All of us are aware that we need food to energize our bodies, and that is never more true than when running a marathon, due to the physical exertion necessary to reach the finish line. This creates a dilemma, because even though we are using calories at a high rate, we can’t just sit down in the middle of the race and order breakfast—although it has crossed my mind a couple of times. The early long-distance runners confronted this problem by coming up with different individualized concoctions that gave them an extra dose of calories to help get them through their races. These days, we have the convenience of prepackaged “gel” products which are calculated to give you about one-hundred calories per portion. They come in a variety of flavors and are fairly easy to pack for use during a race. The only problem with these commercially-produced gel products is that some runners have a physiological and somewhat psychological limitation on how many packets they can ingest during a long race like the marathon–whereas some runners just don’t like them.
In the days leading up to the marathon, you should be loading up on carbohydrate food items, as these will be stored in your system, and used during the race. Eating a whole lot of carbohydrates the night before the race may not be the best course of action. You should be building up on your carbohydrate intake on the days leading up to the marathon—not just eight hours before the race.
Once you begin the actual race, the common wisdom is that you go through most of your stored carbohydrates in about ninety minute’s time. What that means, is that you need to replace those lost carbohydrates with some type of nutritional supplement BEFORE you are fully depleted. If you wait too long, your body will be depleted of carbohydrate stores, and your body will get fatigued as you run out of energy for your muscles. At that point you won’t be able to recharge your system quickly enough.
So, in order to keep this condition from happening, it is recommended that marathon runners ingest some type of carbohydrate product early enough to prevent their bodies from becoming depleted of calories. Therefore, a good idea is to have a gel packet, or some other type of carbohydrate supplement, EVERY FIVE OR SIX MILES during the marathon. This is something that you need to practice with during your training runs in preparation for the actual marathon race. This will give you an idea of what product or food item works with you and your individual physiology before you find yourself on the course on race day. Some things that you think sound good, and should work out, may surprise you when you actually try them out on training workouts. Also, you need to think of how you are going to carry your nutritional supplements with you during the many hours of the marathon. You want to be pretty “worry-free” with your race-day nutritional plan while doing the real running work during the race. And, remember, the sports-drink that is provided along the course will also have carbohydrates included in its contents, so that’s an added bonus, if you happen to enjoy the particular product that is offered that day. That is another thing you need to find out before the race.
If you are interested in finding out what other experienced marathon athletes eat, before their marathons and while running the race, you can go to the Buffalo Chips website and read through the article entitled, “Words From The Wise”, that can be found in the Coaches Corner section.
By the way, when you ingest a nutritional supplement during the marathon, whatever product or food item you find works best for you, it is just as importantly providing your brain with the necessary calories it needs to function properly. While you are running, your system is diverting a lot of the calories in your system to the muscles being used to propel you forward. This can deplete the calories that would normally be used by your brain during normal levels of activity. You need to provide calories, not only for your muscles to function, but for your brain to perform as well, in order to keep those electrical-impulses flowing to your muscles when you need them. So, you need food to run and food to think.

About Teddy Morris Jr.