Race Day Rehearsal

You’ve put in the miles.  You’ve avoided injury.  You’re in your taper.  Your training has set you up for a PB performance.  And it all starts to unravel on race day morning.  With my first marathon only 2 weeks away, today I had a dress rehearsal.

In the last 14 weeks I’ve had my most prolonged, intense and challenging period of running in my life.  Having only ever run up to half marathon distance until December last year, the marathon was a big unknown.  I didn’t want to underestimate it.

With my biggest running week last week taking me over 600 kilometres under my belt since the turn of the New Year and now firmly in my “taper” (the period where training eases back to ensure you’re fresh for race day) my attention turns to race day morning.

Normally on a weekend morning I’ll just get up and go. In two weeks I won’t be able to do that.  In two weeks I will have a long and convoluted build up to my run:

The London Marathon starts at 10:10 on Sunday 26th April but before I can start running I have to get up, go to the toilet, eat and drink, get dressed, go to the toilet, pack my bag, leave the hotel, walk to the underground, get on a tube, get off a tube, switch to a train, get off the train, walk through Greenwich park, go to the toilet, check my kit, drop off my bag, go to the toilet, get in the start pen and then wait, and perhaps another trip to the toilet.

Not really the “get up and go” I’m used to, so some additional preparation required me thinks.

I like a planned approach and I’m a big fan of spreadsheets so I sat down with my marathon guide and a blank spreadsheet and listed out all the things I needed to do, in the order I needed to do them.  Then I put some times against them.

Some of the items were easy – train times are in the final MararthonNews magazine, the tfl.gov.uk journey planner gave me the tube timings from Westminster to London Bridge and Google Maps gave me a rough walking time from the hotel to the station.  Some of the items are more of a judgement call – how long will it take to get ready?  To eat?  To go to the toilet?  To get out of the hotel?  How big will the toilet queues be?

A dress rehearsal prior to my long run this week would allow me to fill in some of the blanks.  It would also allow me to test my race day breakfast so I don’t get any nasty surprises on the day!

I rarely have breakfast on any day of the week, let alone have an appetite before going for a long run.  This hasn’t affected my training and I’ve happily completed three 20+ mile runs on no breakfast but would it affect my race?

I’d told myself that I would need to eat breakfast on marathon day.  Surely everyone has to?  Well, on the #extramile ambassador day Martin Yelling challenged me on why.  And perhaps he had a point – my body, despite showing as being carb-hungry in the lab, was obviously at ease with no breakfast.  As a result, I’ve not spent too much time debating the breakfast question.  However, for peace of mind, I decided to give breakfast a try.

One of the breakfast options that seemed popular at the #extramile ambassador day was bagels and as I quite like a cinnamon and raisin bagel I opted to give it a try.  Not knowing what breakfast options will be available at the hotel I wanted to have something that I could prepare with no interaction with a third party.  It may sound boring but I was actually quite pleased to eat a plain, untoasted bagel along with a banana.

Having laid out my kit the night before, getting up and dressed was actually quicker than I’d estimated, as was getting myself breakfasted and toileted.  I might just leave that spare time in the schedule on the day.  You can never account for the effect of race nerves!

So I’m now hanging around my lounge, in my two layers of kit counting down the clock, going on a journey across London in my mind and in my house.  I had considered actually going outside and walking around for the appropriate time before sitting back on the sofa for the public transport before going back for a walk to “the start area” before utilising the facilities at home and then moving outside again to “the start pen”.

Sounds even more mental now I write it down so I’m kind of glad I didn’t actually do that.

Having been to other races a little further afield in my training for the marathon I’ve had practice at the travel/walking/waiting combo.  The one thing I haven’t practiced was breakfast and, more importantly, the effects of taking on that energy.  And that would be a waiting game.  Fortunately, the call of nature fell within my planned “at the start area” time period so all was good.

And then with 20 minutes until race time I did actually move out into the “start pen” aka the garden.  With the back garden still in shade I opted to stand in the sunny front garden.  The neighbours must already think I’m mad with the amount of running I’m doing and now they get to watch me standing waiting for nothing.

As I stood there watching the minutes tick through at what felt like 120-second intervals a thought crept in to my mind.

Did you need a wee?  No, I’ll be fine.  I only had one pint of water and I stopped drinking before I went to the toilet.  You sure you don’t need one?  Maybe.  You do need one, don’t you?  Alright!  Yes, but I’m in the start pen.  You could nip back inside the house, couldn’t you?  No.  I’m in the start pen in Greenwich.  It’s too late now time to run.  And I set off for a long slow 14 miles.

It all sounds a little strange but my dress rehearsal has been valuable on a number of counts:

  • I can find an appetite for a light breakfast
  • my stomach can sort out that light breakfast in good time
  • you can never go to the toilet too much

I also took the opportunity to test out Lucozade energy gels today.  These are the gels supplied on the roadside of the London Marathon.  I’m not intending on using them in the race as I’ve been training with my favourite gels from TORQ but thought it would be good to know how my body deals with them just in case.

They’re fine but do taste more plastic-y than the TORQ gels.  No ill effects but one thing I did notice – the packet says to consume up to 3 gels per day.  Is 3 enough for a marathon?  I’m glad I’ve had plenty of practice with TORQ and can go in the race confident I know they work for me and, if I happen to lose them all en route, I also now know that a couple of Lucozade gels will be ok.

Have you planned your race day morning routine?  Have you checked what the public transport timings are?  What about your breakfast?  Or perhaps you just take it all in your stride?

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13 thoughts on “Race Day Rehearsal”

  1. Good blog! I practised using the Lucozade Sport drinks today because they will be on offer during the marathon and I’ve not used them during training this time. They went down OK will no ill effects so I’m happy with that. I’ve not planned the journey to London yet (I’m in Bedfordshire so will be travelling down on the morning). I think I’ll get on the Great Northern and TFL website tonight!

  2. Allow extra time for travel, the trains will be heaving and tubes worse! Get to start at least an hour before start! Take bin bag to sit on. Take an old jumper to wear till start that you can ditch on take off. At water stations watch for abandoned bottles, grab drink and don’t sup till clear! Oh I could go on but that’s all for now!
    Ps enjoy it is amazing!

      1. Safe too, nothing worse than getting there stressed! Last time I did it was the first time I used the train, the atmosphere was amazing

  3. You are more than prepared. I am sure you will have a great first marathon experience.
    I am racing the Hamburg marathon on the 26th as well! It’s been fun to follow your blog and see how it parallels my training. I didn’t do very well as preparing, but I’m going to see what you do these next two weeks and try to follow it… you seem to have much better guidance than I do.
    I’m excited to see how you do! Have a good taper (don’t go crazy… seriously 😉

    1. It’s lovely to hear you’ve been enjoying the posts. I’m sure you’ll do great. My next step is focussing on getting all my kit together this week so it’s ready for the race.

  4. Great post (although slightly toilet-obsessed) 😉
    I’m travelling down from Derbyshire the day before with my running club, and we have a coach from the hotel to near the start, so I can’t really practice my pre-marathon routine (it’s my first full marathon too) – so interesting to pick up some tips!
    The countdown is now on… good luck!

  5. Daniel, one thing I will recommend is this – Have your saftey pins/bib fasterners somewhere easy to check! I think I checked mine about 50 times in the morning. And allow plenty of time to ensure your bib ‘feels right’. Even if it’s a little flappy or at an angle you can start to overthink that. As for the toilet, if you pass a toilet and any point during the morning, use it if it won’t take too long to queue each time. You can definitely never go enough. When I was in Wetherspoons in Bournemouth during a maramorning routine I used the toilets upstairs which were apparently closed, and was a few seconds from being locked in by the cleaners so just be prepared for the unexpected!

    Other than that, all I’ll say is enjoy it! Chat to those around you in the start pen and just soak up the atmosphere. You’ll have a cracking race I’m sure and I can’t wait to see your time when you get down the Mall!

  6. A dress rehearsal is a great idea so your body and mind know what to expect on race day (and you can tweak anything that isn’t quite right). All the best for race day 🙂

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