Congrats! You’ve decided to take up a marathon. It’s no easy task as you know, with an extended amount of preparation and training. Sure, you can always take it easy, but what fun is that? It’s time to push ourselves. Perhaps you have an arsenal of experience with the what-to-do’s and the what-not-to-do’s in the race, but either way I believe you could benefit from the tips I’ve laid out in this article. Try out some of these tips, and I promise you’ll perform to your utmost potential.
Tip #1 – Let’s Focus on You
Everyone’s body is different. That’s not to say there aren’t similarities because there are, but you need to find what works best for your body. What I would recommend is that you study your body during the weeks of training, tweaking your diet to find how you perform the best and make a plan for the upcoming race. Also try out the wide variety of products available for the race to make sure you feel fuelled and energized for the race. Oh, and PLEASE, don’t wait until the last minute to buy your equipment. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Do your homework on yourself.
Tip #2 – The Fuel
I wouldn’t exactly recommend trying to run a marathon on an empty stomach and black coffee, unless you want to pass out. Marathon runners need high quality fuel, and when I say fuel, I mean lots and lots of carbs. If your glycogen is depleted going into the race, or even during the race, you’re going to feel like death. I don’t just mean eating an unlimited amount of food, this will only slow you down, and make you feel lethargic. Instead, get the majority of your calories from carbohydrates, and reduce fat intake to compensate. You don’t need to deplete carbs, carb load one day, and repeat. Just eat more carbs, that’s all it takes.
Try Instant Oats for a healthy carb source.
Tip #3 – Fluids
There’s an ongoing debate on how much fluid you should be taking in during the race because of hyponatremia (over hydration), but as a general guideline just listen to your body. Drink as frequently as you feel your body needs, which might mean filling up on fluids at every mile/aid station. There are other fluids of course, like sports energy drinks, but I’d recommend seeing how well your body responds, considering they’re mostly just sugar-water with some electrolytes. But hey, gotta get in those carbs somehow.
Tip #4 – Timing
The days before the race you’ll want to fill up your glycogen stores as much as possible. You can do this by simply eating more carbohydrates, or getting the majority of your daily calories from carbs at the expense of protein and fat. Some carbohydrate-dominant foods include: pancakes, pasta, fruit, vegetables, sour candy, bread, oatmeal, and rice. However, be cautious! Eating too much fiber can cause some gastrointestinal distress, and this can cause some issues during your run. You don’t want to be going to the bathroom every ten minutes during the race, so see what carbs your body responds the best to. For breakfast (or 3 to 4 hours before the race) have a carbohydrate-heavy meal with about 100 grams of carbs from the sources that you run the best on. Sometime within the hour of the race, have some high GI carbs, such as gels or even bananas. During the race, try to consume about 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour, but again: go with how you feel. Make sure you drink enough water and hydrate consistently throughout the race, and you should be all set!
Top Tips For Marathons
1. Don’t eat too much. It’ll only set you back and make you feel lazy. You don’t want to gain ten pounds pre-race and have to run with that extra fat.
2. Again: FIBER. Let’s say you eat 500 grams of carbs a day. Now, let’s say all those carbs come from vegetables. Have fun on the toilet my fellow marathon runner. Still include fibrous carbohydrates, but simple carbs will be a heck of a lot easier on your digestion.
3. Listen to your body: if you feel light headed, you might not be getting in enough water or carbohydrates. If you have too much, it might slow you down. Listen to your body.
Take Home Message
Running a marathon is no easy task, but it’s an incredible experience and thing to do. You train hard, you get your diet on track, and you run the race. You finish. But the main satisfaction comes from the training, the rush and the run, not the finish. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony, as Anne Lamott would say. Try out some of these tips, and run that marathon.