So, you've signed up for a marathon? Congratulations.
Cross the finish line and you'll be joining the elite 1% of the population who have completed a marathon. But just crossing the finish line isn't enough, is it?
Whether it's your first marathon or you're a veteran, how will you make your next marathon the best day ever? We asked our Wiggle runners to share their top tips.
(Left to right)
Annabelle Lancaster - Designer working on in-house brands. Made a New Years Resolution to 'get a bit fitter.' Several years later she's an accomplished triathlete and ultra-runner. With her first 100km under her belt, she's looking forward to conquering her first 100mile run on the South Downs Way this year.
Julia Davis - Merchandiser for Cycle Apparel. Serial marathon runner with several London medals in her collection as well as Frankfurt. This years mission? Conquering the trails with Skafell SkyRace and Keswick 50k booked in the diary.
Kirsty Smith - dhb Marketing Manager. Accomplished runner on the road and track and pretty handy on a bicycle too.
Anna Smith-James - e-Commerce Executive. Loves running. Will travel. Anna has taken part in marathons all over the world from Paris to Tokyo.
One month to go
Use your time wisely
The last month of training should be all about the finishing touches. You will be banking the last long miles before tapering down.
Now is the time for final adjustments.
Hone that muscle
You should still be training hard until two or three weeks to go. Add strength conditioning and weights to build that explosive power.
Annabelle was forced to switch to static training due to an injury before the Berlin Marathon last year, building muscle endurance with heavy weights. 'I’d done all the hard cardio training up to that point, and actually the result was my fastest marathon time.'
Find your zen
Stretch out those tight muscles and recharge your mind with yoga, Body Balance or pilates.
If you can't make it to a class, there's plenty of videos online. 'Even taking a few moments to concentrate on releasing and relaxing every part of your body will come in extra handy on race day, as you’ll be able to focus clearly on your goals' says Annabelle.
Keep sipping that water
Focus on keeping hydrated. If plain water bores you to tears, add something like High5 Zero Electrolyte Drink (20 Tabs) which will add flavour and replace electrolytes lost in training. Annabelle loves naturally low-calorie tonic water, unsweetened fruit waters or soda waters.
'Natural full-calorie tonic water is also great to ease aching muscles after long runs,' she adds.
One week to go
Live the simple life
Don't risk letting all that preparation go to waste. Stick to a simple routine during the final month.
This isn't the time to try that new gym class. The juice clense your training buddy swears by? Not for you.
Julia says 'Do what you can to stay injury free and healthy. Try to get good quality sleep and don’t take any risky moves.'
Build your energy stores
Even though you'll be decreasing your training, continue to eat normally.
'You don’t need to do crazy pasta parties or carb-loading, just fill up the stores gradually,' says Julia. 'I usually just make sure my meals are a little heavier on carbohydrate the week or two before.'
Ever feel like you're bouncing off the walls as you start to taper before a big event? You're not alone.
'I usually get very twitchy' Julia tells us, 'but it's just the excitement and extra energy from reducing your training! Don’t be tempted to catch up on missed runs and trust the training you’ve done. Put your feet up and save the energy for race day.'
Hone your plan
You know how it goes. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Take the stress out of the day by sorting out the details in advance. Plus, you'll have something to keep you busy when 'just one more run' is all too tempting.
How will you get there? When is your start? Where is your start? How will you find your loved ones who will tell you how awesome you are at the end? Remember, it's likely that the mobile network will be overstretched so don't count on getting a signal.
The Big Day
By now, you should know the breakfast that works for you. Stock up the energy supplies then continue to snack right up to the start line.
Make hydration a top priority but don't over-do it.
Trust in your training
You've worked hard to get to the start line. You've turned down drinks after work, you've been out the door before sunrise.
When the big day comes, as Anna says, 'Don't panic. Remember all the training you’ve got under your belt. You’ve done the hard bit, this is just the victory lap.'
26.2 miles is hard. We know.
Smile, make the most of the atmosphere. Hopefully you've put in the training you need and by now there's nothing more to do apart from just enjoy it.
Kirsty tells us 'I completed the 2017 London Marathon knowing full well I’d be lucky to ever get a place again. I made sure I soaked up the atmosphere, the cheers and the shouts of encouragement. I had to trust that my training was enough to get me through the run, and it gave me the confidence to stick to the pace I was comfortable with.'
Once it's all over
You've put your body through a lot. You will have lost essential electrolytes through sweat.
'Re-hydrate and eat as soon as you can post-race. It’s tempting to just drink beer and celebrate but your body needs to replace electrolytes and nutrients to knit itself back together,' advises Julia.
Gulping down some protein will help those aching muscles to recover. 'Milk is my magic recovery drink,' says Julia, 'Chocolate milk especially!'
The human body is smarter than we sometimes give it credit for. Annabelle recommends 'Go for what you crave. You’ll naturally navigate towards anything your body is missing.'
However, there are a few golden rules that Annabelle swears by. 'Include natural protein, with oils from fish or vegetables like avocado. Sweet potatoes or quinoa are great choices for healthy carbs but if you really want chips, go for it! And don't forget desert – you earned it.'
You've found somewhere nice to sit and admire your medal. You might feel like you don't want to ever get up again, but it's important that you do.
When Kirsty finished the London Marathon, she took the opportunity to take a nice walk with her family along the Thames to a restaurant. 'Keeping moving actually really helped and I felt great the next day (with only a slight hobble).'
'Walking or swimming will loosen up the muscles and get the blood flowing again,' says Anna. 'Even a bit of foam rolling if you’re feeling very brave.'
Revel in all your glory – you did it!
You've had a bit of active recovery. You've done a bit of stretching, had a shower, maybe even a cold bath. Now's the time to unwind.
'Whack the compression socks on, sit back with a non-alcoholic beer and revel in all your glory' says Annabelle.
Don't overdo it
Hopefully, it won't be too long before you're setting your sights on the next challenge. Make sure you give your body time to rest so you can come back stronger.
'Take a decent period of rest after the race,' advises Julia. 'Straight back in to hard training may set you back significantly.'