Marathon fueling plan
One of the biggest requests I get from readers is a suggestions on a better marathon fueling plan.
Let’s face it, the marathon is a fuel event.
You don’t experience the complexities of maintaining glycogen stores in a 5K or 10K.
It happens in the marathon.
Runners are very good at mastering running slow for long periods of time.
There is certainly something to say about that. There are so many worthy individuals around the world who should be rewarded for their hard work and dedication.
The problem is not that you, me or anyone else seeking to better their marathon efforts, are not devoted to improving.
The problem I have had in the past is not understanding what it really takes to run well in the marathon.
It is more then mileage and far more then just having a great attitude. You have to have a strong marathon fueling plan.
Running Easy vs. Running Fast
Running easy will certainly help you gain fitness, burn fat (at slow speeds) and build endurance.
The problem comes when you start to run faster.
What do we know about running fast and slow?
The faster you run the more carbohydrates you burn.
You have between 1800-2000 calories of stored carbohydrates in your body and when do most runners start to experience the so-called ‘wall’?
You guessed it, between 18 and 20 miles.
The last 6 miles
How do you train for that last 10K?
How do you train for the marathon period?
The marathon has been the biggest challenge of my 21-year running career thus far and I am sure if you are a marathoner, it has tested you in many ways as well.
There is no doubt about it.
Time when you drink
You must understand why runners who are getting to the finish line in record time is they have taught their bodies to burn fat and conserve carbohydrates.
They do not experience the ‘wall’ because they do not run out of carbohydrates.
It doesn’t matter if you are a 6 hour marathoner or a 2.10 marathoner.
This training tip is universal. The only way to run faster in this distance is to spend time training at speeds you aim to race at.
The Hard Part
The hard part is not the 20-25 mile long runs. A
nyone, regardless of ability level can teach themselves to run that distance slow.
It may take someone months or even years to build the endurance to get to that distance.
We all have different physiology and it takes time to adapt to training.
What I am getting at is it takes motivation to run long distances slow but it takes skill and razor sharp focus to run the same distances at faster paces.
The body is real good at burning fat and we know running slow does that but as you speed up the more emphasis is placed on burning carbohydrates.
It is no different with a car.
The faster you punch the gas, the more fuel you burn.
The Easy Part
Is there really an easy part?
Well it is never really easy but you can get really good at handling running at faster speeds with less effort the more you teach your body to burn fat at faster speeds.
How do you do that?
Well, you do it first by being patient with your build up.
It takes time to gain the fitness to run at faster speeds in the first place but the idea is to gradually extend the amount of time you spend at or near goal race pace.
The best runners in the world do their long runs at goal race pace.
It doesn’t happen overnight.
Your goal may not be a time goal and that is 100% fine but I know you want to enjoy the marathon and have a better time out there. It still involves putting in some work.
There has to be a foundation laid and I am sure you already know this, we can’t just jump into hard long runs the first week into training.
That is where the patience part comes into play.
If you have running 8.30 mile pace as your goal marathon race pace, how does running your 16-20 mile long runs at 9.45 per mile do the job?
Do’s and Dont’s
What it does do
- Teaches you to burn fat at relatively slow paces
- builds endurance
- builds capillary beds assisting in better oxygen delivery to the working muscles
What it doesn’t do
- Teach you to race at the speed you want to compete at
- Assist you to sustain and maintain the pace you wish to hold for the entire 26.2 miles
- Burn fat at race speeds
- Build the confidence you need in a marathon
- Adapt the body to conserve glycogen (sugars)
If you have trained fast for longer periods of time in training think about how much more confident and relaxed you are going to be the morning of the race.
This is important to because you will see 99.99% of the people standing next to you who are far too tense, tight, and not relaxed.
Relaxation is your friend come race morning.
You can still have your A game face on but laugh a little.
I am sure you have your own routine for when you race.
Don’t change it for me, for anyone else but do you very best to stay relaxed. It is much easier to be relaxed going into a marathon when you know you have trained properly and can sustain the pace you are aiming to hold in the race.
If you are unsure and you know you haven’t spent enough time close to the speed you have in mind, this produces tension, uncertainty and makes you question and over-think.
Faster running duration
You are better then this.
Countless others are as well and this is where it is vital you get into this mindset of gradually extending your long runs paces.
You could start off doing your usual 10 miler at your normal pace picking up your last mile at your goal pace.
The following week, you extend your long run to 12 miles and do the last two miles at goal marathon race pace.
As time goes on, your body will not only adapt to the distances but you will continually teach your body to rely less on carbohydrates (by running faster) and burning fat at faster speeds
This is where the magic happens in your marathon pacing and racing.
Fuel Better = Perform Above and Beyond Expectation
You have done all the work, spent months training and preparing to meet your time or fitness goal.
What are some things you can do the week of and during the race yo run a more successful race?
- Don’t sip, drink the contents of your aid station cups. Sipping is still better than not drinking at all but you need to at least drink 4-6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes to 3 miles
- Don’t pass up fluid in the race. You will need it when it counts in the latter stages of the race
- Stock up on carbohydrates the week of the race with a little protein thrown in. Pasta, rice, salads and fruits. You can place some peanut butter on your bagels in the morning a couple times during the week.
- Don’t concern yourself if you lose a little ground to grab some fluid at the aid stations. Better to lose a few seconds then several minutes and to perform far from your potential.
- Consider taking a gel every 6 miles. It is an immediate 100-120 calories directly into your bloodstream. Always try to grab some water, if possible, to take with the gel, as it will assist in the absorption of the sugar into your system.
I hope some of these ideas will help you add some additional power to your marathon fueling plan to get you to the finish line in record time or simply to help you enjoy the marathon distance and not be intimidated by the overall distance.
These suggestions can make running 26.2 miles much more manageable, enjoyable and effective. Good luck and blessings to you in your marathon and fitness pursuits.
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