental preparation. By tapering you can actually increase your strength, boost your immune system and up red blood cell density within the muscle.'

17. Make Friends with Blackcurrants

Research has found that blackcurrants can significantly improve performance – athletes notes an increase in cardiac output by 26% and an increase in blood flow by 20-35%. Why does that matter? Well, apart from keep your muscles fuelled and powering; it also helps to clear out lactate and reduce DOMS. The study was carried out in correlation with New Zealand blackcurrant supplement company CurraNZ.

18. Take to the Hills

'Hill running increases speed, improves endurance and builds strength in your glutes and leg muscles,; says Siobhan Rootes, Saucony UK coach. 'It also helps to develop power and muscle elasticity, which can see huge benefits when it comes to your race. Allow gravity to come into action – a slight forward lean into the hill is crucial – and keep the cadence quick; a nice short stride and quick footfall is needed to tackle a hill.'

  • Run at a threshold (80-85%) effort up and down a hill for blocks of time, three minutes for example

  • Fast hills – run 12 x 30-45 seconds (max effort) with approximately 90 seconds recovery in between to build speed and power. Focus on your arm drive – keep that 90-degree bend in the elbow and ensure you’re driving your arms hard enough to keep the leg speed ticking over

#disclaimer: Don't introduce these in now if you're not used to them or have any niggles. Bank for your next lot of marathon training.

Running, Sky, Water, Atmospheric phenomenon, Jogging, Outdoor recreation, Recreation, Morning, Sports, Exercise,

19. Run With Your Mind

'This was the most useful piece of advice I was given before running a marathon,' says Jo Stroud. 'I armed myself with 26 mantras – one for each mile – to keep me focused, to distract me from the physical pain and to drown out that voice that wanted me to quit. The body achieves what the mind believes.'

20. Sort Out your Fuel

You’re going to need more than porridge and a banana to keep you going for 26 miles. Now’s the time – if you haven’t already – to find a brand of running gels and energy gels that keep you powered (without upsetting your stomach), or an alternative fuel source, if gels aren’t your bag.

21. Pick Your Playlist

Queen, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Madonna – three of the artists that were found in a study from Brunel University to increase physical performance by 15%. How? Motivational rock or pop music was found to make runners feel more positive, even when working out close to physical exhaustion.

22. Have a Pre-game

'Distance running has a direct impact on loosening the bowels,' says Worthington. 'We’ve all seen the Paula Radcliffe clip. Before the race, go, go again and try and go one more time.'

23. Learn to Breathe (again)

'Hard training stimulates the sympathetic nervous system,' says Vincent. 'When you finish training and your body is tired, to help recover, add breathing drills to your cool down. These will help to relax the nervous system.'

Find a quite space and lie on the floor and practice:

  • Box breathing drills. Focus on belly breathing with a slow, deep inhale for five seconds; hold for five seconds; and exhale for five seconds. Repeat this routine five times. OR

  • 360° expansion. This is to try and get full expansion of your belly and ribcage. Place your palms on your belly button and focus on raising your hands higher than your chest cavity with each breath. Next, try to get the feeling of breathing more into your lower back. Finally, place your palms on the side of your abdomen and imagine your breathing is pushing your hands out to the sides.

24. Stay Hydrated

'The sensation of thirst is less sensitive during exercise, meaning that you may already be dehydrated by the time you start to feel thirsty,' says Katherine Shaw, Sports Scientist at Lucozade Ribena Suntory. 'Sip on fluids from the very start of the race to ensure you don’t leave it too late.'

25. Halt Hay Fever

'Hay fever can be a real handicap to your marathon running performance,' says airborne allergies expert Max Wiseberg. 'Apply an allergen barrier balm such as HayMax around your nostrils and the bones of your eyes, before you start your run. HayMax has been proven to trap over one third of pollen before it enters the body – and there are no drowsy side effects.'

Overcoming Opstacles
Pekic - Getty Images

26. Prepare to Succeed

Don’t think you can just turn up on the day and go. Oh no. If you’re really serious about your marathon run, you need to have a game plan for every stage of the course. Marathon runner Nick Palmer shares the 10 stages of running a marathon so you can best prepare for them.

27. Replenish your Bathroom Cabinet

You’re not going to want to traipse around Boots after completing those 26 miles so do the stock up before you even get to the start line. What products do we recommend? These post-marathon recovery products are your saving grace when it comes to easing muscle soreness goodbye.

28. Fill the freezer

Didn’t heed the previous point? Time to chill. 'If your feet swell for a while after the marathon, sit with them elevated and, if they are painful, placing a bag of frozen peas on them for cycle of 20 minutes on / 20 minutes off, for an hour each evening, until they recover, is good,' Fitzpatrick says.

29. Nail Your Look

Not that it’s all about aesthetics – far from it. But when you look good, chances are you feel good. And when you feel good, well, you’re more likely to perform at your best.

30. Zone out of The Maranoia

Ever heard of maranoia? Yes, it's a real term, and Emma Kirkyo, ProFeet buyer, assures us it's very, very normal.

'It's when you're in the final stages of marathon training and you start to pick up—and worry about—everything, from niggles, to dehydration. Don't worry, they're probably a maranoia and nothing to worry about.'

31. Don't Eat Too Differently

You've heard that you need to fuel up on carbohydrates post-long run—that's where the term 'carb loading' comes from.

Anita Bean, registered sports nutritionist, advises eating similarly to your normal day-to-day diet, but with a slight increase in the percentage of carbs on your plate.

Rather than increasing your calories, increase the percentage of your calories which are carb based. Aim for filling your plates with around 50% carbohydrates, to make sure your glycogen levels are stocked up and fuelled for the big day. Incorporating carbohydrate bars or drinks into your diet are another way to up your intake.

Hand taking food from cooling shelf
Westend61 - Getty Images

32. Keep Things Consistent

Whilst you do need to dial things back before race day to ensure your legs aren't fatigued for the big day, you also need to make sure you're moving enough and firing up certain muscles, such as your glutes.

Kirkyo advises consistency. 'Don't panic—just be consistent and make sure you're moving enough, but not too much. Walk, stretch and breathe, and try not to exercise so you get DOMs before race day.'

33. Stick to What you Know— Especially When it Comes to Trainers

Kirkyo's top tip? Never buy your running trainers in the month before race day.

'I've seen multiple people buy new shoes the day before race day. Don't do that—it's best to train in your trainers so you can work out if they're the right shoe for you. The latest I'd buy a new shoe to wear in is three to four weeks before race day—you need an hour to two hours in them knowing you're not going to get problems.'

You Might Also Like