Marathon veteran Justin Quirk's fail-safe tips to calm your pre-race nerves and get you across the finishing line as pain-free as possible.

This Sunday marks the 38th edition of the Virgin Money London Marathon, with the elite men's and women's races being contested by two of the greatest endurance athletes in history – last year's winner Daniel Wanjiru and Mary Keitany. They'll be aiming to finish ahead of a field including Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele (the fastest runner in the London field) and Olympic gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge, along with British Olympic track champion Mo Farah. While the day is unlikely to see any world records being broken – the layout of the course means London always lags behind straighter, flatter courses like Boston and Berlin – spectators are still guaranteed a race to remember.

Away from the rarefied heights of the elites, we're proud to report that a healthy contingent of Quintessentially Members are running at a slightly more modest pace for a variety of good causes. So whether this is your debut race or you're a seasoned hand, here are some pointers for the big day.

Get inspired

A marathon is as much a psychological challenge as it is a physical one, and you'll need mental reserves to dig into in those hard later miles. Ed Caesar's award-winning book, Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon details the efforts of runners, coaches, sports brands and scientists to get a single runner to finally break the 2-hour barrier in a race. His account of the lives, pain, motivation and madness of the men who push their bodies to the edge of destruction in pursuit of this symbolic prize, is one of the all-time great sports books, and will put your own race-day twinges in perspective. You probably won't have the time (or the inclination) to read much between now and Sunday, but if you can, dip into it for some handy last-minute hints.

Stock up

From today onwards, if not before, you should be hydrating and carb-loading to build up the extra reserves that your body will need to fuel itself through race day. Go heavy, but keep it traditional – pasta is the obvious option – and don't start experimenting with anything that might upset your stomach so close to the race. Remember the golden rule: don't mix energy gels and sports drinks at the same time. Your stomach won't like it.

Go casual

We normally need no excuse to indulge in new shoes and clothing, but race day is the exception. Wear what you know to be comfortable, broken-in and well-fitting. Then you can ceremonially retire your entire kit after race day if you will, and treat yourself to some new running gear.

The aftermath

Once you complete the race, think about the short- and medium- term recovery. Firstly, keep walking after you cross the line to avoid cramp and stretch, stretch, stretch as much and as gently as possible in the hours and days after. Secondly, in your correspondent's experience, a large bottle of chocolate milkshake has amazing restorative properties. 

Thirdly, have warm clothes and fresh socks ready to change into soon after crossing the line. Next, make the bath your first mission when you get home. If possible (and if you have the courage), mix it up so that you alternate between ice cold and hot water. The cold helps to flush out the lactic acid that's built up in your muscles and that causes stiffness. The heat increases blood flow, which in turn brings oxygen and nutrients into the muscles for recovery. Add Epsom salts for added value. Then take it easy for the next few days, do some light stretching and walking, and gradually start running again when you feel up to it. But do plan a new race for the following months – it'll help keep your motivation up. 

And finally, don't forget to buy a gift or write a note to any loyal friends, spouses or partners who've supported or sponsored you throughout your months of training. The moral support is as crucial as the kilometres you've put in.


Contact your Lifestyle Manager for any help on your marathon journey this weekend, from transport and accommodation in London, to last-minute kit supplies or a top-flight post-marathon sports massage. 

If you wish to contribute a one-off donation to Quintessentially Foundation's marathon fundraising pot this year, or secure your place through the Foundation for next year's race, running to support communities in need please contact: info@quintessentiallyfoundation.org 

Quintessentially Foundation will be offering up a limited number of places for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019, as of September 2018