26 top tips for running the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon

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.

Any marathon requires dedication, preparation and organisation. Taking part in a virtual one brings its own particular challenges – and rewards! Here are our 26 top tips for staying happy and healthy while doing The 40th Race your way.

Before Marathon Day

1. Plan your route

There are lots of internet platforms you can use to map and measure your marathon route, many of which will allow you to programme in areas or types of terrain you’d like to avoid – such as hills!

If you’re not sure that you’ve measured the distance accurately, remember if you listen to the Official Virgin Money London Marathon App powered by TCS audio experience it will congratulate you when you’ve completed the 26.2-mile distance. When planning your route, bear the following in mind:

  • Choose areas you know – you don’t want to waste energy by getting lost.
  • Where possible, stick to traffic-free paths and trails and stay away from busy areas.
  • Avoid anywhere that may become too wet, muddy or slippery if it rains, and don’t make your route too hilly or uneven.
  • Always check the current Covid-19 restrictions where you live and plan accordingly.

2. Make it fun

This is your race, your way – it’s your chance to enjoy the freedom that participating in a virtual marathon brings. Rather than struggling to find one 26.2-mile route near you that’s sufficiently safe and suits your needs and abilities, think outside the box:

  • Why not do 26 (and a bit!) laps of a one-mile circuit? Or repeat fewer circuits of a larger loop. Running laps with a cheer squad stationed on the route is a great way to get a regular boost from your loved ones.
  • Find somewhere that’s 26.2 miles from home, so you can be dropped off there and run back.
  • Choose a point that’s 13.1 miles away from home and go there and back.
  • Don’t forget to factor in toilet stops when you plan your route if you think you’ll need them!

3. Plan your pace

It’s always good to have a rough idea of the pace you’ll run to ensure you don’t set off too quickly at the start, when you’re feeling fresh and full of energy. Your target race pace will depend on your experience, training and aspirations on Marathon Day. Make a realistic pace plan and try to stick to it, especially early in the event.

4. Download the app

We’ll be in touch as soon as the Official App powered by TCS is ready to download. You will need to use the app to track and record your run so we can send you your Virgin Money London Marathon finisher’s medal and New Balance T-shirt to mark your achievement. Give yourself time to read the instructions and FAQs. Then it’s the fun part: exploring the app’s features so you feel confident (and excited!) about using it to enhance your experience on Marathon Day.

5. Plan a playlist

You can use our official audio partner audible to download your favourite podcasts or even an audio book pre-event and listen to them while the audio experience of the Official App powered by TCS runs in the background (more on that below!). To get you in the mood, you could also create your own marathon music playlist that lasts for your predicted time. As well as selecting upbeat tunes that keep you focused and energised, you could ask friends to nominate tracks, or choose songs that remind you of special times with loved ones.

6. Recruit some company

Find a running buddy who could run (or walk!) with you for some or all of the way, or cycle alongside you. You could even draw up a rota of companions!

7. Invite your cheer squad

Invite your cheer squad and/or support team in advance. Depending on the type of course you’ve plotted, you can ask friends and family to cheer you on and offer refreshment at different points on your route – remembering to follow government and local guidance on social distancing.

  • If you’re running laps or loops they may be able to stay in the same place and form a mini drinks/cheer station just for you.
  • If they live nearby they could meet you outside their homes for a quick pit-stop and chat.
  • Think about milestones you’ll be happy to pass (like the halfway point) or times when the going will get tough (the notorious 20-mile stage) and ensure someone will be there to help you keep going.

8. Have a Plan B (and C and D!)

Nobody likes to think the worst, but even the best laid plans can go awry so it’s wise to be prepared in case anything goes wrong on the big day. Think about what you want to get out of your experience and try to anticipate anything that may be an obstacle to this.

9. Point of contact

In a similar vein, think about how you can contact people to let them know if anything goes wrong. Your name and contact details should be on the back of your running numbers so you can be identified in case of emergencies. There’s also space to add an emergency contact name and phone number here, as well as details of any medical conditions you have, too. Have someone you can call to come and pick you up if necessary and make sure you tell someone you trust where you are going and share your route with them. Check in with them regularly. Remember, they can download the Official App powered by TCS to track you and follow your progress.

10. How will you hydrate?

How will you hydrate and refuel on Marathon Day? Plan in advance what you’ll eat and drink on route. Everyone has personal preferences when it comes to keeping hydrated and fuelled while running, and much depends on how long you expect to be on the move for. Whatever you’re doing you will certainly need to take on food and drink on route so plan how you’re going to make this work.

11. Carry clever

Look into lightweight and comfortable solutions for carrying essentials – your phone, battery pack, water bottle and extra kit in case of changes in weather – such as a waist belt or hydration pack. Again, if you plan ahead you can lessen the load by picking up items such as a battery pack, food and fluids at strategic points on your route.

12. Be loud and proud!

Running a marathon is a big deal – let your friends and family know what you’re doing so they can lend their support. The Official App powered by TCS contains fun selfie frames that you can use on Marathon Day to showcase what you’re doing on social media and on your fundraising page if you’re running for charity...

13...Speaking of which...

If you feel like you need a little extra motivation as event week draws near it’s not too late to run for a cause that’s close to your heart – it could give you the boost you need. Many charities have online resources and advice for runners, so take a look at the websites of ones that you’re interested in. You’ll also need to start a fundraising campaign. The easiest way to do this is by setting up a Virgin Money Giving page. Your supporters will be able to donate direct to your Virgin Money Giving fundraising page via the Official App powered by TCS – so encourage them to download it too!

14. Dress for success

Plan your kit and don’t wear anything new on Marathon Day. Have tried-and-tested outfit options ready for all weathers – depending on what you can expect from October where you live!

15. Watch the weather

Check the weather forecast regularly during the week before the event so you are prepared for what Mother Nature may throw at you. Don’t forget you can change the time you set off in order to avoid bad weather or make the most of good conditions. Just make sure you start your run after 00:00:00 BST on Sunday 4 October and finish it before 23:59:59 BST on the same day.

16. Be safe and seen

In the UK, the sun will rise around 07:00 on 4 October and it’s going to start getting dark at about 18:30. If you think you’ll be running before or after these times make sure you wear something that will help you stay seen and stick to well-lit paths.

The night before

17. You are what you eat

Eat sensibly the night before Marathon Day, go for high-carb, low-fat foods that you are used to eating – now’s not the time to try anything new! The optimal time for your evening meal will depend on what time you’re planning on setting off in the morning. You should have your breakfast two to four hours before you start your run and drink little and often to stay hydrated.

18. Prepare your Marathon Day kit

Get together anything you’re planning to carry with you, such as gels, sweets and your fully charged mobile phone (with the Official App powered by TCS downloaded and ready to go!) and make sure you pin one of your runner numbers on your front and one on your back to ensure you get lots of recognition and cheers as you take on the 26.2 miles. If it’s going to be sunny, get the sunscreen out too!

On the day

19. Power up

Make sure your phone is fully charged before you set off. If you’re worried about your phone battery running out, take a charger pack with you or get somebody to meet you with one on route. If you are planning stopping points you can use these as an opportunity to recharge your battery as well as your body.

20. Start your run

When you’re ready to start the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, hit the ‘Start My Run’ button in the ‘My Run’ section of the Official App powered by TCS. If you need to pause your run, you can hit the ‘Pause Run’ button at any time.

21. Listen up

The specially recorded audio experience of the Official App powered by TCS will give you lots of encouragement (as well as some fun facts and inspiration) at every mile. Two London Marathon legends will be your guides to the 26.2-mile challenge, so enjoy their top tips as you take on the iconic distance.

22. Take care

Whatever you decide to listen to while running, always take care when using headphones. Be aware of your surroundings and always pause to cross any roads safely.

23. Get ready

If you’re aiming for a fast time, you might want to warm up a little before starting your marathon challenge. Try a five-minute run at one-minute per mile slower than your target pace, followed by some stretching then a few gentle strides. For most runners, the early miles of a marathon offer the opportunity to warm up gradually so there’s no need to warm up beforehand. Once you’ve completed the 26.2 miles, you won’t feel like stretching, but you should at least try these five simple stretches. Try to walk around for 10 minutes or so before attempting them.

24. Use your time wisely

You have almost 24 hours to complete the marathon – take advantage of that. If you don’t feel ready for 26.2 miles in one go, break up the distance with multiple runs: 16.2 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the evening for instance. Walk if and when you need to. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure or risk.

25. Travel light

You don’t have to take everything you need to eat and drink with you – particularly if you’re doing laps. Think about whether there are any shops on route where you can pop in for a bottle of water (in that case remember to pack a face covering!), or where there are places your supporters can stand by with refreshments.

26. Pause for thought

Once you’ve covered the 26.2-mile marathon distance and run through your homemade Finish Line to complete the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, the Official App powered by TCS will stop tracking you and show the following message: ‘Congratulations on completing your run!’ Take a moment to feel proud of your achievement and the part you’ve played in the 40th edition of the world’s greatest marathon.

26.2. Celebrate your success

How are you going to mark the end of your 26.2 miles? While Covid-19 means we can’t all celebrate together this year, there’s lots you can do revel in your achievement:

  • Have your cheer squad in place to create some noise as you run through the Finish Line.
  • Plan a (appropriately socially distanced) post-race party or a favourite meal so you have something to look forward to.
  • Book a sports massage to help soothe those aching limbs.
  • Treat yourself to some of the official 40th Race kit from New Balance to help you remember this special day (and show other people that you took part!).
  • And don’t forget to enter the ballot for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon. The ballot opens on Sunday 4 October and closes on Friday 9 October – by then you’re sure to be feeling ready to take on another 26.2 miles!

And last but not least, use the Official App powered by TCS to take a Finish Line selfie to share with the world – you’ve done The 40th Race, your way, let everyone know about it!

Check out coach Martin Yelling’s latest blog post for more details on creating your own virtual Virgin Money London Marathon strategy to help you meet your goals for The 40th Race.