I absolutely loved the whole experience of training for and running the London Marathon.
I normally run and compete on hilly trails and fells, so this was a bit of a departure. I found myself really enjoying my training sessions because running on the flat is so easy compared with running off road and on hills. From a Chi Running perspective, doing most of my running on the flat meant I could really get a strong sense of running from my centre, and allowing my running to feel like a controlled fall. Getting lean right and using that to create and control speed became much easier during these sessions. This lovely feeling of floating along is what Chi Running is all about and it brought back the reality to me that Chi Running is best practised at a slow pace on the flat. This really helps bring out the joy and effortless of the technique.
London Marathon and Marathon Running tips
The following are my own points to myself for next time. I hope they help you too. They are very much a collection of things I've read and conversations with people, so it's nothing too new really. Advice to myself for next time...
Before the event
Race specific training. I very much believe in training on routes that are as similar as possible to the race you are doing. Therefore I got serious about long flag runs - hard to find in Yorkshire. If I'm doing a 5 mile steep race that starts up a hill, make sure I train on the course or on a similar route, so the same principle applies whether it's a matathon, a night race or whatever.
I suggest reading up on how to train for and run a marathon. If you have read the Chi Running book, read the Chi Marathon book. If you've not read either then this might be a good time to start thinking about your form.
Form - Distance - Speed
This is where I get my slogan 'Ease, Efficiency, Speed' from. Focus on your form during your training, then build up the distance. You don't want to run further than you can maintain decent running form. If you've not tried Chi Running then why not give it a go? If it's not for you, then I suggest reading up on good technique.
Don't be shy about predicting yourself a faster start time. They will let you drop back, but they won't let you move yourself up into a faster pen.
If you have ever suffered from chaffing in unfortunate places, learn which underwear and clothing works for you and maybe consider Vaseline. Blokes if you don't purchase a pack of NipGuard then you could try using micropore or something similar. Try out what works for you. I find rainy weather means nipple abrasion is highly likely on long distances. All this stuff is very and uncomfortable and well worth taking steps to avoid.
It's got my name on it!
Get your name printed on your top. I got mine done at my local tshirt printers for under a fiver. I was amazing how people literally cheered me by name for the whole 26 miles. This is a fantastic mental boost, and some of the words have still stuck in my head. One of my favourites was about mile 21 'go on Jon, you've got this.'
Make sure you know where your supporters are going to be and don't miss them. Make sure they call you not just by your first name. Words like 'go on Jon' got lost, but my surname and the name of my club drew my attention more.
Sardines in a tin
Trains are from central London. Make sure you get the right train for your start (red or blue etc) and don't try and find a different route to the start from the route advertised unless you have good local knowledge. The free trains will be very very busy, so don't leave it until the last few trains.
Are you well read?
It's really well organised, I mean really well organised... but you do need to read the Information. Eg make sure you bring a photocopy of a photo ID and the Id itself. Check where you need to queue and don't join one unless you need to. This will probably be number collected, timing chip collection and goody bag collection at the expo. You will also get a medal, tshirt and another goody bag after the finish line. Don't line up eg for tshirt collection at the expo - that's only for people who have paid for printing but some were confused about this.
Time to shop?
The expo is a great place for special offers, but it's easy to get stuck in there! Lots of tempting offers here, and money could easily burn a hole in your pocket. Energy gels and redo every bars are usually on offer. You might get cheap deals on kit but don't expect every retailer to be offering a bargain. You might well be tired and end up wandering around for hours when you don't need to, so be aware of that.
During the race
There's an app for that!
Your supporers at home will probably find the App works fine for tracking you. Out and about in London, the mobile networks are very busy. In 2015 the website seemed more reliable than the app, so maybe try both?
Stick to the plan
Running advice - make a plan regarding predicted time and stick to it. Don't go off too fast. Don't get down mentally if you lose time. Aim for roughly twice your half marathon time + 10 mins. I did 24.2 miles in training in 3 hrs 12 mins. In the race I ran 26.6 in 3 hrs 17
Make a choice
Keep a simple focus for your running for - I suggest running tall and focussing ahead and keep returning to it. It's easy to loose mental focus. When you do (and you will) return to your physical and mental focusses. If you are a Chi Runner, you will probably want to choose a pair of focusses from your training, as outlined in the Chi Marathon book or as advised by your instructor.
In the mind
Use a mantra to help you stay positive and don't let negative thoughts creep in even for a moment. Be kind to yourself with your thoughts, but also cultivate determination and toughness in your training - you don't want to feel as if you gave up too easily, and at the same time it's ok to feel pain!
There is enough water
Be careful of water stations. There will be a lot of runners cutting across you so look out for them and expect it. There will also be water bottles discarded all over the road. Don't slip on one. Remember the water station is very well spread out and you don't need to worry about getting a bottle from the first group of volunteers.
It's flat, very flat
There are no hills. If you are from Yorkshire, and used to running in hills then you will probably not notice any loss of time due to hills.
Don't worry about crowd of other runners, use them for energy. They're going to slow you down unless you are in Pen 1. Accept that and try to factor it in to your predicted time. You'll worry less if you allow for an extra minute or two for the first mile.
Make sure you decide a point to meet up with your family and stick to it. This is essential as mobile networks may be busy. I suggest either the allocated points set by the event, or a specific point in Trafalguar Square (you could try the middle of the steps to the National Gallery.) That shouldn't be too far to hobble if your legs are a bit wobbly!
You are amazing
Whether you have crossed the finish line or not, be proud of yourself for starting the race and do not let yourself feel disappointed in any way with what you have done. Just by being mentally ready to cross the start line, you are one of the fittest people in the world on race day. Wear your medal with pride, stand tall and smile.