Londoners have the edge on the marathon. For a start, we do not have to spend five hours on a train down from Newcastle the day before, carb-loading on damp Upper Crust baguettes, then checking into a Travelodge on Greenwich High Road and spending an evening trying to watch Freeview while the panic roars in your ears. Instead, you wake up in bed next to your loved one and use your Oyster card to travel to the starting line.
Second, you know the route. Not the whole thing but all the major sections resonate and you can — reassuringly — calculate roughly how long it would take you to get home, every mile, on the mile, in case you decide this whole thing was a terrible, terrible mistake. More of your friends are likely to turn out to watch; you can be home and in the bath an hour after crossing the finish line in Green Park. These are your pavements, and this is how to run the marathon like a Londoner.
1. Work it out
For a single day, the marathon swallows London whole — you cannot get around without getting tangled in a finisher’s medal — but for the weeks running up to it, its imagery is everywhere. Therefore, if the office knows you are running it, the weeks beforehand can be their own endurance event: fielding inquisitions about your preparation, demurring that you are not nervous at all, really, and insisting that you certainly have not spent considerable hours Googling “will i die during marathon?”.
Do not let anyone psych you out: many of the attempts to do so are distorted expressions of jealousy (people don’t like it when you do something pretty impressive that they couldn’t). For your part, treat the event as a private matter — something you’re not even that bothered about, actually — and they’ll soon tire of their fatuous torture.
The day after the race, send your JustGiving link around the office with the deft cool of someone who is, clearly, better than everyone else.
2. Prime yourself
Relaxation is a manifold pursuit. Some runners find that a strength and conditioning class is — genuinely — the best way to relax, others are fanatical about yoga, or foam-rolling. You be you. If you seek some exercise that will work, but not overly exert, those limbs, you could try a stretching class at Third Space: its Canary Wharf site has launched a mobility-training unit called Five, led by osteopath Henry Howe, who will crack joints and unknot muscles. Third Space also offers yoga, broga and barre classes — for flexing out — and strength and conditioning classes for fortifying your body’s resilience ahead of time. Try Core Focus, which will strengthen your trunk and deliver more energy to weary limbs on the course (thirdspace.london).
Pilates will stabilise the body — try Heartcore (heartcore.co.uk) — and spin classes. Boom Cycle offers a low-intensity alternative that still works all the muscles you need to run 26.2 miles (boomcycle.co.uk).
3. The final countdown
You should never run a marathon before the marathon — if you’re midway through one, stop now — though you likely still have a long-ish training run to go. But you’ve been moving for months, so you’ll need something inspiring to reanimate mind and body.
4. Try new routes
The novelty will sustain you. It is spring; reroute via a park, or hurtle to the outer limits of the capital — Richmond or Walthamstow — and get lost in its verdant wildlife. Make these runs about pleasure not timing: aim for PBs on your grim run home from work, choking on the Victorian smog that hangs in a fug over zone 1.
5. Look the part
You want your kit to balance competing demands: practical so you last the distance but attention-grabbing so Mum can spy you between all the other tens of thousands of runners. Lululemon’s Nulux range is extraordinarily lightweight, bright and sculpts muscles to keep them warm and ticking over. Iffley Road’s collection draws on a traditional runner’s kit — hum the theme tune to Chariots of Fire as you process down The Mall for the finishing line — and LDNR sportswear is rendered in graphic, go-faster stripes. Sweaty Betty and adidas both do leggings in kaleidoscopic colours and different lengths.
6. Get the glow
The marathon takes place in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. You might have a finish line to cross but you do not want to look like a troll doing so. You need sweat-free make-up: Eyeko’s waterproof mascara is reputed to be the best in the business, and Shiseido’s WetForce Sports BB cream has an SPF of factor 50-plus that actually gets more protective the more you sweat. It is also faintly tinted, so you’ll hurtle through your photo-finish looking marathon-bronzed. Murad has a MattEffect Blotting Perfector containing marshmallow powder that absorbs oil but not water, therefore precluding dehydration. An antimicrobial applicator lowers skin temperature.
7. Run to the beat
You are probably already working on your marathon playlist. But it must be choreographed precisely — this is not one to leave on shuffle. Start with sparky pop to get you out of the gates and making progress through the first few miles, and then keep everything upbeat. Nothing is too cheesy, nothing is too uncool. You want a bit of everything. Top tip: do not listen to, for example, a Harry Potter audiobook for the first nine miles. Hogwarts will be refigured as a cruel, unforgiving place.
8. Hot spots
Of course, the race is also run best to the soundtrack of boisterous, euphoric crowds who are truly thrilled you are doing this instead of them. The best places to take out your headphones include around the Cutty Sark, most of the residential sections in Greenwich, Deptford and Bermondsey — people come out of their houses to cheer you — and obviously Tower Bridge and down The Mall. Wear your name on your chest: people will shout it.
9. Audience participation
You will not be able to find your friends at the finishing line — there are thousands of exhausted people and there’s no phone signal. Arrange a meeting point elsewhere. And if they’re there to watch, position them somewhere where you need geeing up: the miles plodding through Canary Wharf are sapping on spirit and body. Oh, and The George on the Isle of Dogs, positioned at Mile 17 of the course, is serving up bacon butties for family and friends seeking their own fuel for the plod around parts of the course.
10. Off the beaten track
You have finished, you have at least two days when you can loop all conversation back around to the race. Your family and friends won’t thank you: look for places in London that will celebrate your achievements (and where you can dodge the tourists near The Mall). On race day, the Hippo Inn group, which runs The Eagle on Ladbroke Grove, The Islington Town House and The Duke of Sussex in Waterloo, is offering each medal-winner a free pint (hippoinns.com), and Mr Fogg’s Tavern is serving up a free roast and a pint on the house (58 St Martins Lane, WC2, mr-foggs.com).
Mac & Wild is offering marathon medal-holders a free Veni-Moo burger the day after the race: it’s a venison patty and a beef patty saturated in cheese and Béarnaise sauce (65 Great Titchfield Street, W1, macandwild.com), and Squirrel in South Kensington will be offering free salads between 12pm and 2pm (11 Harrington Road, SW7, wearesquirrel.com)
11. Magic Monday
First, do not go to work. Someone will definitely stand on your dead toenail on the Tube and you will faint when you arrive in the office. Take this from experience. Instead, go for a massage and a gentle roll on the floor: bhuti in Richmond is offering a free yoga class when you book in for a massage. It recommends aromatherapy oils to banish the ghosts of toenails lost (50 Hill Rise, bhuti.co).