I have just arrived home from the London Marathon 'Meet the Experts' day and my head is buzzing with information! It was a great day packed with advice about training, nutrition, avoiding injury and probably most importantly what to expect on the big day itself. It was a free day for everyone with a Golden Bond or charity place and was held at the Institute of Education near Russell Square.
Darin came up from Portsmouth for the day so I met him at Euston and we made our way down to the IoE. We got there just after 10am and the first of the presentations didn't start until 11am so it gave us plenty of time to check out the Adidas merchandise that was all on special offer, including an incredible deal on trainers which effectively worked out as buy a pair, get a pair free! As one of the official sponsors of the race Adidas were offering everyone a free footscan, a very clever piece of technology that analyses your running technique.
We then made our way into the lecture theatre for the start of the day proper. We were greeted by the CEO of the marathon who gave us an introduction to the marathon and outlined the charity background to the event. I hadn't realised that it is the single biggest one day charity event in the UK. I was heartened to hear that the average charity runner raises over £2000 for their charity. Thankfully the target set by my charity is a little lower than that and I'm currently 30% of my way towards that target so it was good to hear that many many people manage to raise an awful lot more. While we're on the subject if you'd like to help me on my way you can do so by visiting my Just Giving page here
The Race Director then outlined some of the elite runners that will be taking part, along with some of the celebrities also taking part - from Ben Fogle, to Will Young to Katie Price. The Course, Start and Finish Directors took us through what to expect on the day. This covered
*Going to the Expo to register sometime on the Wednesday-Saturday before the race
*How to get there - on the train or DLR which are both free on the day for runners
*What to do with your baggage - put it on a truck which gets driven to the end of the course for you to collect at the end
*What to wear while you're waiting to start - an old jumper or a bin liner that you can discard once you've started running
*An explanation of the course, the mile markers and timers and where water and fuel will be available
*What happens at the finish - timing chips, medals, goody bags and meeting up with family and friends on Horseguards parade
I found this all really helpful and it answered a lot of the things I'd been wondering about from a logistics perspective.
Next was a session from Sam Murphy one of the UKs leading health and fitness writers on avoiding injury. She gave some really good advice about not overtraining, varying running surfaces, warming up and cooling down, stretching (scientifically proven to be unnecessary before a run but very effective at preventing injury if done properly after a run) and strength training. At this point she had us up on our feet trying out a couple of strength exercises for running specific muscles.
This was all good and useful information and re-assuring to hear that I'm doing most of what I can to avoid getting injured. The one thing I did take away from this is that I need to get off road a bit to vary my training surface and not run on pavement the whole time. I'll look at adding some park based work into my long runs so I can run on grass for a while and maybe even consider heading into the gym and doing a shorter session on the treadmill. I am loathed to do this as I hate the treadmill but if it's going to help me avoid injury then I may have to relent.
After a break from lunch we came back to hear from the editor of Runners World about the pacing groups they have on the day to help people looking to achieve a specific time. This was followed by some information about online fundraising and the London Marathon website.
The next session was all about nutrition, what to eat through training and specifially before, during and after the race itself. Carbs featured heavily in this talk, the advice being to eat them the night before a long run and definitely in the days preceeding the race. Refuelling during the race via sports drinks, gels or snacks was highly recommended as the body doesn't have enough energy to run for more than about 20 miles - this is why people hit 'the wall' if they don't re-fuel effectively throughout the race. Eating a mix of carbs and protein after a long run and the race is also recommended to aid recovery.
We were given samples of Lucozade Sport drink and energy gels to take away as this is what will be available on the day and also Nestle Pure Life Water which is available at every mile after mile 3. The mantra repeated several times during this session was practice and don't do anything different on the day.
The next session was hilarious - David Bedford the Race Director taking a light hearted look at the day and what to expect. He was a real character and had some very amusing tips - it was one of those 'had to be there' things and I'm sure that I wouldn't do his jokes justice by trying to regurgitate them all here so I won't try to. However, the one tip that does stick out for me was that if you decided you were going to have celebratory sex with your partner that evening to remember to move your medal onto your back rather than front to avoid knocking their teeth out. As I said, you probably had to be there!
The last session was Liz Yelling - elite marathon runner and coach and her husband Martin who is also a coach, talking about training plans. I was really pleased to realise through this session that I am doing everything that they recommend at the moment. As the day gets nearer I do need to start to think about target time and pace, if nothing else to avoid 'going out too quick' which apparently is very easy to do on the day when the adrenaline is flowing and leads to a very difficult second part of the race.
Overall it was a great and really informative day. I picked up some useful information about the day, some bargain new trainers and most of all was re-assured that I'm doing pretty much everything right at the moment. With just 11 weeks to go until the big day that gives me a lot of confidence. I'm now itching to get out for my 12 mile run tomorrow and willing the snow to stay away from London!