My marathon fueling strategy was well-tested in my training so I knew what worked for me — and what didn’t. Here’s what I ate before, during and after my last marathon, where I qualified for Boston and had no GI issues!
Fueling is HUGELY important for races, especially marathons. When I was leading up to the Wrightsville Beach Marathon, my fueling strategy was a week-long approach, not just the day of or even just the day before. I didn’t drastically change my eating before race or do anything to carb-load because when your mileage is reduced in the taper, glycogen (the fuel your muscles stores) won’t be depleted as much. So, you’re essentially carb-loading just by reducing your mileage. But the day before and the day of are especially important, so make sure you have your marathon fueling strategy locked in. Here’s what I did!
Lunch the day before the race:
- rice + chicken + hummus from Mooney’s
Dinner the night before the race:
- baked sweet potato + pan-seared salmon + roasted broccoli
I had both of those meals the day before multiple training runs and had great runs without any GI issues. So I knew weeks before the race what I’d be eating for lunch and dinner. I also knew it was going to be pretty crazy the night before the race getting into town, going to packet pick-up, going to the grocery store, and checking into our VRBO, so I actually baked sweet potatoes at home and packed them with me in a cooler to Wilmington. 🙂
Breakfast on the morning of the race:
- Two pieces of Trader Joe’s gluten-free toast + peanut butter + banana
- 1 glass water + 2 cups of black coffee
- I drank 8 oz of Tailwind while driving to the race (about 30 minutes before the race start). My plan was to drink all 16 oz but I was too nervous. I should have started drinking this at home.
Again, this pre-race meal was WELL tested in training runs. Do NOT try anything new on race day! (Or in the couple days before the race!)
Mid-race fuel, electrolytes & fluids:
Fuel: 30 minutes into the race, I had 1 GU. After that, I had one every 45 minutes or a little before 45 minutes. I NEVER went beyond 45 minutes!
- I ended up taking 4 GUs – I took them at 30 minutes, 1:15, 2:00, 2:45, and 3:15. The last one was really more mental than anything since I didn’t have enough time for it to get into my system before I finished.
- While I tried to take GU with water, if I wasn’t at a water station, I took it anyway at the 45 minute mark and then just got water at the next station.
- My favorite GU flavor is Vanilla. I had 2 Vanilla, 1 salted caramel and 1 espresso flavor on race day.
Electrolytes: I took 2 Hammer Endurolytes tablets at every hour mark. This was a lot more than I’d trained with, but it was much warmer on race day than the 25* temps that I did the bulk of my training in.
Fluids: I don’t tolerate Gatorade, which is what they had on the course, so I never touched that. (It seriously upsets my stomach.) So, I took water at every single aid station, never skipping, since it was warm and I struggled with dehydration in my training runs, even when it was cooler.
- It was hard to tell who was holding water vs. gatorade since all the cups were the same and volunteers were mixed together (not the best method), so when I approached, I called out “water?”, made eye contact with a person who confirmed and then grabbed it from them.
- I slowed a little bit but mostly ran through the aid stations, slowly sipping water as I jogged. Sometimes I slowed to a walk to swallow the electrolytes but only for about 5 steps since I didn’t want to walk too long. It’s too hard to get going again!
Similar to how I felt after all my long runs, I had no appetite after I finished the race. But, I knew my body needed fuel so I drank two bottles of water (one with Nuun in it) + a Larabar I had packed in my finish line bag (that Tommy had) within 30 minutes of finishing. Then, while I called my mom, I ate an RX Bar and a banana. We hung around until the awards ceremony (where I was shocked to learn I got 2nd in my age group!) and then drove back to our VRBO. I knew I needed more fuel, and randomly was craving sushi so we stopped at Harris Teeter, a grocery store whose sushi I knew I liked. Sushi + kombucha was a perfect post-run lunch!
I still didn’t have much of an appetite in the afternoon, but we went out for dinner that night and I had a big meal of fish (a huge portion, thankfully!), rice and salad. And a glass of wine to celebrate! (Side: I didn’t really get sore after the race and I think walking around was KEY. I blogged about that in my race recap.)
The bottom line: the best way to figure out what works well for you on race day is to practice during training.
If you are struggling in your training runs, ask for help. I doubled the amount of GU I was taking and added in the electrolyte tabs after I told some folks at my local running store that I felt terrible on my long runs. After we chatted a little bit more, they helped me realize that I was dramatically under-fueled.
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