The London Marathon is the jewel in the crown for many runners and a worthy bucket-list race. If you put in the work during training and fuel well on race day, you’ll be able to enjoy the incredible feeling of running the closed roads of the capital and soak up the buzzing atmosphere without being distracted by stomach issues, toilet emergencies or hitting the wall.
Alex Parren, qualified personal trainer, nutritionist, and running coach, takes you through her tops tips to fuel your way to the best run of your life.
Research the aid stations
You’ve probably heard the saying “never try anything new on race day” – and this is sound advice. Do your research and find out exactly what will be on offer at the aid stations on race day – this information should be available on the official London Marathon website. If it’s going to be a brand you’re not familiar with, you have two options. Practice with that brand of gels in training and see if you get on with it, or prepare to forego the aid stations and use your own provisions. This will prevent any nasty surprises mid-run and could mean the difference between a PB and a DNF.
Optimise your fuelling strategy
You don’t have to be an elite runner to need an excellent fueling strategy; even the most novice runners need to make sure they fuel and hydrate properly on race day. Current research shows that using fuels that contain a combination of glucose and fructose is optimal. The experts at Science in Sport have developed Beta Fuel, a product range that features a new ratio of maltodextrin (a type of glucose) to fructose which allows the body to use more carbohydrates per hour as well as reducing the symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and nausea. Plan in advance when you will take your gels and when you will drink your water and check the scientific credentials of the brands you plan to use.
Optimise your hydration strategy
When it comes to distance running, fuelling and hydration go hand-in-hand. A common mistake some novice runners make – especially at their first marathon – is hydrating with only water. This could potentially cause your body to enter a state called hyponatremia – when the blood has been watered down so much it has dangerously low sodium levels. Thankfully this is a simple one to avoid – all you need to do is supplement your water intake with sodium/electrolytes. Many brands offer this in the form of soluble tablets which you drop into your water.
Fine-tune your body
Training for a marathon requires so much more than just running miles. You need to train every part of your body to work efficiently under stress to get you to the finish line. Your muscles, internal organs, and even your brain will be working overtime to undertake this mammoth task. You need to consider more than just carbohydrates and protein when it comes to training fuel. One thing that some long-distance runners can suffer from is a compromised immune system due to the strain the extensive training puts on the central nervous system. Consider boosting your immune system with a supplement like the new PhD Life Boost range, to keep your body happy and healthy and to prevent any illnesses that could arise during training.
Carb-load the right way
Images of runners eating huge bowls of pasta the night before a race has created somewhat of a myth surrounding the practice of carb-loading. Instead of packing away as many carbs as you can the night before the race, you should be gradually building up your carb intake in the days and weeks leading up to the race. This will allow your body to increase its stores of valuable carbohydrates, giving you more to work with on race day and even preventing you from hitting the wall.