I haven’t blogged much about my London marathon preparation, if at all. I suppose the lead-up to this has felt fairly mundane. Nothing much to write home about. I haven’t even done that many races – just the one half marathon in Brighton.
And suddenly, big race day is on the horizon. It’s almost like I’ve sleepwalked through the past few months of training, automatically running, eating, sleeping in a robotic fashion.
But as the taper period sets in, I’ve started to wake up and shake myself out of this routine. I’ve begun to think about practical things. How to get to the start. When the expo is. In particular, what to wear on race day. This might sound like a small worry, but being comfortable is really up there.
I’ve run my previous three marathons in the same outfit. It’s not very exciting – just a white t-shirt, black shorts and a pair of trainers; worn in enough to be comfortable, but still feeling fresh. I know this outfit won’t rub or chafe over the 26.2 mile course. I won’t lose any toenails or end up with blisters (fingers crossed).
Although race day is very near, it doesn’t seem real yet. Passing a road-closure sign earlier in the week caused my stomach to somersault. But the expo is probably when it start will hit home. These events are a full-on assault on the senses. A chance for sportswear manufacturers to impress with their latest products, backed by claims of improved performance. To be honest, it’s all a bit late the day before the race and I’m not going to be trying anything new. Part of me will want to just grab my race number and leave, but a part will also want to hang around and soak up the atmosphere. Because there will be lots of other runners there, all in the same boat as me. Apprehensive and excited; willing the big day to come.
Then I can go home and hopefully forget all about it again. Until race day morning, that is, when the pre-race rituals begin. Getting dressed, pinning on my race number and loading the fuel belt with gels. Tying up each shoe, making sure they’re not too tight or too loose (with a bit of ‘on the spot jogging’ to be sure). Trying to force down breakfast – one of the few times when eating isn’t particularly enjoyable and just a means to an end.
I know the journey to the start line will feel surreal and what is usually familiar territory will feel foreign. But staying detached will help keep the butterflies at bay and conserve valuable energy for the race itself.
When the clock starts, that’s when autopilot kicks in. The adrenalin generated by the pre-race nervous energy becomes a force for good, helping to power the legs and focus the mind. The buzz from fellow runners, support from the crowd and four months of training will all be aligned.
Knowing that everyone running has invested so much time in an event that will be over in a relative flash is something I’ll be reminding myself of in the final week before race day. I know it won’t feel like a flash, especially during the last few miles when physical and mental fatigue sets in. But focussing on this will help to ease my pre-race nerves and will remind me of the importance of enjoying the big day. I hope.