An inside track to the London Marathon

Alice Keogh, 22, ran the London Marathon for Starlight in April 2017. She described it as ‘one of the best experiences’ of her life. Here, Alice gives us the inside track on training for a marathon and what you can expect from the day.

Look after your body

My biggest tip is to prevent injury by warming up and down properly. Conditioning your body before and after you run is just as important as running. I would always stretch and foam roll after a training run in front of the TV.

Carbs are your best friend

The night before the marathon, I ate a good-sized bowl of chicken pesto pasta as I didn’t want anything too rich. I was also mindful of the fact hydration is key in the days working up to the event, and made sure I clocked good sleep too because no-one tends to sleep the night before!
The next morning, I had a bowl of porridge and a banana to set me up for the race. Each hour during the race, I would take a carb gel to keep me going.

Get in the zone

I didn’t realise how important it was to start in your time zone. I messed around in the toilet queue for ages so I ended up in a start zone that was an hour slower than what I was aiming for. The pace was too slow for me and I wasted energy trying to get past the runners.

Stick to what you know

If it’s worked for you during training, don’t change it! I trained using the brand of carb gel I would use on the day so my body knew what to expect. I also ate the same breakfast I normally would before a run and wore the shoes I trained in.

The cheer points

After the half-way point and the amazing Tower Bridge cheering point I was starting to find it tough. I could see the blue and yellow Starlight balloon arch and could hear the chants from the Starlight supporters which I ran towards.

My mum and dad were at the cheer point too and seeing them really gave me the boost I needed – I felt quite emotional at this point! Having the support from my parents and the Starlight cheerers was what I needed to spur me on. My parents were nervous about coming to London but the Starlight team really made their day. They were so welcoming and made sure they were fed and watered with bagels and beer!

Headphones or no headphones?

I ran the marathon listening to music so I didn’t hear my friends, who had come down to support me, wildly screaming my name as I ran past them which was a shame.

People say that you should ditch your headphones but if you’re used to running to music, there are parts of the route where there’s not much atmosphere, like the Isle of Dogs, where it would seem like a long time to run without music if you’re used to it.

My advice would be to bring your headphones – you can always take them out if you want to soak up the atmosphere.

The dreaded question – “will you sponsor me?”

I raised my sponsorship money little and often. I held dinner parties and asked friends to donate for attending, I sold my clothes online and at car boot sales, I held a cheese and wine evening and a sweepstake for family and friends when the Rugby World Cup was on.

I was nervous that I wouldn’t hit my target but I raised 40% of the total in the last week. People always say that they’ll sponsor you but aren’t in a rush to do it. It’s only when they realise that the marathon is around the corner, or after you’ve run it, that they actually donate!

That’s why I set up an Instagram page so my family and friends could follow my training. It’s important for them to know what you’re going through – all those long training runs and evenings staying in while your friends are out partying! I set up an Instagram page so they could follow my training progress and to get them onboard with what I was doing.

Wear your medal with pride

You’ve run 26.2 miles so wear your medal with pride – you’ve earnt it! As I was walking to the Starlight afterparty, people saw my medal and were tapping me on the back, congratulating me. Even the policeman on the streets were clapping!

Run for a cause

Running for a charity is a completely different experience to running solo. It makes the day so much more emotional. The support network from Starlight and the Starlight runners was amazing; I was looked after from the moment I had a place to weeks after the run. Throughout the whole journey I had personal and consistent support – I don’t think I would have managed it without Starlight backing me.

And relax…

After the marathon, I headed to the Starlight afterparty for a massage and some hot food. Starlight and the hosts at the venue were so hospitable and it was lovely to celebrate with my family and friends.

If you have a ballot place, or would like to inquire about a gold bond place, and would like to run for Starlight, please email running@starlight.org.uk