London Marathon Race Week Advice

London Marathon Race Week Advice

The months of running in the cold, rain and dark are almost over. Spring has sprung and its time to stretch those marathon legs. With less than a week left to go until the big day here’s our top tips for a successful run.

Smart Thinking Disclaimer: Don’t try anything new on race week, or race day.


Carb-loading is the process of increasing your carbohydrate intake prior to the event to increase the amount of readily available stored energy you have in your muscles (glycogen). Many different methods can be applied to this technique, however the more conservative approach will work best for the majority of runners.
Eat a normal diet in the final week and in the last three days prior to the event increase your carbohydrate intake to roughly 60% of your daily diet. Your training load should be at least 50% of what it has been. These short runs will keep the legs ticking over and the body primed for storing glycogen.

Food include: rice, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bagels or pancakes for example.

An average runner can store 1500-2000 calories worth of muscle glycogen. Depending on your weight and metabolism you will need roughly 90-140 calories per mile in energy. Therefore good carb-loading and a well-rehearsed nutrition plan on the day can help propel you to the finish without having huge energy slumps or hitting the wall.

The body can use fat for fuel, however this process requires the body to use a different energy pathway and as a result you will slow down. More glycogen or stored energy means you go further into the race at a stronger pace.

Get of your Feet!

The day before a marathon is a real danger time for athletes as the temptation to walk the expo or city can be very tempting. The problems with this are many, all of which are going to affect your race. For every hour spent walking the expo or streets you are burning up all that stored energy and glycogen you have been storing for the big race.

The next problem is you will lose track of how much walking you have actually done. A recent trip to Vienna for the half marathon resulted in 11K of walking the day before as our group of runners drifted from the expo, into the city and back again. This did nobody’s times any favours the following day.

The final problem here is your going to ask your body to do something very stressful the next day, you should give it the rest it needs to allow you taper and peak performance to kick in. Walking around in the sun getting tired, dehydrated and glycogen depleted is no way to top off weeks of training.

Let the family enjoy the sights and put your feet up. One day of being selfish can be made up for after the marathon.

Last Meal

The day before it can be tempting to cram in as many carbohydrates as you can lay your eyes on. The problem here is that it is likely to leave you feeling sluggish and very full. Instead try to eat a bigger carbohydrate based meal such as pasta at lunch time or early evening, reducing the carbohydrate intake for your evening meal. This will allow adequate time to digest your food and gives you a better chance of getting a restful night sleep.

First Meal

Race morning breakfast is essential to make sure your energy stores are topped up. Depending on what you can handle roughly 200-500 calories primarily carbohydrates should be eaten 3-4 hours prior to the start. Drink around 500ml of fluid to replace those lost through sweat in the night.

A sport drink can do the job of both here along with a simple breakfast of porridge made with water (easier on digestion, especially when time is tight), a banana or a low fiber based cereal will also work well. Try to avoid too much caffeine if you can as you don’t want to be on the start line having an energy slump.

Start Line Rush

When you entered the marathon you would have given a predicted finish time and in turn allocated a starting pen.  Each starting pen will still contain a very broad mix of abilitiies and will not all match you own pace.

The start at London and other big events can be very busy and often suffers a stop start approach in the first mile. It’s vitally important that you closely monitor your pace and do not push too hard from the start. Build into your pace and aim to run a negative split (second half faster) if more advanced. Even if this is a stretch you still shouldn’t run the first mile at 100m pace and be aware of getting sucked along by the runners and cheering crowds.

Even if your friends run past you just hold back, build into your run and I assure you that later on you will be flying past them as the wheels come off their marathon bandwagon.

Race smarter, not harder.

Finish Line

The crowds are carrying you home at this point and your feeling amazing (mostly), so remember to wipe the snot from your nose, the dribble and energy gel from you face. Stick those arms up high and smile for the camera.

You’re a marathon runner and you just made this look easy!

Have an amazing run and remember to race smarter, not harder.


Good Luck !

Andy Strong
Fundamentally FIT Ltd

Sources: Advanced Marathon Training, Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas

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