The article “How to Fuel for a Half Marathon” by Pamela Nisevich Bede for RunnersWorld.com, answers questions from a reader about carbohydrate loading and race fueling. Since some of you may be running your half marathon this or next weekend, it might provide some helpful information for first-timers, and also those who regret not paying attention to nutrition in advance of previous longer distances races.
First, she addresses the issue of what to eat days before if you anticipate “being on the road for more than 90 minutes”. Then, breakfast before an early race. Finally, fueling during the race.
She does nice work explaining all three topics in this piece written in 2013. Give it a look.
EARNED RUNS NOTE: Runners should keep in mind that TIME IS WARPED on race day. Regardless of how nearby the course is to where you are staying, you should factor in time and activity involved in travel to the parking or assembly area, shuttle to the start, and standing in the chute.
Your typical fuel needs on a long training run day may be increased on RACE DAY. Consider the following:
- Your ‘wake-up call’ may come an hour or two earlier than usual.
- Travel may involve an Uber ride to a point where the streets are closed, a significant distance from the starting area, and walking is required.
- Depending on your ‘wave’ and the size of the event, you may spend up to an hour after the official starting gun blast waiting in a chute.
- You might spend some of that waiting time running in-place or jumping to stay loose.
- There may be more than a few minutes spent running with very tiny steps in a pack of runners as you make you way to the start line, where electronically your official race begins.
It’s not a good time to overhaul pre-race and in-race fueling strategy with less than a couple of weeks to go before racing. But small adjustments might be helpful. Below is an example:
One of the most important points made in Bede’s article is that fueling should start 30-60 minutes into the race, before you are totally depleted of glycogen. If you typically fuel 40-50 minutes into your long runs, keep in mind that you are probably NOT on your feet 2 hours prior to that run as you might be on race day.
The link to a piece on what to eat for breakfast has some helpful calculations that may help you BOOST that breakfast, especially if a long and active interval between it and the start of YOUR race is anticipated. If you’re nervous about taking in too much food pre-race, think about starting your in-race fueling just a tiny bit earlier, say at 30 minutes. A small amount then, followed by a small amount at your usual time of 40-50 minutes.
Another important point made in the article is that water should be taken when ingesting concentrated ‘fuel’, to “dilute” it and allow absorption. This is to avoid becoming nauseated from the bolus of carbohydrate that’s being delivered to your stomach.
I find I am more nervous in a race than in training about eating and drinking water while on the run, especially in the later stages when trying to pick up my pace. So, starting earlier with a smaller amounts of fuel/water keeps me from running on empty in the last half of the race when concentrating on performance.
Best of luck to all who are racing this week; you are ready for this.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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