If you're just about to run The Greatest Race In The Galaxy but instead of excitement are feeling finger-gnawingly nervous, fear not. Having run the London Marathon five times, and after completing over 100 marathons (and coming last in 25 of them), Lisa Jackson, the author of Your Pace or Mine?, knows a thing or two about putting the smiles into the miles that she's only to happy to share with you. Read on to discover the secret of fun-running at party pace…
Talk the talk
Right, I know I didn't invent chat-running but of all the running authors I know I'm sure I've done the most PR for it. If you haven't heard of it before, it involves aiming to run at the speed of chat (roughly 10,000 words a minute!) and is guaranteed to make the miles fly by.
To avoid strange looks, if at all possible, to try to do it with a friend. And if you haven't got a ready-made running buddy trotting along beside you ‒ make one! If you're a Londoner, running is the only time when it's perfectly OK to talk to total strangers… as long as they're wearing a race number.
Add a dash of costume drama
Yes, London is utterly awesome, but for most spectators what makes it neck-craning worthy is the incredible outfits and wacky get-ups the runners are wearing. Lycra is lovely, but pair it with giraffe headgear, a waggly tail or glitter-dusted fairy wings and it's the stuff that dreams are made of. Planning your fancy dress outfit will give you hours of pleasure before the Big Day ‒ and is sure to bump up your fundraising total too.
But its biggest benefit is that it makes for the perfect ice-breaker: if it's eye-catching enough you'll have dozens of runners approaching you to find out where you bought it and why you wore it, and before you know it you'll be sailing across Tower Bridge or hotfooting it down Birdcage Walk with an entourage in tow. Remember it worked for Forrest Gump!
Set up a cheerleading squad
If you're going to party like it's 1999 you're most definitely going to need some guests, so lasso all your friends and family members and set them up at strategic points around the course. I promise you that seeing them will have just the same spirit-lifting effect as taking 12 caffeinated energy gels. However, make sure you know precisely where they'll be waiting as it's incredibly difficult to spot people in a jostling crowd that's six-people deep.
I always arrange to meet my supporters at specific mile markers and let them know exactly what side of the road they should be on ‒ that way they won't have stood around all morning without having had the chance to share a sweaty hug or shake their pom-poms at me.
Become a lifesaver
Nothing in the world works better than stopping self-pity in its tracks than seeing a runner worse off than you are ‒ and helping them cross that finish line. I've done this in dozens of the 106 marathons I've run and each time that race has become extra special because I've not only gone home with a medal but a new friend.
Your Pace or Mine? is full of the stories of people I've 'rescued' over the years, and who've rescued my race for me too by giving me something to focus on besides my bursting blisters or the fact that my toenails are slowly turning into pork scratchings. One of my 'protégés' now works for Running Bug and ran her first ultra in the same year she did her first marathon with me. Another novice I found crying on a campstool at mile 20 of the Beachy Head Marathon has gone on to enter an Ironman triathlon. How fab is that?
Play spot the sign
If you run out of puff and become too tired to talk (it happens!) another way to get into the party spirit is to look out for humorous signs along the way. Here are just a few of my favourites: 'Humpty Dumpty had Wall issues too', 'Please try to walk without walking', 'The end is far', 'This is a lot of work for a free banana!' and, my favourite, 'At the end of 26.2 miles water turns into wine!'
Lisa Jackson is the self-styled World's Slowest Marathon Correspondent for Women's Running magazine. She's also the author of Your Pace or Mine? What running taught me about life, laughter and coming last (Summersdale, £9.99) and the co-author of Running Made Easy (Collins & Brown, £9.99).