Have you ever ran until the wheels fell off?
One time during a marathon I ran to the point where I forgot completely who I was. Yes, I couldn’t tell you where I was or WHO I was…not even my name.
It was hot, my electrolytes were out of whack, and after bonking out, it took a death crawl to the finish line.
But you know what?
I also ran a marathon where I had an abundance of energy. When I finished, it felt like I could run further. And that led me to do just that…run further. Here is where I began my journey into ultramarathon running where I run 100-mile races and longer.
So what did I learn from the two experiences?
Why was one experience so devastating, and the other, so magical?
The answer…something you may not expect.
What I learned is so simple that any runner at any level will understand. Well, that is…as long as you’ve ever used a bank account.
So, what did I learn about fueling on marathon race day that was so beneficial?
I learned that your marathon fueling plan is like a bank. Yes…like a cha-ching cha-ching bank.
By gaining this basic understanding, developing your marathon fueling plan will simplify. And you will notice a magnificently simplistic resemblance between the two. That is, the similarities between the intake-outtake process of fueling, and the debit-credit process of a bank.
And if you grasp it…you have the potential to run ridiculously far distances. And yes, that includes the marathon distance. But it all starts with a basic understanding of the intake-outtake process.
When preparing for your first marathon, developing a fueling strategy can seem complicated. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.
By following the 4-step method below, I am confident you will tailor a marathon fueling plan that works best for YOU. With an effective fueling strategy, you will take your running to the next level. The level of running your first marathon.
Poor fueling habits during training can make you feel bogged down and heavy. But here’s the good news: the right fueling habits can make you feel uplifted and light on your feet.
Oh…and it makes racing a whole lot easier! It could be the difference between hitting the wall during a marathon or gliding through the last 10 miles with fuel left in your tank.
Yes, I SMACKED the wall running a marathon which led to a tough finish. But as I mentioned…I also finished a marathon feeling like I could run longer which led to my passion for ultra running.
But the road to my passion all started with the marathon distance. I understand just how special those 26.2 miles can be. And I also understand what it takes to get you through them.
Remember…ANYONE can run ANY distance and nailing down an effective marathon fueling plan is an essential step of the process.
One of the most significant impacts on your follow-through will be in how you fuel. Not just WHAT you fuel with, but WHEN you fuel as well.
So, let’s get into it, first, let’s discuss how fueling relates to a bank. Afterward, I will provide the 4-step method for developing a marathon fueling plan. Next, we will touch on crafting an effective pre-race meal. And finally, we will end with a quick note on healthy eating habits.
So…back to the money. How does fueling relate to a bank?
Your Body Is A Bank
Look at your energy as your currency. You only have so much energy to withdraw on a long run. Fueling will add more to the account, but processing takes time. Meaning, it takes time to convert fuel to usable energy like it takes time for a check to clear in your account.
If you withdraw all your funds at once, even when you’ve deposited more funds, you will go broke. That’s why going out too quickly or poor fueling practices can cause you to tire, even when fueling. The key is to start slow and pace yourself.
So what’s the best fueling strategy for you? That’s going to depend on how your body responds to different fuels.
To help, follow this 4 step process to narrow down a marathon fueling plan that’s best for you. I offer this same 4 step process in my new book titled The Basic Marathon Guide: A Beginner-Friendly Program To Running Your First Marathon. Click here to grab your copy from the kindle store.
The 4-Steps To Developing A Marathon Fueling Plan
If you’re new to running then fueling may be trivial at best. With the vast amount of fueling products in the market and different techniques, it becomes unclear in which direction to head. And this is why I put together the following 4 steps on how to fuel.
Step 1: Determining What Fuel To Use
When attempting to master your marathon fueling plan, you must first know what type of fuel to use.
Seems easy right?
But new companies are popping up everywhere with new supplements flooding the market. I’ve learned a lot about fueling after going through the ranks to ultra distances. I’ve gone from gels and sports drinks to fueling all natural. No processed foods, no performance supplements, not even sports drinks. But I didn’t always fuel so natural.
When I first started off, I fueled with the basics: water, sports drinks, and gels. And although I do not endorse an approach through supplementation, I DO recommend it for your first marathon.
A gel and sports drink approach will keep things simple on race day. And a simple process is essential when you first start long distance running.
Every great finish was once a simple beginning. What holds most importance is getting started, then you can fine-tune the details later.
The gel and sports drink approach works well for beginners to even the most elite marathon runners. But don’t think this is the only way to fuel, you can try different foods or supplements.
The key is to develop a marathon fueling plan that works best for YOU.
Step Two: Test how your body handles the fuel
Once you choose the type of fuel you will use, the second step is to test how well your body will handle the fuel.
Different fuels can seem manageable when you consume them, but cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues when you run. GI issues are anything from nausea to abdominal pain to frequent bathroom use.
I’ll never forget the time I had the bright idea to eat an entire box of fiber bars the night before a marathon. The race went from how fast I could get to the finish line to how fast I could get to the next port-a-potty.
The moral of the story is to stick with what you have tested, not what looks tasty.
Step Three: Determine your race day intake level
Now that you have chosen your fuel and tested it, your third step is to determine your race day intake levels. There’s a whole lot of data for how many grams of this and that your stomach can break down per this and that time. But if you ask me, as a new runner, the last thing you want to worry about on race day is counting calories.
Plus, the data is based on averages, and every runner has different nutritional needs. Consumption cannot be standardized because one runner’s intake will be different than the next.
The key to optimal performance is experimentation during training. Through trial and error and making fueling a practice you will guide yourself to the best intake levels for you.
HERE’S A GREAT PLACE TO START: drink a 20oz bottle of your favorite sports drink 20-30 minutes before your training run. Then for the first 1/3 of your distance drink only water, for the second 1/3 use sports drinks, and for the final 1/3 use a sports drink and gels. From here you can tweak your fuel consumption to what works best for you.
Step Four: Practice your new fueling technique on your long run
The fourth and final step in developing a marathon fueling plan is to take your new found fueling technique and practice it on your weekly long run. Bring your fuel in a hydration belt or stick it in your pockets. You can also bring your sports drink if it attaches to your belt.
If all else fails, simply run into a store and buy what you need while running. Your run doesn’t have to stop if you go into a store. There have been countless times I’ve run up and down the aisles of a grocery store to buy a drink on a hot day.
The fueling process can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. All you must do is pick a fuel, test the fuel, determine the intake, and practice it on your long run. By following this 4 step process, you will quickly find a fueling approach that works best for you. From there you can tailor it and mold it into your effective marathon fueling plan.
So now that you have a marathon fueling plan, what do you consume before running? What about your pre-race meal?
Nail Down A Pre-Race Meal
As long as you eat clean then eating one food over another will not make that big of a difference. For example, eating a bowl of oatmeal with berries versus a banana with peanut butter will not make or break your run.
But here’s what’s important: find a pre-race meal that works for YOU, eat it during training, and use that EXACT pre-race meal on race day.
Pretty simple, right?
Eating a RELIABLE pre-race meal is much more crucial than calculating the “correct” portions of fruits to grains.
I recommend eating your pre-race meal 2-3 hours before running, and then a 20 oz sports drink 20-30 minutes before running. The sports drink before your run provides quick convertible energy for your run and makes a HUGE difference in how energized you feel.
I currently do not use sports drinks and run on an empty stomach explained in The Ultimate Guide To Fat Adapted Running. But I DO NOT recommend this strategy in the beginning.
Most likely if you are just starting off, then your body is much more efficient at burning sugar than fat. So stick with the simple sugars, like sports drinks, and FIRST get through your marathon before experimenting with alternative fueling strategies.
So, now you know how to develop a marathon fueling plan and a pre-race meal, let’s discuss eating in general. Remember this: if you eat what feels right, and eliminate what feels wrong, you will feel ALIVE! And how you feel has an effect on the probability of getting through your marathon training plan.
Eat A Lot But Eat CLEAN
By now you understand that your marathon fueling plan has a direct impact on your running. But what about when you are NOT running? What are you putting in your body then?
Yes, you can get through a marathon with a so-so eating regimen. But here’s what I can tell you from experience: the better you eat, the better you feel when running.
And isn’t that the whole point of this running thing? To feel better? Better in our body? Better in our mind?
Running, in addition to eating better will accomplish both.
So what do I mean by “better” anyway?
When I say “better”, I’m referring to “cleaner.” Eating more real food like vegetables, fruits, good fats, and whole grains and less processed foods is vital.
Eating clean by eliminating processed foods will allow your body to function the way it’s designed. When your body metabolizes efficiently, more energy frees up for your training.
Ever run after eating a whole lot of junk?
I have! It’s never a pleasant experience. The performance we put out is a direct reflection of what we put in.
Remember—you are what you eat. So if you put in a sticky bun, then guess what? You feel like a sticky bun! But if you put in super alkalized high energy veggie shake then BAM…that’s how you feel.
Your body doesn’t have the ability to turn poor nutritional choices into ones of high quality. Our cells, muscles, skin, and bones are built by the food that we supply it. We literally are what we eat.
So if you eat clean, you will feel better, and ultimately morph into a body that can run longer.
Let’s Take It Home
So there you have it. You now have a 4 step system to develop an effective marathon fueling plan for race day. You also have a useful method for nailing down your pre-race meal, and you know eating outside of your run is just as important as what you eat during your run.
You are now ready to work towards perfecting your fueling strategy for marathon race day.
Remember—following a marathon fueling plan that works well for YOU is what’s MOST essential.
Running your first marathon is more than a race, it’s a life-altering experience. It will not only change your running for the better, but it will change your life for the better too.
If you haven’t already, I HIGHLY recommend downloading your free copy of The Basic Marathon Guide. Besides the beginner training plan found inside, there are 26.2 tips for training and 26.2 tips for race day.
Look, you can run a marathon, but it takes focus and most importantly…it takes ACTION. You can have all the potential in the world but unless you take your FIRST step in training, your potential will be just that…potential.
So, are you ready to take action?
By reading this post, you are digging into the specifics of marathon training, you have already begun to take action. But the magic does not happen in the knowledge. The magic happens in the EXECUTION of that knowledge.
And it takes effort both physically and mentally. Know this: the distance we run is a reciprocal of the mental limitations we surpass.
So grab your training program in one of my two books below and take action TODAY…
Here are your TWO options.
Option 1: Follow The Basic Marathon Guide (free eBook) 18-week training program where you run 3-days per week.
Option 2: Follow A Runner’s Secret 12-week training program where you run 1 day per week.
REMEMBER…The key is to develop a marathon fueling plan that works best for YOU.
As I mentioned, A Runner’s Secret contains a marathon training program for running ONE day per week. But it also contains…
-The secret formula for designing A Runner’s Secret training program: That’s right, you get the secret sauce. YOU become the master.
-Training programs for 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, 50k, 50-mile, 100k, and 100-mile distances: This means no time wasted planning your runs. Just simply pick a plan, start with week 1, and begin training the instant you open your book.
-Racing & training tips for every distance: These expert tips will help the entire process go a whole lot smoother. No wasted time and energy from trial and error. You gain the know-how before you even begin.
-The secret Dos and Don’ts to make running once per week even easier: These secret tricks are the icing on the cake. They will make this simple process even simpler and help ensure you get through training.
-And much….much more: the mental aspect is my favorite. There are enough fresh perspectives in this thing to destroy every limited belief you may be holding that prevents you from running long distances.
Put simply: run once per week and run any distance imaginable!
Simply click an option below, and start training TODAY because…all it takes is one run per week!
And if you haven’t already subscribed to our newsletter for exclusive quotes and content, please enter your email below. Thank you for reading and Live On the Run!