Dos and Don’ts of Races



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  1. Do a bit of training

Yes, 13.1 miles is a long way. It’s an even longer way if you can’t run three miles without stopping, trust me.  The reason that most people will sponsor you money for charity is not just the time spent walking round the race course, but the effort you’ve put in in the lead up to it. The hours of training, the mental growth, the cold/hot runs, the early starts, the DOMs, the abstaining from alcohol, the chaffage, the blisters, the dietary change as you realise that a McDonalds/apple/chilli an hour before a run ‘doesn’t agree with you’ and so on.

Do yourself, your fellow runners around you and your waiting spectators a favour and put some training in.

This is a great app to get you started:


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  1. Don’t get the start time wrong

Check, double check and triple check the start time. Make sure you leave enough time to get there and then leave half an hour earlier. The queues for the toilets will be long, the baggage queues might be massive, the queue to the car park might take thirty minutes to get in. It’s better to wait around a bit and know you’re ready to go, than to do what  a friend of mine (yes, this might be me) did and mis-read the start time as 11am when it was actually 9am, and realise this at 8:10 am on race morning. Apart from the stress of getting there (which we did), we were  in a slower pen than we wanted to be , hadn’t had breakfast and weren’t really in ‘race mode’ when we started. Oops.

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  1. Dress for ten degrees warmer

It might be chilly when you’re waiting around, having got in early and done everything you need to do with plenty of time. Do wear old clothes for this, or bring a spectator along who’ll be happy to hold your jumper while you do the run.  Don’t do the run in layers which you then have to peel off within ten minutes – that’ll be really uncomfortable for you and if you ditch your clothes, might get in the way of runners, marshals or spectators.

A general rule of thumb for any runs, races or otherwise, is to dress for ten degrees warmer than it is as you’ll soon warm up.  So, if it’s 15 degrees, you might want to be in shorts and a vest. It’s something that’s really personal but worth thinking about – you don’t want to be schlepping a jumper and joggers or tying them round your waist while you’re in mile 6 of a half marathon.

  1. Pin your number on your front – four safety pins, one on each corner

I’ve seen more and more people with their numbers on their back. I can’t see the reason for that (if anyone wants to enlighten me, please do).

 The reasons you put it on your front are: so marshalls and other officials can identify you as an official entrant and that you’re in the right place and so that the photography software can identify you for photos.

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  1. If you must stop to take selfies, don’t do it in the middle of the track

You would think that this would be fairly obvious, but apparently not. Running down the finishing straight of my most recent half marathon (and in the miles before that) I had to dodge other runners fumbling with their phones in an attempt to take a selfie.  There’s no need to do that mid race (or in the last 400m) but if you must, at least try and do it off to one side, away from other runners who are probably tired and looking forward to crossing the line. I’ve witnessed a guy in the last 100m of Paris marathon stop in front of the official photographers, unravel a flag and bust out some different poses. Not only was he blocking other people from getting their photos taken, but he looked like a berk doing it. Still, he was happy.

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  1. Don’t overtake without looking behind you first

In some ways, running is like driving. Keep to the left if you’re slowing down/walking and if you’re overtaking, take a little glance over your shoulder. That tells you if the path is clear and it also lets the people behind you know that you’re looking to move out.

If you launch yourself sideways you run the risk of causing a pile up which, in the best case scenario, interrupts your rhythm and the runner(s) behind you. At worst you’ll trip someone up and they won’t finish the race – or you won’t.  I’ve heard of runners who’ve been involved in a trip and been out of running for months, requiring operations and physiotherapy too.

There is another point to this – if you are walking, stick to the left and be mindful of other people coming by.  By all means walk with your mate, but keep an eye out for other runners coming through and move over when they do, especially on a hill. It’s tough to keep running when there are others walking in front of you. It’s even tougher to use more energy than you would getting up that hill, by needing to swerve around people as well.

  1. Water stations as Spaghetti junction

Most races now have water stations on both sides of the road, well signposted ahead of time.  Don’t careen across the road to the first table, tripping over discarded bottles and pushing through people on the way. Take your time, move to the right side and know that there will be plenty of water for everyone, usually at lovely long tables.

There’s that driving metaphor again – you wouldn’t drive cross four lanes of the M25 without looking, would you?

Also, be careful of stepping on discarded bottles. A runner next to me in the London marathon stood on a nearly full Lucozade sport bottle, spraying it everywhere and scaring the life out of everyone (mostly herself, I think!). Besides getting sticky (arf) you could fall over and hurt yourself.


Ah you lovely, lovely supporters. Thank you. Thank you for standing in the heat/cold/wind/rain/snow for hours, shouting at random strangers shuffling along a course.  We wouldn’t tell you this normally, but you as our loved ones are a big part of doing the race. It’s the reason we lie to your faces as we grin and cheer past you at mile 25 of a marathon.  Heck, most of the time it’s the only reason to get to mile 25 of a marathon.

There are a couple of things that would make you even more angel like, if you would care to take heed:

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  1. Keep off the path

I love races where there aren’t barriers all the way along the footpaths, separating the runners from the spectators.  It makes for a nicer run as with metal fencing along both sides of you, it can feel a bit claustrophobic.

I do not love it when spectators do that thing that most people do when they’re waiting for their luggage to come round a carousel. You know what I mean. One person edges forward so they can see. The person behind them edges forward so they can see. Before you know it, there’s a beautiful rainbow effect pattern with twenty people in it, straining to see their bag/runner but actually spilling onto the carousel/road.

When you’re concentrating on pace, cadence, breathing, thinking, eating, drinking and whether or not you might need to wee, one other thing you don’t want to do is think about the path narrowing by 50% up ahead  because the over zealous spectators have infringed onto the race course. I’ve seen the racing line obscured by crowds, making for an uncomfortable bit of the run.

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More cowbell 

  1. Shout and cheer and make loads of noise

This is a big ask, and I know it’s hard if you’ve already been out for six hours and your hands are sore and you’re losing your voice, but there’s nothing like a bit of encouragement to  ‘keep running’ to, well, keep running. Spot that face in the crowd, shout out their name, spur them on. I know it’s tempting to save all of your energy for your runner(s), but it’ll make the time pass more quickly to pick on other people and it’ll get you all warmed up for when you finally see the person you’ve been waiting for! If you don’t want to clap for eight hours, why not bring something noisy? Cowbell, bike bell, air raid siren – they’re all great.

Apart from anything else, it’s a bit eerie to run along a road enclosed by entirely silent people…


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  1. Get ready for lots of high fives

High fives are great. It’s a bit of human contact within an hour/two/ten when you’re battling physically and mentally which pushes you along, into the next meter/km/mile.

Including jelly beans/babies in this are welcome too, as are witty signs. When I did Plymouth half marathon (in the rain) I was so pleased to see my family, all holding a beautiful handmade banner, I stopped and gave them big, sweaty, damp hugs.


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  1. Be truthful

This is a really specific one. When you’re at mile 2 of a marathon, hearing ‘not far left now, you’re doing well’, is actually a bit demotivating. I know, that sounds really ungrateful of me, but it would be so appreciated to hear a cheer or words of encouragement that are meaningful. Think of stock phrases which fit your position, such as ‘looking good’, ‘good running’ etc.

This also sounds churlish but if you’re going to cheer someone on using their name, getting it right would be good too. I’ve been called ‘Susie’, ‘Sam’ and ‘Sarah’ in races, which is just a bit confusing. The intention is honourable but it would be even better if it was aimed at the right name.

I was once cheered on by a bored looking guy  who told me to ‘go on Big Suze’. I spent the last three miles of that race wondering if he meant the Peep Show character or if I was just so much bigger than everyone else. Still, it made me run a bit faster!

And finally, my favourite gif ever – after the race – relax! Have a beer/tea/ice cream. You did it!

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Loch Ness Week Sixteen – RACE WEEK!


On the plan

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 4M easy with 100m strides

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3M easy (approx 30 minutes) with 100m strides

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 2M easy (approx 20 minutes) with 2 x 200m MP strides


What I actually did

Monday: 4.1M in 38:05 @09:07min/mil

Tuesday: 3M in 29minutes ish

Wednesday: rest

Thursday:  rest

Friday:  rest – flew to Inverness

Saturday: 2.24M in 21.27

Sunday: moving time 4:14 elapsed time 4:18. Race report to follow but as you can see, sub 4 and I have unfinished business…

Loch Ness Week Fifteen


On the plan

Monday:  Rest

Tuesday: 5M steady run approx 9min/mil

Wednesday:  6M easy (approx 10min/mil 60 mins)

Thursday:  Rest

Friday: 1M jog, then 3M at half marathon pace, approximately 25mins, then 1M jog

Saturday: parkrun or 40min fartlek

Sunday: 9M steady at 09:30min/mil for 95 minutes

What I actually did

Monday:  Cycled to work and back

Tuesday:  5.24M @ 08:57 ave pace

Wednesday: 6.3M @09:55 ave pace

Thursday:  Cycled to work and back

Friday: Ran home from work 4.82M ave pace 09:03 min/mil – couldn’t get below 9min/mil and nowhere near the ‘half marathon pace’

Saturday:  Very gentle cycle ride around some pretty Suffolk villages, probably about 11-12 miles over about four hours

Sunday:  9.25M @09:22min/mil for 87minutes

Loch Ness Week Fourteen


On the plan

Monday:  Rest

Tuesday:  5M – 1M jog then 6x400m at 10K speed (approx 2mins) with 200m or 90 sec jog recoveries then 1M jog

Wednesday: 6M steady – approx 9:30min/mile in 57 mins)

Thursday: 6M – 1M jog then middle 4M at half marathon pace (approx 34 mins) then 1M jog

Friday: Rest

Saturday:  parkrun 5k or 40 mins fartlek (approx 4M

Sunday: 12M steady – 9:30min/mile in 1 hours 54 mins

What I actually did

Monday:  Rest (not even a cycle to work!)

Tuesday: Cycled to work. 3.55M efforts session at club. average pace of 08:57min/mil

Wednesday: 4.19M. Cut the run short as my left leg was so painful, I was hopping. Went home and stretched.

Thursday: 6.64M steady pace average of 09:31min/mil. Strapped my knee up and, while it felt weird, seemed to do the trick.

Friday:  Cycled to work

Saturday: 14.67M steady run, ave pace of 09:32min/mil. Happy with that, leg feels much better.

Sunday: 6.65M with Mr Charming ave pace of 09:44min/mil. There were some killer hills in there too and it was his longest ever run so pleased with the distance!

This week I will be mainly figuring out logistics for the race. Bib numbers, pasta meals, bag drop, airport shuttles etc. Oh, and working out what I’m going to wear.

Loch Ness Week Thirteen


On the plan

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8M: 1M jog, 8x800m, at 10K pace (approx 4:00), with 400min in 2 mins 30 secs jog recoveries, then 1M jog

Wednesday: 7M easy 10min/mil for 70mins

Thursday: 7M – 1M jog then MP for 5M then 1M jog

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 3M approx 30mins

Sunday:  15M easy approx 2h30 @10min/mil

What I actually did

Monday: 4.33M @9:08min/mil ave pace with SRC Norwich

Tuesday: 7.82M with splits as below. Reasonably even but a bit slower than I would have liked.

Tuesday splits

Wednesday: 7.37M  – overall average pace of 9:09. Felt pretty comfortable, didn’t want to slow down for the jog at the end!

Wed MP run

Thursday: cycled to work and back

Friday:  Rest – even drove to work and back!

Saturday:  20.6M. Horrible. Felt so slow and awkward and really uncomfortable. Started out slow and got slower, at least, that’s what it felt like. Ended the run sobbing on the doorstep, frustrated with my lack of pace and energy and how generally rubbish I am.  It’s hard comparing it to the run three weeks ago – that 20M was a cinch compared to this one. Le sigh.


Sunday:  6.11M with Mr KS on his LSR @09:39 average pace. Wore my new Brooks Ravennas and they were like night and day compared to the ones I wore on Saturday! I love the other ones but for some reason, they’re just not gelling with my marathon training. I think I might keep those ones for shorter races.

Have you got a marathon you’re training for?

Have you made any amazing discoveries which you want to pass on?

Ever cried on your doorstep after a really tough run? Just me?

Loch Ness Week Twelve


On the plan

Monday:  Rest

Tuesday: 7M of 10 x 400 at 5k pace with 90 sec recoveries and 1M warm up and cooldown

Wednesday: 5M easy approx 10min/mil

Thursday: 7M of alternating 9min/mil and 10min/mil approx 76 minutes

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 3M easy

Sunday: 20M first 10 at 10min/mil,  second 10 at MP 9min/mil in approx 3hrs10

What I actually did

Monday: Rest – rainy BH so went to the RAF Radar museum then watched films on the telly

Tuesday: Cycled to work and back

Paul Evans session – nearly 4M ave pace @ 7:51min/mil

Wednesday: Cycled to work and back

5M easy ave pace @9:27min/mil

Thursday: 7.38M ave pace 9:20min/mil in 1hr09

Friday: Cycled to work and back. Swam 50 lengths in approximately 45minutes. Right knee swelled up :(

Saturday:  ran to parkrun and parkrun – 5M 9:06 average pace

RICE on the sofa

Sunday:  Rest in an attempt to get my knee back to working order.

Week Twelve. I’ve been doing my stretches following the issue I had with my left leg last week. This Friday, out of the blue, my knee swelled up and became really painful, especially when I bent it past 45degrees. A couple of grumpy days on the sofa later and it feels okay, but still a bit tender.

I’ve changed my shoes and I can only think that the stretches are encouraging muscles I’m not used to using properly, so hopefully this is temporary and will make me a better runner in the end.  Hopefully next week will be back to normal!

Loch Ness Week Eleven


On the plan:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 5M of relaxed fartlek
Wednesday: 6M easy @10min/mil
Thursday: 7M progression run starting at slower than 10:00min/mile and getting faster with last few min/mile sub 9 in approx 66min 1M jog
Friday: Rest
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: 13M steady in approximately 2 hours (9:30min/mil-ish)

What I actually did:

Monday: cycled to work and back
Tuesday: cycled to work and back. Rested from running, too tired and my leg was a bit sore

Wednesday:  6M relaxed fartlek ave pace 9:09min/mil – slowest k 9:25min/mil (uphill) and fastest k 8:47min/mil – the last one home

Thursday:  cycled to work

Friday:  ran to work 4.75M tempo 8:49min/mil ave and cycled home via the physio

Saturday: 14.2M ave pace recorded at 10:19min/mil but actually faster than that – forgot to stop the garmin after parkrun #154! Roughly 8:45-9:15min/mil ave pace for first 10 miles then parkrun in 8:30ish, then a slow jog home.

Sunday:  Mr Charming’s LSR 5M at 9:29min/mil ave

I had a bit of trouble on last week’s LSR with my ankle hurting. My left side has been giving me niggles for a while and, like the sensible runner I am, I ignored it in the hope it’ll go away… I saw the physio on Friday who told me that a) it wasn’t a hamstring injury so I’m good to carry on and b) my left leg is a cm longer than my right, which could be indicative of a pelvic misalignment. Still, he gave me some good stretches and although I feel a bit battered and bruised, it should be fine by Loch Ness so long as I don’t overdo the training and get plenty of rest.