Last-Minute Tips For The London Landmarks Half Marathon

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The second annual London Landmarks Half Marathon (LLHM) is this weekend, offering runners the rare chance to run on closed roads in central London. Whether it’s your first half marathon or you’re an old-timer, there’s always a sense of anticipation and some jangling nerves which – in our experience at least – can be kept in check by reading last-minute tips, course guides and anything else we can lay our hands on.

So we caught up with Nici Griffin from Centurion Running, who organises the pacers for LLHM and is reprising her role as the tail-end pacer this year, having also done it at the inaugural event last year. Griffin ran her first half marathon in 2010 and has since gone on to complete 28 marathons and four 50-mile ultramarathons. Don’t let that intimidate you though – Griffin called herself the “baby” of her ultramarathon group and said she had to remember not to compare herself with others but focus on what she’s capable of. That’s just one of many fine tips we picked up from our chat. Here are the rest of them.

Get Involved On Facebook Beforehand

Being a pacer, says Griffin, is about a lot more than just setting a pace for others to follow. “If we were told we couldn’t interact with the crowd and had to just carry a flag we wouldn’t do it. The best part is interacting with the people around you, in the start pens at the beginning, even beforehand – Facebook has been amazing for that. You get the banter going, and you get people who are going by themselves on the day feeling like they’ve got a friend – they come and look for you in the wave pens at the start.” Have a look at the comments on facebook.com/londonlandmarkshalf for starters.

Be Happy You’re Running A Race In London

“London is the most ace city for running any big race in,” says Griffin. “It’s so welcoming – the runners, the volunteers, the members of the public out there… you just get so much support.” One particular supporter stood out for Griffin in last year’s LLHM. “Last year there was a child on Embankment and he had this hand-made sign which was a Power Up Power Rangers sign [which promised a ‘power boost’ if you touched it]. It was brilliant seeing all the runners purposely cross to his side of the road to high-five his sign.”

Look Forward To These Course Highlights

“I like the City of London part,” says Griffin. “There are a lot of switchbacks down side streets, and I like the historical architecture you find there with the backdrop of all the new stuff – it’s quite amazing.” Griffin also namechecked St Paul’s – “who doesn’t like St Paul’s Cathedral?” – and running along the Thames towards Big Ben. “When you get to the Tower of London and turn around that’s a real high spot, especially because you think, ‘that’s it, I’m heading for the finish now’. But for me the most beautiful bit is along Embankment. You’ve got all the people out walking along and they’re all cheering – it’s just brilliant.”

But Prepare Yourself For This Bit

Griffin said her “dark part” of a half marathon was always around the nine-mile portion, which happens to coincide with what she says is the least pleasant part of the course for the London Landmarks race. “Coming out of the City going down to the Tower of London, that to me is quite dire and lonely.”

Whether you’re struggling or flying at that point, odds are the going will get tough for you at some point. When that happens try this technique Griffin picked up from Paula Radcliffe. “I count my footsteps – 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4. It’s mind-numbing, but it just gives me something to think about rather than look ahead and think, ‘Oh my God, Big Ben is so far away’.”

Enjoy It

No matter what happens, try to enjoy the day. And if you’re thinking that’s easy for an ultramarathoner to say, Griffin confessed that she got her first half all wrong. “My longest run in training for that first half marathon was maybe five miles – it was shocking preparation and I got overtaken by a lady with a pushchair, but I still loved that first one.

“At this stage it’s too late to panic about anything anyway – just enjoy it. It’s an amazing memory. There are 14,000 other runners, the pacers, the team that put it together, all out there supporting you. Just enjoy the day.”

And Be Proud Of The Achievement

“A lot of people shrug it off – ‘I’m only doing a half’. No, no – don’t put yourself down. And don’t be fooled, 13 miles is a long distance. It’s just as admirable as a marathon, a 50-miler, a 100-miler. You wouldn’t pop out and do a half marathon distance on a Saturday morning for fun!”

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