Here are some essential and not so essential tips to ensure you have a happy, healthy and fun time at VLM
After you have received the acceptance booklet or confirmation of your club place sort out your accommodation if you are staying over the night before ( recommended by those who have gone before to this party)
Bear in mind it is a point to point course from Greenwich to The Mall when choosing where to stay.
A few weeks before the race you will receive another pack with a magazine and the letter with your number confirmation. DO NOT LOSE THIS - you need to take it to the Marathon Expo to collect your number.
Did I mention the Expo yet? - You need to attend on one of the days before the race to collect your number, otherwise you cannot run ( they are very strict about this nd don't take entries on the day) It is less busy on a weekday. Remember to take additional ID as I think you are asked for it as well as the letter - its all on the letter anyway. After collecting your coveted number, chip and red bag you can now shop and browse the Expo. It is well worth a look- don't forget to sign the graffitti wall with a Bushy message for your fellow clubmates to spot when they attend! It is usually packed with all sorts of running stuff and gizmos as well as lots of interesting and glamorous races elsewhere to tempt you and London Pride have a stand with real beer( albeit very small sample glasses)
However, even with the Aladdins cave of comestibles available to you, don't be tempted to try a new gel or new trainers on race day, buy them to use on your next one instead:-)
On Race Day- the magazine mentioned above will have details of the train services to Greenwich and Blackheath- you will be on either Red/Blue or Green( if you're elite or a celebrity) starts. Your number is colour coded, but if unsure ask the nice person handing out the numbers at the Expo. The trains are free for Marathoners, just show your number and basically follow the crowd to the start- you can't get lost.
The marathon start village is only open to runners, not not advisable to take friends and family to the start- let them make their way to wherever they wish to look out for you on the course. The start area is rather like Glastonbury but with less mud and more lycra. Hang out and chill with your mates or make some new ones, queue for the portaloos and put your bag onto the baggage trucks before starting the race. (Handy hint, put your stuff in a rucksack and put that in the Red bag you must use at the race.
Start the race, look out for friends/family/acquaintances.
While I'm mentioning Friends and Family- Tower Bridge and the Embankment can get VERY busy and difficult to move around from all day, bear that in mind if you're supporting- the tubes get really crowded and it is quicker to walk. The Highway just down from Tower Bridge is the only part of the route where you can see the runners twice at miles 13-14ish and at 21-22 ish on the other side of the road
Bushy marshalls are at around Mile 23- so only a parkrun away from the finish and a welcome sight:-)
At the finish, get your medal, don't forget that finish photo you will want to buy to remember your day and collect your coat from the baggage truck. It is guaranteed it will be the furthest one away from the finish, unless thats only me it happens to.
Eat and drink the contents of the finish goodie bag while you make your way to be re-united with your loved ones. It can be VERY crowded and absolute mayhem at the official reunion points, arrange somewhere else- Admiralty Arch is often less crowded or Trafalgar Square has plenty of landmarks (and pubs) The Chandos is a good one, but is packed after the marathon.
Bask in the glory and don't take off your medal for at least 3 days!