Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

How to use your gadgets to reach peak 26.2 performance
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Marathon race days are stressful enough. From the early start and making sure you've eaten the right foods, to staying hydrated and getting to the start line on time, it's the little details that can pile on the pressure.

So the last thing you need is the added worry of whether your running watch or run tracking smartwatch are going to perform on the day. Luckily there are a few simple things you can do to turn your running tools to your advantage.

Read this: Understanding your running watch stats

Here's how to make sure you're using wearable tech to hit peak performance come marathon day.

Fire it up early to get a quick GPS fix

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

Don't wait until sixty seconds before the gun goes off to trigger your watch to get a GPS fix. The majority of new running watches work by caching your last location to speed up getting a fix the next time you want to use it.

It pays to get a first GPS lock the minute you arrive at the race start line. Fire it up, wait for it to get a fix and then switch it off to save power. That way, in theory you shouldn't have to wait too long to get the final fix right before the race start.

Set your watch screen the night before

Good GPS running watches will let you customise the information on the screen. It sounds obvious to say it but making sure you've got the right info where you can see it is vital. The three most important stats you'll be needing come race day are Current Pace, Heart Rate and Distance.

Read this: Latest running watch reviews

If you can get all three on the first screen great, if not then make sure you know how to easily cycle through the screens to minimise distractions while you run. All of these little things help to keep you focused on getting your pace right and sticking to your race plan.

Match your playlist to pace (and pain)

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

There are plenty of apps that can generate playlists to match your pace, syncing your foot strike rate with the bpms of the best tunes. This can work really well but while beat matching is one thing, it's also smart to think about what kind of backing track you're going to need at the different stages during the race.

Run to the beat: Best running and smartwatches with music playback

The first six miles are all about easing in, while the middle fourteen are when you're grinding it out, before you hit that final six miles where inspiration is going to be key. Match your music to your mood not just the beat. Think about the moments when a change of pace on your playlist, or an amusing song, can help you change gear or lift struggling spirits.

Also factor in having your wearable, smartphone and headphones fully charged. It seems like an obvious one, but if you're planning to drain the battery en route to the start line, you could be short of tunes to help push your through the last few miles.

Get that playlist loaded up early

Following on from the tip above, you've probably got your marathon playlists built that have already helped you push through your training. If you've got a watch like the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music, or a smartwatch like the Apple Watch that will let you play your tunes without the need for a tethered smartphone, get those playlists ready to go the night before.

Essential reading: How to connect Spotify to your Garmin watch

If you're using playlists created in streaming music services that offer offline playback on your wearable, make sure they're fully downloaded and maybe consider having a backup playlist if you find those songs you loved running too aren't doing the trick during the race.

Use heart rate to run a smart race

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

Whether it's heart rate on the wrist a chest strap or even an armband, a lot of people use heart rate monitoring to fine tune their training but then ditch it when race day comes, fearing it can be a distraction or preferring to 'run by feel'. However, keeping tabs on your dicky ticker's intensity can help you run a smarter race, avoiding some of the classic mistakes like over cooking it in the first few miles.

If your heart rate is topping out 160bpm at mile three, chances are you've gone off too quickly. On the other hand if you're coasting along at 110 come mile 23, it's a good sign you've got a lot more to give. Keeping an eye on which zone you're in can help you run the perfect race by avoiding redlining over your lactate threshold too soon.

Set an alarm for feeding time

Getting your nutrition and hydration tactics right are vital on race day if you're going to avoid hitting the wall or suffering the dreaded cramp. There are various schools of thought about how frequently you should be squeezing down a carb gel or drinking water, but most of the theories at least agree about one thing, remembering to take fuel on little and often is important.

If your GPS running watch comes with an interval alarm, set this to remind you when it's gel time. It gives you one less thing to worry about and ensures you won't miss refuelling thanks to any marathon brain fog that might roll in as you tire.

Decide whether you want notifications (or not)

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

The great thing about running watches are that they act more like smartwatches. That includes dishing out notifications from your phone. There's nothing worse though than getting peppered by good luck messages from people who didn't get up at early like you did and flood your screen during your run.

Depending on what running watch, smartwatch or fitness tracker you have, you should usually be able to control notification settings from the onboard settings menu or from the companion smartphone app. Our preference would be to disable them if you want to focus on your metrics. If you're relying on those motivational messages to get you through the hard times, leave them on.

Let friends and family track your progress

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

If you use Strava (and you're a Strava Summit subscriber) and have a Garmin watch, you can link the two together to use the Strava Beacon feature to share your location to up to three contacts.

Garmin users can also take advantage of the Live Tracking mode to beam your marathon position to the Garmin Connect app.

Once a LiveTrack session has started, anyone you invite via email, Facebook or Twitter will receive a link to a webpage that includes the position of your phone or connected running watch. They'll also be able to track your time elapsed, distance, speed and elevation in real time. And if you have any ANT+ sensors, they also can see that data, such as heart rate or cadence.

Auto share your achievement on social

Nine tech tips and tricks to help you run a smarter London Marathon

Let's be honest, the minute you cross the finish line (and for quite a few minutes after) you're going to have enough on your hands trying to keep your lungs from coming out of your mouth. Tweeting and Facebooking the fact you're over the line safe isn't going to be top of your list.

With devices like the Apple Watch Series 4 running the Nike+ Running app, you can set up auto activity posting to most of the major social networks, letting the tech do the bragging bit while you concentrate on how you keep that silver blanket on your shoulders while carrying that banana you know you're never going to eat.

Popular running apps, such as Strava and Runkeeper, are very smartwatch-friendly now too - so there's no need to rely on your phone.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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