A few months ago I was invited by the lovely Amy Lane (editor of Women’s Health) to talk about London Marathon race day and running with a pacer. Today’s top 5 is a short summary of some of the points we discussed during our chat

What to pack in your drop bag

If you haven’t already collected your number at the running show, when you do you will receive a large, see-through, plastic drop bag. This is the only bag that the volunteers on the baggage truck will accept on race morning. I always fill mine to the brim (not an essential requirement). I pack flip-flops, as I like to remove my trainers after running, warm clothes (whatever the weather you will cool down when you stop running), a post-race snack (although the  goody bag at the end has a snack in it too), baby-wipes and a hairbrush (preparation for the post race celebrations).

For those concerned about meeting up with friends and family after the race, the best thing to do is to make a pre-arranged meeting point – perhaps in a local pub. You will receive your drop bag back immediately after the finish but the organisers recommend that you do not leave any valuables such as mobile phones in it, and anyway reception can be difficult because of the  number of people trying to make calls.

Don’t stress about the warm-up

Recently we wrote a post about the importance of the warm up. The general consensus is that you don’t really need to warm up much for a marathon. This is useful because due to the sheer number of people involved in the London Marathon, lots of processes take longer than in smaller events. You can expect to be in the starting pen anything up to an hour before you run, so any warm-up before this will be pointless. By all means if you would feel more comfortable doing a pre-race jog around the starting village then do – just don’t run too far or too fast. Don’t get too hot because you’ll feel cold when you cool down waiting in the pen. Through your training you have developed your own routines – you need to trust in what you have done up until now, but don’t stress too much if you don’t get your usual warm up. A short aerobic routine or jogging on the spot in the pen can get your heart rate up ready to run.

Running with a pacer

If you decide to run with a pacer (which of course I can highly recommend) there are three important things to remember. Firstly, try to keep an eye on whether your pacer crosses the line before or after you as it is the chip time that matters. If a pacer starts behind you and you cross the finish line together the running time on their watch will be less. Secondly, each start has pacers at a number of different times. You need to stick with pacers from your own start as others might have started at very different times to you. You can identify your pacers by the colour of their flag – it will be the same as your bib. And finally if you are running with a pace bus, groups can get quite large, so just be mindful of other runners around you who might be trying to get past the group – give them space so that they can run their own race.

In the pen

Take a snack, don’t throw your throw-away away too soon, go and introduce yourself to one of the Runner’s World pacers for a chat – we are very friendly. Talk to the people around you; hearing their stories can be a great way to pass the time and keep nerves at bay.

From the minute you wake up

I’m always envious of those standing on the start line at London for the first time, as I did back in  April 2013. Whether it’s your first marathon or your first London Marathon the finish feeling is one you will never forget. When you reflect on it, it will be on the whole day you think about not just the finish line. Apprehension and anxieties are perfectly normal and to be expected, but try to make the most of all aspects of your day. From the journey to the start, the time spent in the race village, the start pen, the course, the finish line of course and the post-race celebrations – enjoy every minute.

Have an absolutely brilliant day!