9 top tips for a great marathon

My nephew Stephen running the Marathon for the Brain Tumour Charity


Running the Marathon is an incredible challenge and it is important to plan ahead and prepare properly both in terms of your training schedule prior to the event and on the actual day.

Wear appropriate clothing

Dress for the weather conditions and to be most comfortable whilst running. Ensure that someone has warm clothes for you when you finish the race. Don’t be tempted to get new trainers for the race; wear them in and ensure they and the socks you choose are comfortable and fit really well. If there is rain (or snow) forecast, ensure your shoes have sufficient grip. Avoid wearing clothes with seams that could rub and cause friction burns. Choose clothes you have run in previously and know are comfortable for the duration of the run. Think very carefully if you are planning to wear fancy dress and ensure you don’t overstress yourself. If you are prone to chafing apply petroleum jelly or anti chafing talc and it may be helpful to cover your nipples with plasters.

The night before

Pasta is a good slow burning carbohydrate to keep you going the next day. On the morning of the Marathon choose another slow burning food that you have eaten before during similar length training runs such as porridge, bagels, toast and peanut butter. Never try anything new prior to the actual Marathon, stick to what is tried and tested.

Warm up

Take time to warm up and stretch thoroughly before the race and don’t forget to cool down too, with further stretches when you have finished. You are likely to get cold quickly after the race, so accept the foil blanket and retain your body heat.

Drink water

Drink sufficient amounts of fluid to remain hydrated but do not drink too much or too fast as this can cause Hyponatraemia and make you seriously ill. Initial symptoms are similar to dehydration, but this lack of sodium and salt imbalance can cause seizures, coma and can be fatal. Sports drinks are considered beneficial for longer runs.

Heat exhaustion

If you begin to feel sick, get a headache or cramps, feel dizzy and your skin becomes cold and clammy; you may be suffering heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion is serious so it is important that you get help as soon as possible. If you are training lie down in a shady spot with your legs raised, take regular sips of a sports drink and ideally call someone to come and be with you and get medical advice.

If you are running the Marathon and develop the symptoms of heat exhaustion, listen to your body and rest for a while. Get checked out by the medical support and only resume with their say so.

Drink sufficient amounts of fluid to remain hydrated

Drink small amounts regularly and avoid drinking a lot of water too quickly. Sports drinks are thought to be better than pure water for runs longer than an hour as they help you to maintain your salt balance.  Do not drink too much and avoid drinking for 45 minutes prior to the race.

Cramp is a common problem caused by the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles but this can be avoided by maintaining sufficient levels of salts and fluids and remaining well hydrated. Drink sports drinks during the race and long training and include salt in your normal diet a few days prior to the race.


If you get a blister and the skin is still intact, do not be tempted to pop it.  Cover with a proper blister plaster and ensure there are no wrinkles in socks that are contributing to the rubbing.

If the blister is broken or likely to break; cover with a clean, dry, non-adhesive dressing that extends well beyond the edges of the blister. Alternatively apply a blister plaster.

To avoid blisters, ensure you are wearing shoes that are worn in and comfortable.

Knee joint injuries

If you injure your knee; lie down carefully supporting your knee in a relaxed raised position. Do not try to walk on your injured leg or straighten your knee.

Don’t eat or drink anything in case you need an anaesthetic, get medical attention.

Sprained ankle

Don’t be tempted to try and continue to weight-bear on the injury. Listen to your body and seek help from the first-aiders there. Rest, apply a wrapped ice pack and assess the injury properly.

Nipple bleeding and friction burns

You can prevent friction burn to nipples by covering them with plasters or petroleum jelly

If your nipples bleed when training; wash and dry them carefully and then cover with a breathable plaster

Sometimes, nipple bleeding may be due to more serious problems. If in doubt, consult your doctor.


Enjoy running your Marathon, stay fit and well and thank you to everyone for putting this huge amount of effort in to raise money for such valuable causes.

Learn more on how to prevent sport injuries reading this article from our archive.

Do you want to be sure to stay safe on sport days? click here!

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Email: emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk or telephone 020 8675 4036 for more information.
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