Photograph: Vivobarefoot via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The long weeks of training are behind you and you’re suffering from intense bouts of “maranoia” with every knock and niggle magnified into a life-threatening, and more importantly, race-threatening injury. That can only mean one thing: it’s London Marathon week!

Before you can step up to the start line you need to hit the London Marathon Expo at the ExCel centre to get your race number and pack. No race number, no race, so stop grumbling about having to use the DLR (shudder) and read on to make sure your trip to the ExCel runs as smoothly as possible.

The Expo Runs From Wednesday To Saturday

The only thing worse than schlepping out to the ExCel is doing so only to find the building is closed. Here are the opening times for the Expo:

  • Wednesday 19th April 11am-8pm
  • Thursday 20th April 10am-8pm
  • Friday 21st April 10am-8pm
  • Saturday 22nd April 9am-5pm

Remember that 40,000 people are running the London Marathon and they all have race numbers to collect as well, so if you wait until Saturday to visit the ExCel expect huge crowds to be there with you. Generally the earlier in the week you go, the quieter it will be, but it will be busy at any time there’s a star attraction on Centre Stage (see below). If you do have to go on Saturday, make sure to take note that the Expo shuts at 5pm, not 8pm.

The DLR Strike Has Been Called Off – It’s The Best Way To Get To The Expo

At the very last minute – just after everyone had gone to the Expo on Thursday to avoid the travel chaos on Friday and Saturday – the DLR strikes have been called off.

The two best stations for the ExCel are Custom House and Prince Regent, both of which are on the DLR. All trains heading towards Beckton or Gallions Reach on the DLR will stop at the ExCel stations.

If you prefer to use a bus to get to the Excel, then get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and jump on the 541 bus to Prince Regent. And if you’re driving, plug the postcode E16 1DR into your satnav.

Don’t Just Grab Your Race Pack And Leave

Make a trip of it and check out the stalls at the Expo. It’s not wise to buy a load of new running gear to use on Sunday – stick with tried and tested stuff from your training instead – but there are useful things you can get for race day at the Expo.

Those who want to hear thousands of people shouting their name can get it printed on your running shirt at stand number one. It’ll take an hour and costs £8 for one line (you should only need one line – no-one needs to know your surname).

If you’re aiming for a PB one item that is definitely worth picking up is a pacing band. Several stalls, including the Lucozade stand, will offer these invaluable customised bracelets, which give the time you need to complete each mile or kilometre at to hit a target time.

You can also get a sports massage at the Expo – it’s £15 for 15 minutes, or £30 for 30 (deal of the century!) – and grab some souvenir running gear to commemorate the marathon.

Check Out The Centre Stage

There’s a cavalcade of running heroes and celebrities taking to the Centre Stage over the course of the Expo, including icons like Steve Jones, Britain’s fastest ever marathon runner with a time of 2hr 7min 13sec set in 1985 – a record Sir Mo Farah will be gunning for on Saturday.

Other Centre Stage highlights include Mary Keitany, Eliud Kipchoge, Tirunesh Dibaba and Selasi Gbormittah from the Great British Bake Off, all of whom are running the 2018 race. And if you want an inspirational story while picking up your race number, visit the Expo on Saturday, when Tracy Barlow will be on stage at 10.45am. Barlow completed the London Marathon in just under four hours as a charity runner in 2011 and has since improved her time to a barely believable 2hr 30min 46sec – representing Team GB at the 2017 IAAF World Championships. Something to shoot for.