Nutrition and Fuelling for Marathon Day (Part 2)


In March, I was lucky enough to be invited to an event hosted by Science in Sport (SiS) on nutrition and fuelling for marathon day. The key lessons from that session can be found here.

Now the marathon is done, I thought it would be useful to update on how it went.

And how it went on the day? I would’ve like a faster time but given a 5k seemed a long way on New Year’s day, I’m happy with the outcome. You can read more here.

On the nutrition and fuelling front, I felt I got it right. My weak points were lower legs and hip flexors which are what really slowed me down – my training load wasn’t that high so no great surprise.


What I learned through trial and error


Everyday Nutrition – The Advice

  • Eat real food – it will always make you feel fuller for longer
  • Eat optimally – this means eating real food and adapting the amount and type depending on training requirements i.e. what you eat after a 5 mile run is not the same as after a 15 mile run


What I did…

My focus on diet during training was on a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, which for me is mainly veg, tofu, pasta etc.

Everyone responds differently to food so you have to work out works for you.

Cooking from scratch while marathon training and having some semblance of a life can be a pain in the arse. I cooked in bulk when I could so I had meals for a couple of days and froze leftovers.

But this is the real world. I’m not going to pretend I went for kale smoothies! There were some crisps, pizza and the occasional takeaway involved.

And sod it, sometimes life is a little like this …..


Image result for the blerch cartoon the feeding - marathon nutrition

(Cartoon from The Oatmeal)


Pre-long runs and race – The Advice

  • Consuming the right amount of carbs is critical to performance
  • You don’t need a week to carb load, you can do over 24 to 36 hours
  • Focus on high GI foods – bread, pasta, rice
  • Eat 3 to 4 hours pre-long runs and race


What I did…

Carb-loading – still one I need to work on. My first real attempt was before the Kingston Lidl 20 miler. While the run went reasonably well, I think I overdid the carb-loading. I ended up feeling bloated and a little revolting for about the first 12 miles. And I’ll stick with the eating enough but not too much 3 to 4 hours before long runs and races.

I did a better job carb-loading for the marathon. I didn’t eat too much, a little more than usual, but I didn’t gorge. While I was a little bloated at the startline, that wasn’t an issue after a few miles.



Marathon Day – The Advice

  • Eat 3 to 4 hours before the start
  • First fuelling within 30 mins of starting
  • Should be aiming for 60g carbs per hour
  • Hydration is essential but don’t overdo it – drink to thirst and know your strategy
  • If using products with caffeine, it takes about 30 mins to kick in


What I did…

marathon nutrition
Pre-mara kit

Yep, I followed this advice. Except, I can’t as yet get to 60g carbs per hour. That’s 3 gels, just too much for me so I stuck with 2 per hour.

What I found interesting about the SiS gels as opposed to my usual jelly babies is that my mood remained more even and I had energy.

The mood thing is important to me. While my blood sugars etc are exceedingly normal, I do respond like a hyperactive kid if I eat too many high GI foods. A bagel will have me bouncing off walls, and then within 30 mins I need a nap. Again, you need to work out what works for you.

And the day wasn’t too hot so I drank to thirst – small sips every mile or so. I felt like I got this right – there was no sloshing and no need for a toilet break.


Recovery after long runs and on the day – The Advice

  • First 4 hours is critical to recovery, esp first 30 mins, and then the next 1 ½ hours
  • Aim for 1.2g/kg of body weight of carbs – high GI foods are best here
  • Eating optimally – 2 eggs on toast is not enough after long runs or the marathon
  • Try to get some fructose (in sucrose) – a fruit smoothie would hit the bill
  • Remember protein – it helps support insulin requirements


What I did…

Post-marathon recovery. OK, this makes me laugh a little. After collecting my bag, I did have a SiS Whey 20 – if only someone had taken a photo! These are not my favourite, actually I find them a little vile but I know from post-long runs that 20g of easily absorbed protein makes a huge difference to recovery. Banana flavour could work (hint, hint)!

Then it was off to meet my running buddy, Mary. I’d seen her at mile 21 and pre-ordered a mocha and a packet of salty crisps. These were hovered up quickly after meeting again at the finish.

It sort of went downhill from there. So off to the pub we went and I rehydrated with water and cider. I really couldn’t eat.

post marathon recovery
Post-marathon recovery

I got home eventually, had a pizza and went to bed.

I hurt the next day and was exhausted. I’d just run a bloody marathon so this is no surprise. While the plan was to have a day of staggering about in my flat, the lure of a free pizza from Franco Manca lured me out.

Apart from the pizza, the excitement of the day was being able to go down stairs the normal way and walk normally to get that pizza. While I was a little sore and groaned every time I went from sitting to standing with my hip flexors being unhappy, I felt OK. I ran a mile a Thursday after, and it was OK – slow and steady and I felt I could’ve gone further but decided to hold back to help with recovery.

Maybe a few pints of cider did the trick!

No, to be honest, that protein hit followed by fat, some carbs and salt – it works a treat so a pattern I’ll stick to for long races in the future!


So here’s to future long runs and races! More to follow on that ….


I’d love to hear what works for you!


(May 2017)

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