Marathon Season

People at the marathon.

Fall has officially arrived and to many that means marathon season is here. I am assured of this as I prepare for one last jog before tomorrow’s big Chicago marathon.

For many of our readers, race day brings excitement and also worry- what should I eat? when should I eat? what should I wear? and what in the world was I thinking when I signed up for this 4 months ago? Well, while you should NEVER try anything new on race day, I can tell you what I’m doing and some of the best practices in the field of sports nutrition.

Question 1: What should I eat?

Answer 1: Well, that depends! You’ll want to focus on your carbohydrate load in the three days leading up to the race while simultaneously decreasing your training load. So no 15 milers 5 days before race day! What I’ve been doing is carefully focusing on my carb intake by seemingly eating all of the time. And by eating all of the time, I mean frequent snack breaks for items such as fruit and yogurt, pretzels, and an energy bar or chew. Overall, you want to make sure that your food intake is quality fuel – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and complex carbs. Aim for lean protein from low fat dairy, legumes, and lean meats.

Question 2: When should I eat?

Answer 2: In the days leading up to the race, try to snack throughout the day. On race day, you should follow the same fueling practices you developed while training. Personally, I’ll be aiming for an intake of at least 30 and probably closer to 45 grams of carbohydrate per hour that I race. I plan on getting the carbs from gels, sports drinks, and chews because this is what I trained with and this is what my sensitive stomach can (hopefully!) handle.

Question 3:  What should I wear?

Answer 3: Wear what you’ve been training in. There’s nothing like hitting mile 20 of a marathon and realizing that that new shirt you bought at the expo is causing chaffing and bleeding in areas you didn’t even realize existed. I’ve been there and it’s neither pretty nor pleasant. If you’re still struggling for what to wear, I’m a big fan of Brooks running gear so I’ll be sporting on marathon morrning. No matter what you choose, make sure you take a spin around the block in the outfit and I’d really encourage you to choose some wicking fabric (and deodarant).

Question 4:  What was I thinking when I signed up for this?!?

Answer 4: Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure you weren’t thinking about the concerns that are currently running through your head such as; “How am I going to cover 26.2 miles with a raging case of tendinitis?” and “Will the blister covering the entire bottom of my foot start hurting at mile 10 or will it wait until later?” You probably made the decision as you were going on a pleasant 6 mile run and you thought “I can handle 6 miles, why not 26.2?” Or maybe you’re like that guy I came across while running the Chicago marathon a few years ago; a large man wearing nothing but a Speedo & chaffing terribly, with the words “thou shall not bet while drinking” inscribed on his back.

No matter what your reasoning for running a marathon, or a half, or an ultra, or a 5k this season, we wish you well, remind you to fuel and hydrate, and would love to hear about what works (or doesn’t!) for you. Happy trails friends!