The JOE guide to running the London marathon 4 years ago

The JOE guide to running the London marathon

It's the biggest race of the year, where Londoners come together to cheer on thousands of strangers as they run across the capital.

From pace-setters to fun-runners, the 26-and-a-bit miles see all sorts taking to the streets for an event on thousands of people's bucket lists.

But what's it like to run a huge marathon like this, or to just prepare for one?

Ahead of Sunday's race, JOE spoke to first-time marathon runner Ben McAleer as well as Hayden Shaw, who had been preparing for his second go at the London course before injury struck.

Virgin Money London Marathon

JOE: How many times have you run the London Marathon before?

Ben: Sunday will be the first time I've run the London Marathon - or any marathon, for that matter - so a rather daunting prospect to say the least!

Hayden: I've run it once before. Living the dream for the first 18 miles. Living hell for the last 8.2.


How many other long-distance events have you done? Which ones? How do you think London will differ?

B: A little over a year ago, I ran my fifth Bath Half Marathon and I competed in two Tough Mudders last year alone, both of which have undoubtedly improved my running technique and fitness. I'm not sure how London will differ, though.

Obviously, there won't be an obstacle every half mile like in Tough Mudder, mind you, but the distance will be the telling difference between the half marathons, with it easier to know when to speed up and slow down. London is supposedly flatter, however, which will make it easier as Bath has a couple of minor inclines that can affect performance.

H: Before this, one half (Hackney), loads of 10km's and a couple of tough mudders. The difference between these and the London Marathon is the volume of support and the enormity of the goodwill towards the runners.

Part of that enormity is driven by the huge contrast between that day and the normal London approach to other people. On a regular day you're morally obligated to perform seppuku with a minimum of fuss if you accidentally make eye contact with a stranger. On marathon day you're happily taking Haribo and Skittles from the hands of a snotty nosed child who definitely hasn't been vaccinated for measles. In fact, marathon day is the closest London gets to being up North.

Virgin Money London Marathon

What has your training regime been like?

B: Unfortunately, severe cases of shin splints hindered my training, which has made it harder to prepare accordingly. Cycling at the gym has helped boost fitness levels and eased the pressure on the joints, but - as any gym goer can testify - gym cycling is mind numbingly dull unless it's a spinning class. However, it's certainly been a help in aiding ease the pain that comes with shin splints and improved my fitness.


As for starting training... I've always been a keen runner anyway, so it was more a case of extending how far I run, while easing on weights at the gym so I don't have to carry excess muscle while I focused on cardio.

H: It's been a shambles. My knees make Owen Hargreaves look like Wolverine*. Unfortunately that's meant it's been really stop/start and building up to the bigger distances has been really tough. It's a massive kick in the teeth, but I've had to defer to next year for that reason.

*Post adamantium being grafted to his bones, before anyone calls me out on Wolverine having powers of regeneration, rather than being indestructible.

Have you been eating differently in preparation for the race? What works and what doesn't, nutrition-wise? Are pasta parties a real thing?

B: I haven't completely altered my diet, to be honest, though in the days building up to Sunday, my carb loading will increase - specifically through pasta! I tend to try and avoid heavier carbs such as potato as it makes me feel bloated, while the same goes for bread. I can't say I've ever been to a pasta party, but I can confirm they are a real thing as a few friends of mine had one before the Bath Half a couple of years ago.

H: I've never been a fan of stopping eating fun stuff because, quite frankly, I don't enjoy running. I run as much as I can to avoid getting fat when I eat loads and drink loads. Giving up drinking and eating good stuff (burgers) to get better at running, which I do to keep eating good stuff, well that'd be like playing a weakened team in the Champions League so that you can play your strongest team in the league and boost your chances of qualifying for the Champions League. And nobody wants to be the Arsenal of running.

20th Century Fox/Abload

How about alcohol? Can you drink at all while training? How near to the race do you need to stop?


B: I didn't go crazy with the alcohol in 2016. Since New Year's Eve, I've perhaps overdone it on alcohol once, but if I did drink at all in the months and weeks building up to Sunday, I made sure to do so in moderation and only as a treat after a week of exercise on a Friday or Saturday. However, as soon as April rolled around, I made sure to avoid anything with alcohol in as it can be a real detriment to training and preparation.

H: I don't know if you should drink while training, but I do. Mainly because I've never had my liver give up during a run. Unless your liver is in your knee. In which case maybe I should stop.

Does nipple tape really work for long-distance running? How important is it to wear the right socks and trainers?

B: I can't say I've ever used nipple tape as I almost always wear under armour, but I've heard some real horror stories over bleeding nipples... I think this week would be as good a time as any to invest in some!

The right socks and trainers are vital. With my shin splints, I made sure to buy trainers that suited my running style, which included undergoing a gait test to purchase the best trainers for performance. Compression socks are also a handy investment if you haven't bought some already, as they help ease pressure around the ankles and shins.

H: I've never been a big fan of putting stuff on nipples, maybe some glitter, but that tends to leave tell tale signs and you have to check your clothes the next day to make sure your girlfriend doesn't find out that you were in Secrets, not the kebab shop with Big Dave. Oh? Nipple tape. Used it. Worked. Nips were fine afterwards.

In terms of trainers I wear Nikes with extra support. Socks wise - just regular trainer socks, although may look into some proper ones depending on how the actual pros respond to these questions.

How do you avoid getting bored while running for several hours?

B: Music. Music, music and more music. My running playlist is the most random combination of styles, ranging from Slipknot to Major Lazer to Jimmy Eat World to Taylor Swift. Anything fast-paced and angry, for want of a better word, has helped me through the training. I have two iPod Shuffles, both of which are fully charged at any one time, loaded with the same playlist to help power through, and you can be sure I'll look to both on Sunday.

The one saving grace, though, has been the Rocky IV Training Montage music, which is a real performance booster, much in the same way as Andrew W.K.'s Party Hard. Of course, that's my preference, and others go for podcasts, which can help take your mind off the running and training, but I swear by music as a boost and a handy pace setter.

H: Music, a running partner, and a table booked in a beer garden afterwards are the keys to success, But long distance running when you don't have a crowd cheering you on is f**king boring, and after next year's I think I'll max out at halves from then on.

Paramount Pictures/Imgur

Ben McAleer is raising money for Leonard Cheshire Disability. Visit his JustGiving page here.

Hayden Shaw will be running for Scope, but not until 2017 due to injury.