The London Marathon is undoubtedly one of the best marathons to run. If this is your first time, strap in because this experience is going to be life-changing!

Preparing for and completing the London Marathon for the first time can be a daunting challenge. Besides the training process, you will be running with over 40 000 people, and you will also experience the insane energy from the crowds on the sidelines. 

No matter how many times you have gone over all your strategies and what you need to do in your head… there are aspects of the London Marathon that for a first-timer are hard to prepare for.

That’s why we have put together this London Marathon novice guide. In this article, we will share with you EVERYTHING you need to know as a first-time London Marathon runner…

Everything First Timers Need To Know About The London Marathon

  1. Training Program
  2. How To Enter The London Marathon
  3. London Marathon Route 
  4. London Marathon Running Show
  5. London Marathon Water Stations Along The Route
  6. London Marathon Nutrition Guide
  7. What To Bring With You On Race Day
  8. Spectators Guide For Your Family & Friends Coming To Cheer You On
  9. Top Tips For Your First London Marathon

Training Program For The London Marathon

The first place to start is with your training, without success at this step your dream of completing the London Marathon will become unachievable.

The length of time it takes to prepare for the London Marathon depends on an individual’s running background and experience.

If you’ve got absolutely no running experience but have set this goal for yourself, fantastic! We’ve put together a specific couch to London Marathon guide just for you. You can find it here.

For runners who have some experience or loads of experience, the table in this article depicts the weekly training hours based on your level of experience as well as your London Marathon race goal time.

If you are following the couch to London Marathon training you should have started training in May 2022. The reason for such an early head start is that runners doing the couch to London Marathon would first start with a 5km training plan, then move to a 10km then a 21km, and with 12 weeks to go until race day (23 April 2023) they will begin their London Marathon specific training plan.

Experienced runners who have been training should start their training at the latest 12 weeks before race day.

How To Train For The London Marathon

Once you’ve got your training plan sorted, it’s important to look at ways you can enter the London Marathon… usually, this is quite a challenge.

How To Enter The London Marathon

The reality is there are around 50,000 spaces available at the start line… each year there are about 457,000 entries…and only 17,000 ballot spaces are available… Getting a spot at the London Marathon is not easy.

Ways To Enter The London Marathon 2023:

  • Ballot Entry
  • Good For Age
  • Charity 
  • Running Club Places
  • Abbott World Marathon Majors Lottery
  • International Tour Operators
  • Championship Place

We will dive into each of these methods in this article.

The cost of a place in the London Marathon for a UK participant is £49.99.

Although, the price according to each entry method and your citizenship does vary.

Now for one of the most important and also exciting parts of this journey… 

Along the London Marathon route runners will not go a moment without feeling the exciting rush from their competitors and supporters cheering them on.

The London Marathon Route Overview

The TCS London Marathon 2023 will take place on the 23 of April. The race has a staggered start in this order: 08:50 (Elite wheelchair men’s and women’s races), 09:00 (Elite women’s race), and 09:40 (Elite men’s race and mass start.)

The London Marathon distance is 26.2 miles/ 42.2 kilometers. The terrain of the marathon is closed-off roads and pavements and has a total elevation gain of between 119m and 138m, making it a mostly flat course with only one small rise.

The course which has barely been changed since 1981 makes up one of the most iconic marathons in the world and is one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

The London Marathon route is famous for good reason, runners can see an incredible selection of London’s famous landmarks.

The route winds out of Greenwich Park and leafy Blackheath, it runs through Charlton, turns west past the famous Cutty Sark then loops through Greenwich and across Tower Bridge into Shadwell. Runners will reach Canary Wharf and the London Eye and then the course runs along the Lower Thames past the Tower of London through Trafalgar Square where runners get to pass the famous Landmarks of Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliament, then it’s the final stretch to The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace at St Jame’s Park.

Let’s have a detailed look at the course right from the start line… Click Here.

One of the many anticipated events leading up to race day is the world-famous London Marathon Running show…

London Marathon Running Show

The London Marathon running show is a great way to enjoy all things running. 

Runners competing in the marathon get to collect their race numbers, have a look at and trial new running gadgets and gear, and get their first taste of that unforgettable pre-race energy.

The 2023 London Marathon Running Show is happening from Wednesday 19th of April to Saturday 22nd April 2023 at ExCeL London.


 (The nearest train station to ExCeL London is Custom House. Custom House is served by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the Elizabeth line.)

Collecting Your London Marathon Event Pack- What You Need

To collect your London Marathon event pack which contains your bib number and kit bag you will need to show your QR code that was sent to you via email and your photo ID. 

You can show your QR code on a printout or your mobile device. 

If you’re unable to attend the running show, someone can collect your pack on your behalf – details of how to do this are in the Event Guide. The 2023 London Marathon Event Guide will be emailed to all participants and available online closer to the event.

NOTE: Event packs are not allowed to be collected on race day.

Your London Marathon running show experience will be significantly better if you stick to a plan.
And that’s exactly what we’ve created for you! —> London Marathon Running Show: EVERYTHING You Need To Know

Now we’re making out way closer to race day… Fueling during the London Marathon is just as important as your training leading up to race day.

London Marathon Water Stations Along The Route

There are water stations every two miles along the route (12 in total). At the water stations, some volunteers hand out 250ml plastic bottles of Buxton water.

There are Lucozade Sport drink tables providing Lucozade in cups at…

  • Mile 9/ 14km
  • Mile15/ 24km
  • Mile 21/ 33km
  • Mile 24/ 38km

Lucozade Sport Energy Gels are being handed out at…

  • Mile 14/ 22km
  • Mile 19/ 30km

Now that you know what is going to be provided for you along the route, let’s have a look at what the best thing to drink during the London Marathon is…

Paired with hydration, you also need to have a well-practiced nutrition strategy so that come race day, all you need to do is worry about crossing the finish line…

London Marathon Nutrition Guide

Race day nutrition products vary from drinks to gels, to bars, to sweets, to sandwiches, and for some, even tablets…

Deciding what the best nutrition for you is on race day depends on what nutrition you practiced with on your long runs in the training weeks leading up to race day. It is vital to remember that nothing new should be consumed on race day.

In your training, you need to try a variety of products specifically on your long runs to make sure you have a sound fuelling and hydration plan that has been practiced come race day.

What you eat and drink before and during your marathon will have a significant impact on your official time.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the perfect nutrition strategy for the London Marathon…

You’ve done your training, you’ve tapered, you have practiced your hydration and nutrition strategies and now race day has arrived…

What To Bring With You On Race Day

Race Day Check List:

  1. Your running vest/top (Hint: Print your name on the front of your top/vest, you have no idea how much it will help you through the latter stages of the race when a random stranger calls out your name!)
  2. Race number pinned onto your shirt
  3. Underwear
  4. Shorts
  5. Socks
  6. Running shoes
  7. Carbs and Snacks
  8. Sunscreen
  9. Vaseline to reduce chafing 
  10. Running pack/belt you might have for your water/gels etc.
  11. Accessories such as your running watch, sunglasses, and cap

You can bring the official kit bag you receive at the running show.

By now your planning should be done and you should be mentally preparing for what the day will have in store for you.

Being able to be there in person and watch the London Marathon along the route is an incredible experience and worth it if your family and friends and keen!

To ease any stress of trying to organize with family and friends where they can spot you along the route we put together a little guide to help with just that.

Spectators Guide For Your Family & Friends Coming To Cheer You On

A good time is guaranteed anywhere along the 26.2-mile route but there are some popular spots where the supportive energy is on another level.

The London Marathon route takes in some of the most famous landmarks in the city. It starts in Blackheath in south-east London and finishes right by the famous Buckingham Palace.

The popular and vibey spectator spots that are full of energy are…

1. The Cutty Sark (Mile 6/9.5km)

2. Tower Bridge  (Mile 12/19km)

3. St James Park (Mile 26/41.5km)

4. The Mall (Opposite Buckingham Palace Mile 26/41.5km)

The nearest train stations to each of the popular spectator spots are…

1. The Cutty Sark (Mile 6/9.5km) – Greenwich Station

2. Tower Bridge  (Mile 12/19km) – London Bridge and Fenchurch Street National Rail stations, or Tower Gateway DLR Station

3. St James Park (Mile 26/41.5km) – Newcastle Central Station and Monument Metro Station

4. The Mall (Opposite Buckingham Palace Mile 26/41.5km) –  London Victoria Station

Pro Tip: Head to the Cutty Sark first (around 7 miles) and then quickly head over to the mall for the final stretch of the race.

Keep in mind that sticking to the highway will enable you to see everyone pass twice!

These spots do get extremely crowded and if you’re not there before the crack of dawn then you will struggle to see any of the race action.

Have a more detailed look at the maps and directions in this article.

Top Tips For Your First London Marathon 

  1. Nothing new on race day! If you buy any equipment (gear or nutrition) at the running show… DO NOT use it on race day.

Don’t BLOW Your Race Before It Starts

  1. Download the London Marathon app to help with organization. (It’s extremely user-friendly)
  2. Know exactly where you’re starting and know exactly how to get there with time to spare. (Where you start will have largely been determined in advance. There are four start zones – Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green – and within those, there are pens for runners expecting certain times.)
  3. Plan your route to & from the race meticulously. (Public transport becomes a nightmare on race day)
  4. Keep an eye out for the blue line on the road. (It marks the most direct race line for the event, and is the accurately measured distance for the marathon.)
  5. Trust your training and enjoy the day out! It’s an extremely special event to be a part of so be sure to soak it all up!

Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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