Jenny Bede is running the London Marathon – again – and she’s sharing the joys and the pain of the whole experience with Standard Issue. This week, well, this week she’s running the London Marathon.
In the past when I’ve run marathons or halves, I’ve always had a very clear race plan and time goal. I’ve been able to tell my family and supporters exactly where to stand and when to be there. But it dawned on me yesterday when trying to hatch a plan that I have absolutely no clue. Realistically, I could finish anytime between 4:45 and 6:45. I really hope it won’t be longer than that.
I’ve missed two long training runs, including my 21-miler, several shorter ones and I haven’t done pilates in about a month. I also realised I’ve put on nearly a stone this year, which totally takes the joy out of carb-loading. In hindsight, it’s been a pretty dreadful training period. However, I’m strangely excited for Sunday. Not knowing how things are going to pan out makes it all seem a bit mysterious and dangerous.
“I might surprise myself and manage 10-minute miles the whole way round, but I’d say that’s as likely as me signing up to do another marathon next year.”
Though I know it’s an achievement to finish, I can’t lie: I don’t think I’ll be happy with anything outside of five hours. And, if I’m honest, I’m still disappointed with that. While I’ve tried to let go and come to terms with the fact this was going to be different to past races, I still have this weird, unwavering hope that I’ll suddenly be uninjured and fly through in four and a half hours. All I can do is hope for the best. I might surprise myself and manage 10-minute miles the whole way round, but I’d say that’s as likely as me signing up to do another marathon next year.
There is literally nothing more I can do now in the way of training. I just have to keep my fingers crossed and not fall over. So, for any of you who might be running your first marathon this week, I’m sure you’ve read as much as you can in the way of race day prep, but here are a few of my own tips.
• Water. Now. As I won’t be running quickly, this is as important as carb-loading to me. Drink lots of water now. Top up your hydration levels and keep them high all week. It gets a bit boring and you’ll be in and out the loo all week. I got given an amazing crate of vita coco water this week which is very hydrating and breaks up the monotony a bit. Be careful on the day and don’t drink too much. There is nothing more annoying that having to stop for a wee at the first mile. Trust me.
• Wear sun tan lotion. I forgot one year and was so burnt. Make sure not to put it too near your eyes as once you start sweating you’ll be in a world of pain.
• Get your name printed on your T-shirt. While at first it can be quite alarming to hear strangers shout your name, it’s actually a huge boost.
• Take some old clothes to the start line. It might be gloriously warm but there is a certain amount of hanging around at the beginning during which time it’s easy to get cold and stiff. Don’t wear anything nice, but wear old jumpers that you can strip off and leave at the side before take-off. These usually get collected and go to homeless charities.
“If, for whatever reason, you find yourself running with a bottle of water in one hand and a bottle of Lucozade Sport in the other, do not get confused and cool yourself off by pouring the Lucozade all over your head and face.”
• Pace yourself. The crowds at London are incredible so will push you on a long way, but make sure, particularly at the beginning, that you don’t get all sprinty because at five miles you’ll wish you were dead. Stick to your times.
• You will, at some point, get overtaken by someone dressed as Elvis/someone 40 years older than you/someone in an inflatable banana costume pushing someone else in a wheelchair. Don’t lose heart. It can be quite demotivating, but I promise you’ll look back on it and laugh.
• Be prepared to cry. Having so much time in my own head makes me incredibly reflective. You’ll feel really proud of all the work you’ve done. It’s as emotionally exhausting as it is physically.
• There is a great place around mile 19/20 that isn’t that populated. I think the nearest station is Poplar. It’s a point in the race where you really need some support and it’s not as busy as the last four-mile stretch, so see if you can get some friends to cheer you on around there.
• If, for whatever reason, you find yourself running with a bottle of water in one hand and a bottle of Lucozade Sport in the other, do not get confused and cool yourself off by pouring the Lucozade all over your head and face. It makes for a really uncomfortable final five miles. Trust me.
• Have a power-up song. I once listened to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor solidly for three miles. That’s the year I finished in 4:12. To this day I credit Beyoncé, Michelle and Kelly with that.
Have an amazing day all of you who are running and remember this (which I heard from a medical professional): Running a marathon is harder than giving birth, because the body isn’t designed to do it.
I’m taking this and running with it. Well, run/walking with it.
One last thing… as I’ve mentioned before, I’m running Sunday’s race for Mental Health Foundation, a charity that does amazing work. Any donations at all would be hugely appreciated, by myself and the charity. If you would like to sponsor me, you can do so here.
Thank you so much in advance. See you on the other side. Hopefully.
Jenny Bede is an actor, writer and comedian living in London. @jennybede