Last week on the blog, I discussed the first two steps to preparing for a marathon, with a special focus on food and fluids and finding the right amount for your body. In this blog about marathon race day nutrition, we explore Steps 3-5, where we get closer to the marathon itself. It’s time to gear up and get moving!
Step 3: Gear Up
You’ll find marathoners fit into one of three groups when it comes to marathon day nutrition:
- Those who carry their food
- Those who rely solely on aid stations and
- The elites who have their tables and individualized foods and fluid waiting for them
Most likely you fit into the former two categories. My suggestion is to at least bring your food source (like gels) with you. Typically gels are distributed later in the race when they may help stop you from bonking but won’t help you maximize the performance benefits you can get from eating earlier. If you are carrying food you need to plan how. You can use a belt or pocket in your shorts and some runners affix the gels to their clothes. For more about gear check out this link about hydration belts or this one about ways to carry gels. Make sure you have a plan and gear up according to your preferred fueling strategy.
Step 4: Execute Your Plan In Advance
You can practice your nutrition plan more than once. At the very least, practice it during your last long run pre-race. Your program should include the following steps:
- Eat a low fat, high carbohydrate, moderate protein meal the night before
- Hydration well the day before the run
- Eat a meal 3-4 hours before the run
- Drink 1-2 cups of fluid 2-4 hours before the run
- Pack your snacks for the run either on your person or in a running belt. Ensure they meet your carbohydrate goals
- During the run, hydrate according to your hydration goals. Keep an eye on thirst as you may need more or less fluid depending if it is warm or cool when you run
- Put your race plan to work
- After the run, evaluate how your plan and adjust it according to what worked and what did not work
Step 5: It’s Go Time (Race Day)
This is it! It’s race day. You’ve done all of your planning; you know what works for you, now it’s time to put it into practice. Here are a few final tips for race day.
- Be prepared to drink a little more fluid to compensate for higher sweat losses on warm or hot race days
- Hydrate regularly with water and sports drinks. Keep a gauge of your thirst and avoid over-drinking especially if you are running slower than a 4-hour marathon
If you know from previous races that you are prone to low blood salt, add a pinch of salt to water that you carry, use the sports drink stations on the course and, or, choose salted food products (e.g., salted gels).
If you find it harder to eat while running the race than you did in practice, don’t be afraid to walk while you refuel. Anytime you lose to walking; you’ll more than gain from having more energy on board.
But most of all, feel confident that you have your nutrition down.
Wishing you a strong and fantastic race.
Have questions or need help optimizing your athletic performance? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!
Nutritional planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one on one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips.