EAT: Fuelling My Marathon

As well as training my legs, heart and mindset for the upcoming Manchester marathon, I’ve also been training my muscles to hold more energy and figuring out what’s best for me to eat whilst on long runs. My marathon is now four days away (ARGH! But also.. OOOH!) so it’s now time to make a decision on what nutrition to take with me to get me through those 26.2 miles.

This post is called Fuelling My Marathon for a reason – nutrition for your long runs is a very personal thing and something I believe should be tried and tested whilst you’re training. I started out trying out gels and energy blocks, but I hated them; I hated the texture and the funny after taste, besides I was finding myself getting really hungry which those sugary things didn’t help at all with. Then I went with healthier options: bananas, cereal bars, homemade energy balls. They didn’t give me enough of an energy boost and they were really difficult to eat with the dry mouth that long runs give you.

As much as I had learned about marathon nutrition, balancing types of sugar, how much carbohydrate to take in and when, I simply had a think about what was really easy to eat for me, what would fill me up, and also give me an energy boost. This is what I’ve decided on for my race day nutrition..

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Ener:gel, Scitec Isotec*, everything else available at any supermarket anywhere!

I’m actually a little bit mortified; in fact, I was pretty embarrassed in Sainsbury’s, loading my basket up with all this sugary naughtiness. It doesn’t feel natural to me – I try to live a healthy lifestyle with as little added sugar as I can – but there again, is running 26.2 miles really a natural thing? Four hours is a long time to go without food for me, not counting the time stood in the start pen; add into it that you’re using up huge amounts of energy to actually run the thing, is it any surprise that I feel weak and hungry?

Just for Sunday, I’m going to use sugar and caffeine to get me around, and accept that as much as I’d like, the option generally thought of as healthy is not always the most suitable for endurance training. I’ve heard of others having unusual marathon fuel, too: producing slices of cold pizza from pockets has to be the absolute best!

And don’t think what I’m putting in my pack is a suggestion to others, either; I must stress that I’ve figured out what will (hopefully!) work for me and everyone else will be different. Experienced runners have baulked at my nutrition, with one expressing worry for the state of my tummy as I run! (There’s toilets en route and I’ll probably pop a pre-run Immodium, it’s okay)

This is the reality of what you worry about when preparing for your first marathon. Next time I post I’ll be a fully-fledged marathoner, and all my qualms about energy, injury, finish times and chafing will be gone, replaced with the joy and triumph of competing my first marathon.

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