It’s nearly London Marathon expo time!

If you’re lucky enough to be running London Marathon this year (I’m too slow for my age so will be watching from the sofa) it’s time to start planning how to get your race number.  Most marathons post these to you, taking advantage of the relatively new service called the Royal Mail which has only been around since 1516.  London Marathon don’t trust this new fangled delivery system so instead would prefer all 40,000 runners trek down to the Expo where they can collect them in person.

Your first Expo will feel like something special. You’ve made it to the big events.  Anyone can run parkrun or pop along to a local race, but only proper runners in proper events get to attend a massive exhibition of running to collect their race number.  You’ve probably booked time off work to attend and made special travel arrangements or plan to attend on the Saturday with seemingly every lycra clad person in a 200 mile radius for some quality queue action.

When to go

The 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon Expo opening hours are as follows:

  • Wednesday 18 April 11:00-20:00
  • Thursday 19 April 10:00-20:00
  • Friday 20 April 10:00-20:00
  • Saturday 21 April 09:00-17:00

It’s held at the ExCel in London which depending on where you’re coming from is either really easy or surprisingly hard to reach.  More info here from organisers.

What to bring

If collecting your number don’t forget your VMLM registration form that should have received by email in April, along with photo ID.  You can collect someone else’s number but need a copy of their ID, their registration form from VMLM and a signed letter authorising and naming you to collect.  Why someone might pass up the opportunity to attend in person may become clear.

If it’s your first expo

Once you’ve collected your number you’re going to visit every stall since you never know which one might be selling that secret ingredient for race day.  The 18 weeks of solid training are as nothing compared to this Aladdin’s cave of performance enhancing running paraphernalia.  A new belt for your gels?  An innovative sports supplement endorsed by someone you vaguely know was good at running and you might have seen on the telly?  They’re all there and all you have to do is whip out the credit card.

If you’re lucky there will be motivational talks and last minute advice from running celebrities. There won’t be enough seating so you’ll lean nonchalantly against a pillar listening to advice on pacing and recommendations for what to wear.  At some point you’ll panic that you don’t have a peaked cap.  You’ve never needed one before but the fella on stage said it would be sunny tomorrow and he’d be wearing one.  He’s a pro so of course he’s right and you’re an idiot to even contemplate running without one.  Off you shoot to the nearest hat stall to part with some more cash. Phew, crisis averted!

This carries on for many more hours. The bag of freebies when you registered is now groaning with not-so-free stuff.

You pose for selfies with backdrops of tower bridge, fill in cute cards on why you’re running and pin them to washing lines on a motivation wall.  You try on so many different trainers that are guaranteed to be faster than your current ones.  In fact some of these shoes are so ‘unique’ you can only purchase them here, as they’re not available in shops you’d be mad to miss out.

After a long day you return back to your home or hotel room, laden down with purchases and several pairs of new trainers (after all you might as well do this properly).  It’s probably around this point you realise you haven’t eaten much today except that manky hot dog from the exhibition stand that cost the price of a meal for two.  You feel a bit dry as well as you only had two cups of stale coffee and a free taster of rancid smoothie that promised to take 20 minutes off your marathon time.

Well done.  You’ve successfully spent 8 hours on your feet, barely sat except for a train ride, and finished the day tired, hungry and dehydrated.  Ideal marathon preparation.   In addition, you are now contemplating running the most important event of your running career in new gear from new manufacturers you’ve barely tried on. What could possibly go wrong?

For a cheap hobby you’ve spent a lot and likely most of it isn’t available in shops as it’s garbage.

On a more serious note your first expo is great but you really need to limit the damage (both financially and physically) of the trip.  Enjoy it but don’t let it ruin what you’ve trained for months for.  Your marathon experience and performance is based on miles in the legs and your condition and attitude on race day.  No amount of go-faster socks or gels will improve on that.

Pre-race Exhibitions – All others

You’ll find someone else who is going and ask them to collect your number.   They will venture out to a run down expo hall (that typically smell a bit damp) in the arse end of town to collect your number.  You spend the day at work or home hydrating and sitting as much as possible knowing your tried and tested race gear is already laid out on the spare bed ready to pin your number on.

If you can’t find a sacrificial lamb you attend yourself in SAS style, navigating the crowds like a ninja and are out quicker than a cash strapped investor on Dragons Den.

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