26.2 miles are no joke.
Not for anyone.
Even if you have done everything you can to train for the marathon and read up on all the training tips, there are some things that are not included on a marathon training schedule that you need to do in preparation for a marathon.
Having some kind of runners diet is important, but having the right marathon fuel is critical, and today, I want to show you what you need to do, and what I do to prepare.
Marathon Fueling Strategy
One of the most important marathon tips I can give you is to make sure you know what to eat during a marathon that will work for you.
Marathon Fuel Before Running
This one is kind of given, you need to make sure in the days leading up to the race, you are only eating those foods you know sit well in your stomach.
You should practice your night before meal MULTIPLE times before race day. Make sure you feel confident with it, and your body is used to it.
If that means having plain pasta with nothing but salt and pepper, do it every Saturday night during your build up.
Would you rather have a few extra bland meals or have an upset stomach on race day?
We all know how horrible that feels!
What do you eat before a marathon?
The night before a marathon, I will have a few baked potatoes. Before the Indy Monumental Half I had a GIANT spud from McAllister with cheese and chicken, (plus a little of a second spud, I didn’t realize they would be so HUGE!) and that was fine.
The morning of, I will wake up three hours before, and eat a large sweet potato with almond butter, and a banana.
I have practiced my pre race meal over 10 times (before workouts and long runs). I have practiced the potato 3-4 times.
What to Eat During a Marathon Race
We all know how important this part is, and without it, things can go very wrong very quickly.
My advice is to try to decide which fuel brand and type you are taking with at least a month to go. That way you have enough time to practice the exact combination while a few times.
Start testing out as soon as you start marathon training by fueling during long runs.
If you do not like that brand, or you find your stomach gets upset, try a different type or brand. If you do like it, then that’s great, the longer you give your body to get used to something, the better, and you might even find one that upset your stomach initially, your body gets used to.
There are three main directions you can go; gels, liquid, and natural sources.
Whichever of these you choose, you MUST practice taking them on your workout and long run days.
That means you get the practice of taking it when you are fatigued, and ideally, you should take as many as you intend to in the race, at the intervals you intend to for the race.
How many energy gels for a marathon?
When I raced the London Marathon, I had a Powerbar gel at miles 7 (around 42 mins), 14 (1hr 25 mins), and 21 (2hr 10 mins) .
Therefore, on my long runs, I would take gels at those timed intervals (around 40 mins, around 1hr 25 mins, around 2hr 10 mins). Even if I only had 5 minutes left of my run, it meant my body got used to having three gels.
In workouts, you want to practice taking them at speed. During your long runs, you will mostly be going slow enough to take it comfortably, but it is a LOT harder to take it moving fast, so practice that too.
NOTE: If you are using gels you MUUUUUSSSTTTTT take it with water, so practice that too. When you take the gel, have some water with it.
Marathon drinking strategy
This is now my preferred method of fueling, and is better for me than those sticky, sugary gels. I notice that my energy levels are more sustained and even with liquid fuel, and I have no concern about an upset stomach, which is nice.
The nice thing about this, is that you do not have to worry about taking water separately, as it’s already there with the UCAN.
Practice the liquid fuel in the same way you would with the gels. At the intervals you intend to use during the race, and in your workouts at race pace or even faster than race pace.
Take the amount you intend to take (I would say for most people around 5-7oz at a time is good, depending on how often you take it).
I realize I am very lucky to have my husband to stand out there for most of my workouts to cycle ahead of me and hand me a bottle. I am also incredibly lucky to have elite fueling, where my bottles will be prepared for me with my Generation UCAN.
You can also place bottles on walls, benches, or even on the floor, to run by and pick up. It is worth losing a few seconds in your workout or long run to slow down and pick it up. I have done some runs where I just do loops, or go back and forth, so I can practice my fuel.
I will explain more in a minute how you can use UCAN even if you do not want to carry bottles in the race.
I did have to take my own bottles on most of my long runs, and that is where these Saucony Bullet Shorts and Capris are ahhhhmazing!!! You don’t even notice the bottle, seriously, it doesn’t bounce or move, and I cannot recommend them enough.
Use my coupon code TINA for 10% off the Saucony website.
Other natural sources for marathon fuel
Okay, so I haven’t exactly gone this route, but you could use dates, raisins, or other fruit (low fiber!). I did use one of the natural ingredient brand gels a few years ago, but it tore my stomach up, so I had to switch away from it.
However, I do have another suggestion for you.
When I talked about using UCAN for my race, I mentioned you can make your own gels, and so I asked Debra for the recipe (she just rocked a 3:29 at 60 to win her age group at Indy Monumental Marathon!).
So here you go:
Use these Hammer Nutrition gel flasks
Add a bit of water to flask then use a funnel to add one full serving UCAN.
Add a little coffee if desired and shake. They will be thick and concentrated, but gets it over with sooner, right? 😉
Keep the “gels” in your Saucony Bullet shorts. I would maybe take them every 10k instead of every 5k.
If you do turn the UCAN into gels, be sure you take on water (and practice it!).
How do you eat and drink during a marathon?
As I mentioned before, I will be using Generation UCAN CranRaz Superstarch for the California International Marathon, and I am very happy with how it has been going so far.
I used UCAN for Chicago, and it worked well. If I had elite bottles in London, I probably would have continued to use it. At that time, I did not know about the UCAN gels, which I probably would have used instead of the regular gels.
I will be taking the UCAN every 3 miles in a full bottle that contains 1 scoop of UCAN. I will take on about 4-7oz of fluid.
That means at 5k, 10k, 15k, 20k, 25k, 30k, 35k, and possibly 40k……will see how I feel at that moment!
I really would recommend Generation UCAN Superstarch if you have had a history with an upset stomach during a race OR if you have been working on your diet and think you are fat adapted. This will work SO well for you!
You can use my coupon code UCANELITETM for 10% off.
Oh, and one more thing. Meb uses UCAN……I know many of you are HUGE Meb fans, just thought you should know 😉
Other Marathon Fuel
Once you have your gels, liquid, or natural sources down, you are all set for race day fueling, right?
Well, maybe, but I would encourage you to consider these two products to add to your army.
You know I have used EnduroPacks for many years now, and I am a huge fan of their entire package every month, BUT for marathons their Electrolyte Spray is a lifesaver, and I actually carried it in my Saucony Bullet Shorts in the last two London marathons.
If you suffer from electrolyte imbalance cramps, this is a MUST for you.
Carry EnduroPacks with you and spray it directly into your mouth (around 5 pumps). You can also spray it in your bottles if you have them with you.
Use coupon code TINAMUIR for 15% off.
We all know just how HORRIBLE cramps feel, and I don’t know about you, but there is no way I want to risk cramps, when it is so easy to avoid them!
It feels like you have had a shot of caffeine into your veins within a few minutes of taking it.
Yes, the chewing part is tough, and cost me some time at the Indy Monumental Half (the two girls I was running with put 50m on me within 2 minutes), BUT once you do get it chewed enough, ZING! You feel wide awake and energized.
I also was running about 20 seconds per mile faster than I will be in the marathon and only had 3 miles to go.
Run Gum also has Taurine and B12 vitamins, which also help with energy.
Those last 6 miles are a struggle, but if you could have a “good patch” for a few of those miles from Caffeine, I would say that’s well worth a few minutes of chewing.
You will probably also be better at taking it than me. I am a really heavy mouth breather, so that makes it more difficult.
Use coupon code runnersconnect for 10% off at GetRunGum.com
Cant believe I almost forgot this part!
I started drinking coffee before this years London Marathon, and it took a little while for my stomach to get used to it.
As this is so…..well, effective, at helping to get our bowel movements going, you MUST practice it as much as you possibly can.
Take it before your workouts and long runs, at the interval you intend to on race day.
What other products do I use during a marathon?
I will spray the EnduroPacks into my UCAN bottles (probably around 10 sprays per bottle), therefore I will take it every 3 miles in a smaller concentration.
If I did not have the bottles, I would use it the same way I did for the London Marathon; in my shorts, and use it at miles 11 and 18.
I will take RunGum around 20 miles, maybe a little later if I feel up to it, but I do not want to get my body in a state of panic by leaving it too late.
I don’t like to drink coffee every day (actually, I have decaf or tea on the other days), but on every workout and long run day this year, I drink a cup of coffee 2 hours before I am going to run, which is what I intend to do on race day.
How to Prepare for a Marathon
This is SO important, but something that people often forget.
You NEED to decide which shoes you will be wearing for the race relatively early, and then practice using them in your workouts. Warm up in your training shoes, which for me (and Molly Huddle!) is the Saucony Kinvara or Saucony Ride.
For the hard section, change into your race shoes.
I will be racing in the Saucony Fastwitch. In the past I ran in the Saucony Breakthru, but I really like the Fastwitch, and they are a little lighter, so we made the (fast)switch….haha geddit? 😉
I would wear your racing shoes for maybe one long run, or if you are doing a half marathon race in training, wear them for that, or for 1-2 of your long runs with hard efforts in them.
The rest of the time, for your long runs, you can stick to your training shoes, but use your racing shoes for workouts as much as you can….yes, this does probably mean you will wear through them and need a second pair as you close in on race day. If you do this, give yourself at LEAST 3 workouts with your newer pair.
You also want to practice your race day outfit, EXACTLY as you will wear it on that day.
That means the socks, sports bra, shorts, vest/top, and even hat/sunglasses.
EVERYTHING you intend to wear on that day should be worn for a few workouts and your longest run….even if that means you wear it under other layers.
If anything chafes, take note, and make sure to put vaseline on that area….or consider wearing something else….then practice that!
What to wear during a marathon?
I will be wearing my Saucony Fastwitch for the race, with the Saucony Compression socks I always wear.
As I always do, I will be wearing a hat….but by the looks of it, it is no longer on the Saucony website.
Confused about your marathon fueling strategy?
I'll show you how to nail your marathon nutrition plan; what to eat the night before, morning of, and during your race.
And my friends, I *think* that is it.
Seems like a lot, but it will give you the best chance of controlling as many variables on possible for race day, which leaves less to go wrong, and no “what if’s”.[bctt tweet=”VERY helpful guide on exactly what to practice for your next marathon” username=”tinamuir”]
What do you practice before race day?