Just a week until my first half marathon and I am very excited. During the week, I traded messages on Facebook with a guy who is just over 40 and runs full marathons regularly. I asked for some advice and he was kind enough to share with me.
For the most part, I have up to this point not given much thought about things like what I should be eating in the days leading up to the run; what I shouldn’t be eating; race day nutrition and energy replenishment…
I am glad I asked because as a beginner, it is helpful to hear things from experienced runners. Basically, here’s what he said…
– With just over a week until this run, do you recommend any particular foods I should eat? Stay away from?
Stay away from anything that might upset your stomach (Think “spicy”) and bad sugars (Think “jelly donuts”).
I’d recommend eating a banana each day. They are rich in Potassium which helps prevent cramps.
Two nights before the race you may want to “carb load” with a traditional pasta meal. Many people do this the night before, but research has shown this has no real benefit. Two nights out has shown to give you enough excess fuel to help.
– Do you just drink water during these runs, or do you do anything to replace electrolytes, etc.?
At each fluid station I drink a half cup of water and a half cup of gatorade/powerade. If it’s very hot or humid (lots of sweating) then I’ll drink a bit more.
If you can handle the sports drinks that most events offer (or if you carry your own) then it’s recommended. A loss of electrolytes can cause a lot of problems – especially cramping in the latter part of the race.
Bananas and electrolytes will generally offset this nicely (and avoid cramps altogether!) if you’ve trained with the right number of miles.
– Do you bring any type of snack foods (carb rich) to eat during the run?
I carry GU gels with me. They recommend consuming one about 15 minutes before your run and then every 45 minutes once the run begins. For me personally, I take one about every 30 minutes. I race with a lot of exertion and intensity and find that the fuel wears off a bit early for me.
Note: It’s important NOT to try anything new on race day. I’d recommend you try a GU for a few runs prior to race day to make sure your stomach handles them well. My favorite is Chocolate Outrage. Tastes like liquid fudge! They have a variety of available flavors. Your local GNC or sports store should have them. If they don’t have GU they’ll likely have Hammer or Powerbar. I prefer GU’s consistency.
I order most of my stuff (nutrition, clothing, etc.) at running warehouse.com Free 2-day delivery anywhere in the country, no tax and a very nice selection.
– The morning of the run, do you recommend a particular breakfast? And how long before the race should I eat?
My morning of race breakfast usually consists of a banana, a peanut butter sandwich and one GU gel. Peanut butter is an excellent source of energy and keeps you feeling “full” for a while (without making you feel stuffed)
Peanut butter on a bagel is something a lot of people do.
Drink chocolate milk AFTER your race is over. In addition to being tasty, it’s an excellent recovery drink for repairing muscle tissue and refueling.
I am sure other experienced runners may have additional or even different advice here, but considering this particular person runs several full marathons per year, usually finishing in just about 3 and a half hours, I will take his advice to heart.
Tomorrow I will do my last “long” training run before the race. My goal is 12 – 13 miles. I have purchased GU Gel and will test these to see how they make me feel. I will report back after my run…