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London Marathon finishers 2023

Marathon Fever

runABC coach and ex-marathon runner Alan has a plea – say hello!

On my daily training runs I currently notice many runners I've not seen before, with gels sprouting from every pocket and bladders full of isotonic fluids – either on their backs or in the more conventional location that requires occasional stops to be emptied!

There you are, deep into marathon prep, and tensions are rising. Have you done enough miles? Or too many miles? Will that sore Achilles settle down in time? What if you catch the bug that's going around like wildfire? London is only five weeks away. That's a month of hard training, followed by a week of tapering, wrapped in cotton wool. Other 26.2-mile races are available and you may be on a different schedule, but I guess most of the new runners I encounter are all about London.

I've noticed that many of these runners are bristling with the latest gadgets and are lost in their world, listening to their favourite motivational tracks, or an e-coach, perhaps expanding their minds with an audiobook, wearing some of the biggest headphones I've ever seen. Can these studio-quality cans be comfortable on a long run?

I prefer to listen to the wildlife and other environmental sounds while monitoring my breathing and remaining alert to those pesky battery bikes and scooters that whizz past so close you can feel the breeze. Haven't they heard of a bell? If so, don't they know how it works?

My regular route is on a glorious shared footpath and cycle path beside the river and it can get busy and tricky dodging dogs off their leads, fishing paraphernalia, and kids on bikes. I'll never know how anyone manages all that plus listening to 'Eye of The Tiger' while maintaining iron discipline over their pace and consuming all those gels and fluids!

Another thing I've noticed is the normal etiquette of greeting a fellow runner with a nod, a smile, a quick 'hello', or an optional wave as we cross paths seems to be sadly lacking at this time of year. When this marathon fever is less virulent and runner traffic is reduced it gives one a little lift to be recognised as part of the fraternity by another runner.

So, my message to all marathon hopefuls is this. I've been there, done that and got loads of t-shirts to prove it. I know marathon training is gruelling and as mentally tough as it is physically demanding. I know you must concentrate on keeping your rhythm, stride length, and pace. But it only takes a moment to share a greeting with another runner who may not be on your mission but who understands and respects your goals – and we'll both feel better for it!

Good luck to all marathon runners this spring. I hope you will savour every moment and enjoy the experience. I hope your first marathon won't be your last and I'll see you again on the towpath. There are other distances to conquer, shorter or longer, and other surfaces rather than the unforgiving tarmac of city centres.

Next time we cross paths, don't leave my greeting hanging! I know what you're going through and wish you every possible success. And once it's all over and you've recovered, start looking towards your next challenge...and never give up.

Photo courtesy London Marathon press office

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