You have one month to go before you step out on Marathon Sunday and you have been sticking to your training plan, things are looking great and you’re on track to reach your target time (or even just to finish the course). The one worry for most athletes on the day however is when are you going to hit the inevitable wall, and once there, how will you succumb the power to smash through it? Your energy and fluid intake on marathon day is vital to delaying hitting ‘the wall’ and ensuring you’ve got enough energy stores to push through those final stages of the course. Here we take a look at what you should be consuming at each stage of the course in order for your energy supply to be optimal through out the marathon.
You may have heard about ‘carb loading’ before endurance events. The intake of carbohydrates before a long distance event enhances the ability for the body to store glycogen (energy) effectively and thus has the ability to sustain slow release energy through out the event. The best carbohydrates to use for carb loading are low glycemic carbohydrates, these include whole grain pastas and rice, fruit, vegetables and grains. It’s also important that meals should also include adequate protein. Start loading with smaller carb meals 2-3 days before the event if you don’t want to have a large carb meal the evening before the event as this can reduce performance. Once the glycogen stores are ready, your can store your energy in your muscles efficiently on marathon day, but don’t continue carb loading on event day.
Energy can be consumed in a few different ways on marathon day. Energy drinks are provided around the course along with some gels (although not many, so maybe invest in a few if you prefer) and there will always be the good Samaritans cheering everyone on with gummy sweets. Which ever you choose, be sure to monitor your tolerance. Only grab an energy drink, gel or few sweets when you feel you need an energy boost (as tempting as grabbing them when they are so readily available may be) otherwise you will be unable to sustain optimal levels for endurance performance. If using gels, you would ideally want to use a more diluted energy drink or even just water will suffice and you must drink before and after you’ve taken your gel. It wont be clear how concentrated the energy drinks handed out around the course will be, therefore if you aren’t using gels you may need to grab a couple of jelly sweets or the energy drinks more frequently than if you bought your own gels. However the drinks provided may also be of a higher concentration in which case sustaining hydration is the only thing you need to worry about and not having to grab any sweets etc.
Fluids are vital in preventing dehydration and burn out, therefore when running your marathon you need to ensure that you are consuming enough water to sustain optimal hydration. On the morning of race day you should drink between 1-1.5 litres of fluids (tea and coffee counts!) and you want to make sure you stop drinking between and hour and a half to an hour before you cross the starting line. Bring your own water bottle to the start line with 200-300 ml’s of water in to drink as you set off.
While running you should aim to drink approximately 600 ml’s of water every hour and take sips as little and often as possible for every 4-5 km’s (there are about 3 water stations in every 5 km stretch of the London course so it wont be hard to stop at one). There are also energy drink stops along the way if you want to up the glycogen levels, however if the mix is more concentrated than you’re used to (usually 608% sugar), add some water to the mix. Tether out the energy drink towards the final stages of the course and stick purely to water.