London Marathon 2023

A long-awaited spot in the London Marathon, the ninth year entering into the ballot and the shock of actually getting a place! I am no stranger to long distance endurance races, however the speed aspect was the most frightening. No picnics on the route and hills to walk up, just straight up running!

Here are my top learnings from the race:

1. Training

As ever, I could have always trained more, however religiously getting in the long runs at the weekend certainly helped. Some more speed work would have certainly been helpful.

2. Race week prep

As race week approaches there are a number of things that you can’t control, so I tried to focus on what I could control:

– Carb loading

– Stretching: I have never stretched so much in my life, perhaps more consistent stretching over the training block would have been more helpful, something to take forwards.

– Tapering: I really took tapering to town, and probably a little more than needed, I saved my legs where possible. Then a gentle parkrun on the Saturday morning to shake the legs out.

– Resting: focusing on sleeping well and generally looking after myself.

3. Carb loading

I still do not think I have fully achieved a full blown carb load (exceeding 10g carbs/kg), however I focused on significantly increasing my overall carbohydrate intake for the last 48 hours. Alongside this I reduced down my fibre intake to minimise any tummy upsets. My energy levels did feel good on race day and no tummy upsets so I will take this as a positive result.

4. Race Day

They say that running the London Marathon is unlike any other race you will ever do, the support was unbelievable. There was hardly any stretch of the road where there were not any spectators. One of the biggest regrets for me is not having my name on my top, however Rachel is a popular name so quite often someone else near me was called Rachel and getting a shout out which I benefitted from!

The race was so well organised, from the start area, to collecting drop bag it could not have been easier. There were plenty of water stations, which had a lot of volunteers on so easy to grab a bottle. Everyone was so happy, encouraging and helpful and this made such a difference.

The weather could have been better, but the rain was intermittent and actually a good running temperature. I am not someone who has suffered particularly with chaffing, but being soggy for 26 miles led to a small amount of chaffing for me. So I would advise anyone running long distances to plan for all eventualities, and I will definitely be putting more body glide on going forwards.

5. Review the route in detail

I got mixed up where the water stations were, which meant I couldn’t always take my gels exactly where I had planned and had to wait for the next water station. Having previously lived in London for several years, I roughly knew the route, however looking into it in more detail would certainly been more helpful.

6. Plan your nutrition

Make sure you have sufficient nutrition for Plan A, B or C. If the wheels fall off and you are unexpectedly out on course for a lot longer, having some back up fuel is really going to help.

I had planned my number of gels, then picked up additional Lucozade gels at the aid station so I had those for back up. I had also given my parents some extra gels, in case I lost some on the route. I can tell you it would be a profitable business to start near the back and pick up all the gels that had fallen out of people’s pockets in the first few miles.

Luckily for me I managed my Plan A – 7 gels, Lucozade sport and water. I had electrolyte tabs on me in case I felt I needed these, but this would have been difficult as I would have had to take the lid off the bottles to put these in. Perhaps one to consider going forwards. Remember this is a plan that works for me and it by no means what everyone else should be following.

7. Race reminders

Writing my gel timings and rough target times on my arm really helped keep me on track. There are smarter and more waterproof ways to do this, which I would recommend! Don’t rely on your memory, I couldn’t even remember how many miles there were in a marathon towards the end!

Maths is not my strong point on a good day, but trying to work out if I was still vaguely on pace in the final stretches was a tough order. Trying to work out what pace I needed to go for the last 5km to get my time was seemingly impossible. However it did keep me occupied for a short while and helped take my mind off my increasingly sore legs!

8. ‘Maranoia’

Maranoia (n): Mental anxiety found in marathon runners, characterised by the irrational belief that last-minute disaster is imminent. (Runners World)

I knew it was coming, I know it isn’t real, but you just can’t stop it! Every tiny tweak I thought was an injury, I was getting mildly obsessive over the weather forecast (to be honest it changed so many times in the week leading up to the race). Every cough I thought I must be ill. I made it to the start line in pretty good shape, so trust yourself that you have put the hard work and don’t let the maranoia get you. I also found being organised, packing everything, reading the official race booklet, planning my route to the start in advance really helped me to manage this more effectively.

So what is next?

Back to the trails, I have an 86 mile race and multi-day race later in the year. I achieved my target time for the road marathon and a 17 minute PB, so is it time to leave the road races behind or am I tempted for more….

One of the major differences between trail running and road running is the focus on the time and speed with road races. The moment I mentioned I was doing London, or have since said I ran London, generally the first question is ‘what time did you do it in?’. Whilst a legitimate question, it does somewhat detract from the fact that actually completing a marathon is a great achievement.

That being said, trail is definitely going to be my focus, but I must admit I have entered the ballot again, well after all you have to be in it to win it…. (Fingers crossed for a commiseration email in October!)

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