A PT’s Guide To Fine-Tuning Before The London Marathon
A PT’s Guide To Fine-Tuning Before The London Marathon

A PT’s Guide To Fine-Tuning Before The London Marathon


With the London Marathon taking place this weekend, we asked the industry’s biggest names to share their last-minute preparation tips…

Taper Off

“By this point in your training, you’ll hopefully have tapered off – aka scaling things back. Tapering should ideally start immediately after your longest training run, which should be no later than three weeks before race day. Tapering is part science, part art, and part personal preference. In my experience, a two-week taper in which running volume is gradually reduced but a small amount of intensity is maintained will get you to the start line as fit and confident as possible. For most people, by the end of the taper (not including race day), the volume of your weekly mileage should be around 40-50% of your usual volume. If you’re usually doing 50 miles (80km) a week, then in the final week aim for 25 miles (40km). However, listen to your body – you may need to do more or less. Not too sure where you’re at? If anything, do less. Less running facilitates more recovery therefore giving you a greater chance to perform on the day, but keep things ticking over with a gentle jog here and there.” – Anthony Fletcher, founder of Onetrack 

Stick With Your Trainers

“Don’t be tempted to buy a new pair of trainers for race day. Unless you’ve maximised your physiology and are looking for miniscule margins to gain seconds, having a fresh pair just for race day isn’t going to change much, unless your training shoes are really on their way out. The notion of ‘wearing in’ your trainers is a myth – it only applies if you’re switching from one brand or model to another. If you have found a pair you love and want a new pair exactly the same, you’ll unlikely need to wear them in for more than an hour, or a long run. If you are changing brand or model, wear them for long walks two to three times, then do a couple of easy runs in them followed by one long run.” – Anthony 

The marathon is a serious challenge and sometimes things happen on race day that are out of your control – this happens at elite level, too."

Do Some Activation Exercises

“In the final week before the marathon, focus on your mobility and muscle activation of your glutes, hips, calves and ankles. A glute bridge is a great place to start – lying on your back, lift your hips to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold for 30 seconds. Do this three times. Also incorporate clamshells and side-lying abductors, as well as ‘bounces’ – with soft knees, perform gentle bunny hops, bouncing on the toes. Do three sets of 10 seconds on the spot, left to right and forwards to backwards. These activation exercises should be performed before every run to prepare the legs. Done in the few days before the marathon, they can help reduce any muscle soreness.” – Arj Thiruchelvam, UK Athletics running coach


Be Careful With Charity Gear

“If you have been given a charity vest or t-shirt to wear, be sure to do a few test runs with it prior to race day, and ensure it’s been through the wash a couple of times. If it still rubs, consider wearing a trusted vest or thin layer underneath – but not something so thick it’ll affect heat control. Sometimes, charity t-shirts rub around the armpit area, so consider using some Vaseline as a protective layer, or make a t-shirt into a vest.” – Anthony 

Be Realistic

“Race-day adrenaline can start increasing 24 hours before you reach the start line. It can help to have several scenarios in your head of how the race could go: plan A, all the stars align and you nail it; plan B, you get a stitch or something slows you down, but you still nail it; or plan C, work out what your next target will be. The marathon is a serious challenge and sometimes things happen on race day that are out of your control – this happens at elite level, too. Giving yourself a couple of alternative goals can take the pressure off.” – Anthony 

Go Steady

“Everyone gets overexcited in the first mile, but stay calm and put your training into practice, remembering that even pacers aren’t immune to pre-race adrenaline. Try to stick to the pace you’d do in a normal long run for the first mile, and then once out of the thick of the start line, find a pace that feels comfortable. Remember, if you’re chasing a PB, you only have to average that pace, not maintain it constantly.” – Anthony


Be Focused

“Remind yourself that 26.2 miles is the shortest possible distance you will run – chances are you’ll end up running more than this once you factor in weaving in and out of crowds, and hopping up and down off kerbs. Start steady and stay steady. Know your pace and imprint it in your mind. Also know there’s no need to drink water at every station – drink to thirst and make sure you take on some electrolytes. Finally, work with your fellow runners – help each other out, encourage each other and be supportive.” – Kevin Betts, PT, running coach & founder of Run Things Virtual Run Club

Carb Load Like A Pro

“When you get into race week and your taper is in full effect, you’ll be fizzing with energy and spending a lot less time on your feet. Your diet doesn’t need to change drastically, as by virtue of being less active your body will start to top up its glycogen stores. Runners rave about carb loading, but endless bowls of pasta isn’t the best way to go about it, and you don’t need to start on Monday. Between 36 and 48 hours out from your race, increase your carbohydrate intake, aiming for 4-6g of carbs per kg of your bodyweight. If you weigh 80kg, that equates to 320-480g of carbs. For context, 100g of pasta contains 70g carbs, and one slice of white bread 12g of carbs. I find it easy to top levels up with Maurten sachets – its 320 mix provides 80g of carbs per serving. Don’t forget about protein, which can help replenish glycogen stores more quickly. Aim for 1.2-1.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight.” – Justin Reid-Simms, run coach & nutritionist at Onetrack

Try drinking beetroot juice, which has been shown to improve oxygen efficiency and can reduce your perceived exertion.”

Have A Race Day Plan

“When you’re days away from a race, you should have your nutrition plan nailed down – you’ll have found the right thing for breakfast before a long run and have discovered the meals that replenish you after big weeks of training. Aim for a carb-heavy evening meal on Friday and Saturday but eat something you’ve had before. Stay hydrated and get as much sleep as you can. The night before, make sure you have your gels laid out and consider taking a bottle of water with Maurten 160 mix to the start line – this can help top up glycogen stores just before you set off.” – Justin 

Drink Beetroot Juice

“Alongside carb loading, also try nitrate loading by drinking beetroot juice – this has been shown to improve oxygen efficiency and can reduce your perceived exertion in a race. Beet It shots are a handy way to get your daily dose. If you can, drink one in the morning from Wednesday, including the day of the race itself, and top up your nitrate stores further with lots of dark leafy greens.” – Justin 

Keep Yourself Distracted

“In the last couple of weeks and days before the marathon, you’ll be at peak fitness and there isn’t much more you can do. This is the time to relax and prepare yourself mentally and physically. Take time to see your family and friends as connecting with others helps decrease anxiety, enjoy some nice dinners out and treat yourself to a massage, facial or haircut. This may sound silly, but a happy, relaxed runner is a successful runner. Anything you can do to boost dopamine will help you reduce the anxiety of tapering and get you in the right frame of mind.” – Anthony 

For more information, head to RunThings.co.uk, ArjThiruchelvam.com & Onetrack.club

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected].