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.
The longer the race, the more important taking in enough fluids and calories.
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.
Everyone wants to improve at the 5K to marathon race distances.
Your marathon fueling plan and how you follow though with it will determine your level of success.
It is more than just mileage and far more than just having a great attitude.
You have to have a strong marathon fueling plan. In addition, it is what you are doing the other hours of your day.
Remember, the results come in the rest, not the workout. That being said, if you fail to drink properly during your marathon no amount of motivation will help.
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. Have you ever wondered why so many runner seem to slow down at around mile 17 to 18?
There is a reason for this. The body runs out of carbohydrates. The trick to succeeding in the marathon is to teach the body to burn fat and conserve carbohydrates.
Your Marathon Fueling Plan Dictates Your 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.
Anyone, 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.
This is where a proper marathon fueling plan makes the difference during your race.
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. How? Teach your body to burn fat at faster speeds.
The good news is that you can do this.
The bad news is it is painful to do and most runners don't run long enough at the proper paces.
How Do You Get The Results?
Be patient. Easier said than done right? Who doesn't like to get results fast.
It takes time to gain the fitness to run at faster speeds in the first place. That being said, 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. That being said, most runners want to enjoy the marathon and execute it more effectively
It still involves putting in some work.
There has to be a foundation laid. 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 want to run 8.30 mile pace for your marathon how does running your 16-20 mile long run at 9.45 per mile do the job?
So, you have to practice running at or below your goal marathon race pace. In addition, you have to teach yourself to drink and not sip in training. Make the mistakes in training so that when you get to the race you will be ready.
Do's and Donts
What running slow 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 running slow 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 you will be much better prepared for 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.
It is important to be relaxed and confident. Your training will dictate your result. If you have practiced your marathon fueling plan
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. It is much easier to be relaxed going into a marathon when you know you have trained properly. You will be confident, relaxed and poised to succeed.
You do not want to go into any marathon going in unprepared.
Faster Running duration
You are better than this.
It is important to get into the 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 goal is to train to get the body to rely less on carbohydrates 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 than 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 marathon fueling plan tips will help you add some additional success to your marathon. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel. I make new videos each week to help beginner to advanced-level athletes meet their fitness and racing goals.
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.