Running the Virgin Money London Marathon Your Way

The Official Virgin Money London Marathon App, powered by TCS, will be available during the week leading up to Sunday 4 October. Further details on how to use the app to track your run will be emailed to all runners once the app has been launched.

On Sunday 4 October 2020 you’ll have a unique opportunity to join 45,000 other people taking part in The 40th Race virtually, says coach Martin Yelling. Here’s his advice on how to make the most of Marathon Day.

This is going to be a different experience to toeing the Start Line in Blackheath and hitting the Finish Line on The Mall with the biggest smile ever – but, at the same time, you have the chance to be part of something amazing as runners from across the globe (109 countries, in fact!) come together to run 26.2 miles within 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds. You get the chance to create your own start, route and finish.

Your way, your terms

The great thing about having almost 24 hours (from 00:00:00 BST on Sunday 4 October) to cover the marathon distance is that you can approach it on your terms. This level of flexibility can take away any unwanted stress and the pressure of a big event, but it also presents some new logistical, planning and practical considerations to get your head around.

Plan your marathon strategy

It’s important to plan your virtual Virgin Money London Marathon strategy. Ahead of the big day on Sunday 4 October consider and plan how you’d like to achieve your marathon and what you’ll need to set up to help you do this. Do you want to be optimistic and set yourself a personal goal finish time to help motivate your miles, or do you want to me more relaxed and allow time to tick by?

What about your route? Do you want to run an out-and-back course, a long loop, or multiple laps? What about the profile of your route (I mean, who wants to plan in hills at mile 22?!) – do you know where you are you going, can you run a loop or a section of your route so you’re familiar with it before running the full distance?

You need to be able to measure the distance in advance. There are online mapping tools and wearable devices that can help you achieve this. Getting to know your route will help you on Marathon Day – when you’re 18 miles in, your legs hurt, and your emotions are all over the place, you’ll need clarity to reduce your choices and help things go more smoothly.

Know what time you want to start (and aim to finish) your run on Marathon Day and download the Official Virgin Money London Marathon App powered by TCS so you can track and log it. You’ll be sent all the information and instructions you need to use the app in advance of the big day.

Be comfortable, flexible and adaptable

The last few months have been difficult, complex and uncertain for many of us and your running may have been impacted. You may have been able to develop a consistent and regular running routine, on the other hand, your exercise schedule may have been disrupted, infrequent and challenging.

It’s OK to not be completely where you want to be fitness-wise. Over the next couple of weeks running is about doing a last ‘long run’ (perhaps 15 to 18 miles) to prepare your body and mind for your marathon attempt and then dropping your running volume so you reach 4 October feeling fresh and ready to tackle 26.2 miles.

It’s OK not to have done all the miles you thought you might. It’s OK to do what you can, when you can, and cover 26.2 miles however you can: walk, jog, run or a mixture of all.

Be comfortable with that approach and where you’re at. Always remember you have almost 24 hours to complete the marathon distance, so be prepared to be flexible with your goals and adaptable on the day.

Disciplined pacing is still key

Despite increased flexibility and the ability to set your own goals (within 24 hours!) the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon is still a marathon and the distance shouldn’t be underestimated.

You’ll almost certainly enjoy the experience a lot more if you have a pace plan. Getting overexcited in the first 16.2 miles will mean the final 10 are more likely to feel tougher – especially when you’re on your own, without the crowd support, the landmarks, the cheering, music and other runners.

So be disciplined in the first few miles. It should feel easy. If it doesn’t, you’re working too hard so slow down. Be ready to go the full distance. Be extra-ready to dig in when it feels hard on your own. Because it will. When you’ve planned your route, identify key landmarks and significant stepping-stone distances along the way to help you stay motivated. When you reach them you’ll feel good!

The Official App powered by TCS should help you with this too, as its audio experience will let you know when you pass each mile, with motivational commentary to give you a boost.

Pay attention and take control

Respect the distance and the challenges you’ll face. Running out of energy, muscle pain, deep fatigue and a serious slowdown in the final few miles is known as ‘hitting the wall’.

Runners struggle in the later stages typically because they’ve started off way too fast and haven’t distributed their effort economically throughout the entire distance, and/or they’ve failed to be sufficiently fuelled and hydrated before and during the event and run out of energy.

If on Marathon Day you find yourself struggling significantly in the later stages, bring things carefully back under control. It’s really important to pay attention to how you are feeling, particularly if you are running your virtual marathon alone and are self-supported. Be kind to yourself, don’t push too hard, drop your pace, allow yourself to find a new rhythm and get things under control. This might mean walking. Don’t be disheartened. Be safe. Keep moving.

Supporting yourself for 26.2 miles

Without the event logistics to support your run you have to consider and plan these things yourself. The great thing is you’ve probably been doing this already as you’ve progressed to longer training runs, but for Marathon Day you’ll need to double-check your arrangements. Things for your checklist include:

  • Kit – make sure you’ve tried and tested it.
  • Fuel – know what you’ll take with you, how you’ll carry it, and when you’ll eat it. Bring back-up supplies!
  • Hydration – your fluid replacement needs are personal and environment-specific. Consider how you’ll carry, place or purchase fluids as required.
  • Medical and safety support – be aware of any personal medical issues; have a contingency plan; carry any personal medication and instructions; consider an ID tag; share your route and plans with people you know and trust and check-in with them at regular milestones and break points; phone your friends and family for support! Remember, the Official App powered by TCS allows your supporters to follow your progress on the route of the Virgin Money London Marathon as well as your route in real life, so make sure they download it too.
  • Survival kit! Take your fully charged phone – including a portable charger and cable if you plan to be out for a long time. You’ll also probably need money or a payment card, anti-chafe cream, petroleum jelly, blister plasters, a face covering and other personal items.
  • Bail-out plan. What if it goes wrong? What if you need a pick-up, unexpected support or extra help? When you’re tired, emotional and fatigued these decisions are not always easy to make or action. Help yourself and others by having a bail-out plan in place. You should always know your location and have the ability to share it for support if required.
  • Stay socially distanced. Adhere to any local, regional or countrywide laws or guidelines if you’re running with others or arranging personal support locations.

Take time to celebrate

With the virtual nature of the Virgin Money London Marathon, it’d be easy to not celebrate it the same way you would if you were competing in a mass-participation event, but it’s just as impressive an achievement.

Set up a Finish Line (an actual one or just one in your own head) and keep working towards this. Completing The 40th Race Your Way and covering 26.2 miles is a truly amazing accomplishment.

Share your lead-up, your journey and your success with your networks via the Official App powered by TCS on Marathon Day and be proud of yourself for doing it – your way.

Follow Dr Martin Yelling @myelling