Like tens of thousands of other runners, I am nervously, yet excitedly looking forward to this Sunday's Virgin London Marathon, writes Chris Broadbent
For thousands of people, it will be their first-time over the iconic 26.2mile distance, making the title sponsors especially apt for them. For me, it will be my fifth marathon. That certainly doesn't make me an expert on the race - indeed I can't say I have paced one right yet - but it has given me a modicum of experience.
So whilst I don't profess to know it all, there are a few things I have learned over the years. Here's 10 things I've learned about London marathon weekend. Hopefully they will help some people enjoy the weekend that little more.
1 DON'T LOITER IN THE EXPO
The Virgin London Marathon Expo is brilliant, make no doubt about it. It is a Disneyland for runners. You can spend hours there browsing all sorts of lovely kit and meeting all sorts of incredible people. I've seen both Paula Radcliffe and Darth Vader there before, one is feared across the marathon running world, the other across the universe. It's that type of place. But however great it is, try not to spend four hours there wandering around wasting vital pre-race energy. It is easily done.
2 WEAR NIPPLE PLASTERS
Just trust me on this one. You don't want to learn the hard way.
3 DON'T EXPERIMENT ON RACE DAY
Stick with tried and trusted kit and nutrition. Do not be tempted by anything new. Mid-marathon is a bad place to discover your stomach doesn't like that fancy gel you bought at the Expo.
4 PAIN IS FOLLOWED BY PLEASURE
No matter how hard it is, no matter the pained depths you plumb during the race. The feeling of cross that finish line is always worth it. This is particularly true for first-timers. Most of whom will look back on the day as one of the best in their lives.
5 LONDONERS ARE OK REALLY
London can be a rude, arrogant, unfriendly city to many people. Anyone who has travelled by rush hour tube will know it is not a pleasant place to be at times. But on marathon day, you will love London and its people. The streets are packed, the pubs are roaring and the bands are playing. The atmosphere is quite superb and you will like London a lot more for it.
6 COSTUMED RUNNERS ARE GOOD RUNNERS
I used to believe charity runners in costumes were not serious runners and were just dressing up so they had a ready-made excuse for being unfit and running a poor time. When you have been soundly thrashed by a Womble and Fred Flintstone, you change your mind pretty quickly.
7 IT'S A LONG, LONG WAY
Sounds obvious, but when you have logged up 20-22 mile runs in training, it is easy to get a little over-confident and see the marathon as slightly-easier than what it is. This is a feeling that has only ever some back to me during the marathon and it's a harsh reminder that what you are doing is tough, very tough. So, do your best, but have respect for the distance.
8 WEAR YOUR NAME ON YOUR CHEST
If at all possible, have your name displayed clearly on your chest. I can't tell you how many times a simple 'Come on Chris' from an enthusiastic member of the crowd has lifted me during a marathon.
9 BE PREPARED
Get all your clothes and everything you need for marathon day all laid out and ready to go the night before. Don't give yourself the stress of rushing around in the morning before the race. It is surprising how much you will need from race kit to nutrition to post-race clothes. Be ready.
10 WEAR YOUR MEDAL AFTERWARDS
The actual day of the marathon is the only day you can get away with showing off your medal - ever. So wear it afterwards. When you are having a celebratory drink or meal with family and friends afterwards, don't be shy of your achievement. Your loved ones are proud of you. Be proud of yourself on the special day.
And finally, good luck to everyone running on Sunday.