Skip to main contentSkip to footer
Digital Cover health-and-fitness

Everything I wish I knew before running the London Marathon for the first time

Considering entering the ballot for the London Marathon 2025? Read this before you do

Georgia Brown
Senior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
April 24, 2024
Share this:

As I write this I have Compeed plasters wrapped around most of my toes, my body feels like it's been through a washing machine, and I still can't comfortably walk down a set of stairs. All to be expected after completing the 2024 TCS London Marathon, of course. 

For the record, before I found out I had secured a place in the marathon I wasn't able to run 5k without stopping. Yet on 21 April, I joined 50,000 runners in taking on 26.2 miles across a course lapping around some of London's most iconic landmarks. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. 

Coming away from the experience I still can't quite believe I've actually done it. After months of gruelling training, several injuries, a severed social life and a set of gnarly blisters, you wonder why so many seem to have caught the 'running bug'.


I genuinley can’t believe it. The hardest thing I’ve ever done, ever and over £1,500 raised for @PAPYRUS 💜 To my wonderful friends and family, every stranger and every runner wearing one of my mum’s scrunchies (🥹🫶🏼) that cheered me on, love you endlessly. I’ll be horizontal for the forseeable xxx #londonmarathon #WeRunTogether #marathon @TCS London Marathon

♬ original sound - A - A

Despite the challenges, crossing the finish line was easily one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had - and I'd recommend it ten times over to anyone considering giving it a go. 

Feeling inspired to enter the ballot or run for a charity for the London Marathon 2025? Before you do, here's everything I wish I knew before I ran it myself… 

26.2 miles is a lot longer than you think it is 

When I found out I had a place in the London Marathon last September, I knew I had a mammoth challenge ahead of me. I had six months to go from couch to marathon runner, and at this point, I didn't even own a pair of running trainers. 

I knew that a place in the London Marathon was like gold dust and it wasn't an opportunity I was willing to throw away, so I started a disciplined training programme as soon as I could. 

Having already had a foundation level of fitness behind me (thank you bi-weekly 1Rebel spin classes) I sailed through my 5k, 10k and even 15k milestones. I even surprised myself when I secured a sub 2.5 hour time in my first half marathon shortly after Christmas.

Georgia running at sunrise
I spent six months training to run the London Marathon

It wasn't until January when my weekends were plagued by three-hour training runs and 28 km distances over the bitterly cold, dark winter months that I started to lose steam. 

As marathon day crept in closer I realised how taxing it was going to be. Due to a knee injury four weeks out from race day, I was forced to cut my long-distance training short, meaning my longest run before the marathon was just 18 miles.  

I'd read that "the real marathon starts at 20 miles" when most people hit the so-called "wall". Let me tell you, the wall is real and it hit me incredibly hard. I started to feel extreme exhaustion around the 18-mile mark, I could feel blisters starting to form, I felt nauseous, and my legs felt like concrete. 

"I'll just walk the rest, I'm well over halfway" I thought to myself, not realising that walking eight miles to the finish line would likely take me more than two hours. I had to keep running.

That post-run feeling when you cross the finish line is unmatched
That post-run feeling when you cross the finish line is unmatched

To quote Nike Run Coach, Julia Lucas, you have to run the first 10 miles with your head, the next 10 miles with your training, and the last 10K with your heart. Those final six miles took everything out of me - the 20 mile tears were real!

Prepare for human traffic and horrendous portaloos

I can't speak for earlier waves, but I was one of the final waves to set off at around 11:20 am, and there were several points during the first half of the race where I was forced to slow down to a near stop due to the sheer amount of people.

Given that this was my first marathon, I had no expectation of pace or particular time goal in mind aside from knowing that crossing the finish line was a non-negotiable. 

Athletes pass the Palace of Westminster as they compete in the Men's Marathon on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on the streets of London on August 12, 2012 in London, England.© Getty
50,000 runners take on the 26.2 mile course

If I were after a new PB, however, I would be mindful that you can get stuck behind walkers and large groups of people following pacers (which were sometimes tricky to overtake).

I was also grossly (pun intended) underprepared for how bad the portaloos were going to be during the race. Most portaloos have long queues; I was waiting for around 10 minutes at mile 11 for a free one, and by the time my wave had reached them, around 30,000 runners had used them before me. You can only imagine the horror. 

Without going into too much detail, the portaloos during the London Marathon make Glastonbury's long drops seem almost… inviting. If you are comfortable sailing through 26.2 miles without needing to go, I'd strongly recommend giving them a miss. It's worth packing a few folds of toilet paper in your race belt too.  

Don't wear anything new on race day

View post on Instagram

I didn't understand why runners recommended avoiding wearing a new kit on race day until I was left with golf-ball sized blisters on the bottom of my feet from my fresh pair of Saucony Triumph trainers. 

I thought I had hacked the system. I would wear the same beloved shoes that had served me well over the last six months and over 400 kilometres of training, except I'd wear a brand new pair to feel fresh on marathon day. 

I realised my mistake as early as mile five, when I had to unlace my shoes to loosen them as I had searing pain in all of my toes. As for running kit, I went for a reliable race day option, wearing the lululemon 'Swiftly Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt 2.0' (£68) and the 'Fast and Free Reflective High-Rise Classic-Fit Short' (£65) paired with a healthy dose of 'Anti Chafe Stick' from First Aid Beauty, which I carried with me in my running vest and reapplied halfway through. 

London comes alive on marathon day

The atmosphere around London is electric on marathon day. Hearing strangers shout your name and cheer words of encouragement as you pass mile by mile is so motivational, and it's definitely one of the reasons I made it to the end. 

You'll see people throwing confetti from their balconies, supporters handing out oranges, bananas and sweets, DJs pumping out feel good anthems atop towering floats, families cradling their loved ones and banners emblazoned with words of encouragement throughout the race. 

View post on Instagram

I didn't think I could love London any more than I already did, but witnessing the unmatched sense of community on marathon day confirmed that this city is truly special.

The sense of pride you'll feel is unmatched

Despite the blisters, the muscle aches, the exhaustion and the wave of emotions that hit you on marathon day, the feeling of crossing that finish line is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. 

In life, it's so easy to feel proud of other people doing amazing things around you. Completing a marathon forces you to thank yourself, and to be grateful to your body and mind for achieving near impossible things. 

Less than 1% of people complete a marathon in their lifetime. Regardless of time or pace, that is something you should feel immensely proud of.

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

More Health & Fitness

See more