Here are 10 pieces of information I would have found useful prior to running this iconic race:
1. It may be significantly hotter on race day than during your training runs. If you live in the UK, you will have done the majority of your training during the winter months. When I ran the VLM in 2011 it was quite a hot day (in the early 20's). I had adjusted my clothing according to the forecast but I hadn't accounted for the difference it would make to my hydration strategy (which consisted of water and gels during training and on race day). Cue: calf cramps at 19 miles due to a lack of electrolytes.
|Smile! You might be on TV!|
2. If you are staying in London for the race, pick a hotel closer to the finish (on the Mall), rather than the start. Trust me, you will be more willing to travel in the morning than after the race has finished! Public transport is free for runners on the day, so travel to Greenwich Park in the morning is easy.
3. The start of the race (for about the first 4 miles) can be a bit slow, due to the sheer volume of runners. You should be aware of your pacing strategy anyway but you should also be prepared to adjust this to account for any slow miles (or loo breaks!). This adjustment should be carried over the remainder of the race rather than made up in the next few miles.
4. Anyone who has raced before knows that it is easy to get swept up in the excitement early into a race and end up going off too quickly. Well, at VLM, this can happen at almost any part of the race because of the volume of runners and the fantastic levels of support. So, keep an eye on your pacing. Use a Garmin (or similar) and/or a pacing band (available at the expo).
|At the VLM Expo|
6. If you are bringing a support crew with you on the day, it is a good idea to pick out a landmark for them to support from. The crowds are huge and whilst they might see you, it will be difficult for you to pick them out of the crowds. If you are running for a charity (and assuming they have a stand on the course) then this is a good place for them to stand. Seeing my wife at about 22 miles was very emotional and gave me a huge lift!
7. You should also pick a landmark close to the finish to meet friends/family. Mobile networks may well be down.
8. In addition to the photographers on the course, there are also race photographers in the finish area. I neglected to have my photo taken but looking back would have liked an official photo in front of the sponsors hording, sporting my medal. So, be prepared to wipe the sweat from your face and give your hair a quick comb through! There is no obligation to buy the photo's but it might be nice to have the option.
9. You may well have a long wait at the start at Greenwich Park, so make sure you have adequate clothing to keep out the elements. You may also have to wait for a while before you are reunited with your friends/family at the end of the race. I would recommend including a fresh top to change into and any recovery drinks/food within your kit bag (rather than leaving it with friends/family). Note: you have to use the plastic kit bags provided. You can't just stick your number on your own rucksack, for example.
10. Finally, VLM is a unique racing experience that will live with you forever. Enjoy the day and remember to smile, cheer the marshalls and support and take it all in.