NoviceRunnerNik: Supporting Your London Marathon Runner
You might not be a marathon runner yourself, you might not even be a runner but in a moment of madness you might have offered to cheer on your favourite marathon runner in the marathon to end all marathons, the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Of course, other marathons do exist and the following blog post is also applicable to pretty much all marathons.
Years ago, possibly even before she took up running, our NoviceRunnerNik promised her husband that in the unlikely event he was ever successful in gaining a place in the London Marathon ballot, she’d be on the course to support him on his way around. Last year, after five years of rejections, he finally got a place, the same year in which his sister also got a place via the ballot on her first attempt!
So here are NoviceRunnerNik’s top 10 tips for supporting your London Marathon runner:
1. Choose your runner carefully. If you fancy a fun stroll around London, stopping for a couple of pints, a wander in the park, a tasty lunch, whilst popping up on the course now and then to wave at your hero then make sure your runner’s target finish time is around 6 – 7 hours. Don’t make my mistake of thinking I could do all of that whilst supporting a runner targeting 3 hours 30 mins. You just won’t have time to do much except rush about on public transport and cheer a lot.
2. Plan your cheering carefully in advance and tell your runner where they should expect to see you so that they can look out for you. There are lots of online guides available which will tell you distances and times for various finishing target times. Don’t be over ambitious on number of cheering spots. Public transport, road closures and the sheer number of people out and about mean that getting around is slow. I only had a vague plan so my husband missed me on all three occasions he ran past me (although other runners from our running club did spot me and my signs so I wonder if my husband can actually recognise me in a crowd!).
3. Make a sign or two to hold up to cheer everyone on. You could go with encouraging signs such ‘Run Well Mr B’ or ‘You can do it!’ but I’d also have at least one sarcastic one to hand ‘Smile – you paid to do this!’ for deployment in the last few painful miles.
4. Make meet up arrangements beforehand. The sheer number of people in the finish area means that mobile phone signal is patchy to non-existent at times, particularly after the 4 hour finishers come in. The finish area has letters of the alphabet on poles – arrange to meet your runner by a certain letter – avoid the most popular surname letters to avoid the big crowds.
5. If you’re a runner, go to the London Marathon Expo. Your runner will have to register at the Expo on the Friday or the Saturday before the marathon, unless they’ve got a friend who’ll do it for them. The Expo is worth a look around with some great talks, interesting demos, more running kit than you could possibly ever want and lots of freebies and samples. If you have any sense you’ll leave your credit card at home, or you’ll arrive back with A Little Miss Chatterbox running vest, a Love Hearts running vest and some beetroot energy bars. None of which you actually need. True story.
6. Don’t attempt to go to the start line with your runner. The course starts well away from the finish line and most runners seem to need to depart their accommodation at the crack of dawn to join the massive loo queues early. Have a lie in and then get to around Mile 5 or just after, before the Elite runners come through as it’s really exciting to watch them and then the whole crowd surge through.
7. Be prepared. Take waterproofs / SPF 30 depending on the weather forecast, snacks, drinks, a good sense of humour and wear running shoes (a top tip from our very own Paul Martin who advises that people will chat to you if you look like you might be a runner!) or other comfortable shoes.
8. If you see a useable loo, use it. You don’t know when you’ll next come across one!
9. Enjoy a fab day out. Enjoy the cheering, the banter, the fancy dress spotting. My personal favourite last year was a man running barefoot, dressed as Jesus, carrying a 2 metre high cross! Do stop for that pint but do keep an eye on the clock. I was still sinking my one and only pint of the day (overpriced and in a plastic glass) near Mile 24 when I realised that my husband had probably just finished. He had – just ahead of his target time - in 3 hours 27 mins 27 seconds! I still beat him to our meet up point as he spent quite a bit of time having his blisters attended to by the medics.
10. Be patient, getting home is slow. Don’t forget that your marathon runner has just run 26.2 miles, not to mention all of that walking to the start and from the finish. They will be slow. But they will be wearing a very large London Marathon medal - I don’t know why they make them so heavy, seems a bit unfair! - and a beaming smile! People will offer them seats on the Underground. Strangers will ask you what your runner’s finishing time was and you’ll proudly tell them down to the second. Enjoy the reflected glory!
Words and images by NoviceRunnerNik.