So now we are at the 2-hour mark for the training runs, its not a bad idea to talk and think about what you need to eat or consume to keep the show on the road for the amount of time you are out running.
I have always been of the mind that up to about an hour or so you don’t really need much in the way of food or drink to keep you going, I think once you get up to the two hour mark however you are in that grey area of some people will need calories, some wont. So with that in mind here’s how I tend to prepare for a long run:
Definitely opt for the biggest breakfast you can handle – its not the most attractive option first thing in the morning, I have been sat there with toast at 5am thinking it’s the last thing I want right now, but be safe in the knowledge that the more you eat, the more energy you will have and the further you can go – simple biology! 😊
If I am heading out on the trails for 2 hours plus I would probably be using some kind of rucksack or hydration pack by this point: My particular pack of choice is something with plenty of side and front pockets and pouches for the soft flasks that are made my Salomon. I have two packs that I tend to default to nowadays after much testing and chopping and changing between multiple brands and types, I find this pack more than adequate for the shorted distance runs and it is nice and cheap also I think this pack is made by the company in China that makes the Nathan hydration packs as they look remarkably similar but this one costs half the price and is amazing quality. They also make the soft flasks that I mentioned earlier These are great for carrying drinks and reduce down to nothing once you have finished your drink.
I bought another pack at the start of 2018 for long days in the mountains, I have to say this is amazing 15L of storage and enough space to carry poles, waterproofs and all other stuff you might need in the mountains, made by Salomon its called the 15L Pro Set.
So onto food and drink, for marathons on the road, I personally would always use gels and would usually take one every 45 mins or so, on the trails the options open up as you are able to carry more so generally I used any type of complex carbs or protein based snacks, so flapjack bars, nut or protein bars anything that gives a good return of carbs and energy. I think with eating and taking on calories its always best to be pro-active rather than re-active – i.e. start to take on food before you get hungry to avoid blood sugar spikes and drops – so perhaps after 1 hour or so start to take on some form of calories. This will ensure that the supply of energy is constant to your muscles and will hopefully ensure you avoid the dreaded “Wall” that we often read about when the mind and body disassociate, and everything goes a little surreal. This is just as likely to happen in a marathon as well as a trail run/race so it pays to be prepared.
In respect of hydration again prepare to be proactive rather than reactive: We are all different, and we can all have different requirements on different days, but over a few runs you should get an idea of what you need to maintain hydration levels, if its hotter you may need more liquids and if its colder you need less, but you definitely can’t go wrong with a “little and often” approach to water consumption. Once you know how much you need you can then gauge how much you would need to carry in a race based on how far water checkpoints are. On particularly hot days electrolytes may be needed, and as per gels and all things these are personal to you – I recommend trying and testing multiple options in training as some may work better than others and you will see what works best for you.
So I think the idea is simple with food and drink on the run: Try and eat as much as you can before you set out, test thoroughly any foods you may use on race day in training (and don’t introduce anything new on race day!) be proactive with food and drink strategies and get to know your body and work out the timings you may need to ensure you maintain hydration and energy levels through the run/race. If you do this the step up to the longer distance runs will be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable!
This is all tried and tested from my own personal viewpoint – over the past 7 years I have completed multiple marathons, ultra-marathons and multi day stage races, and have made every mistake in the book, some of which scuppered race plans and strategies but all are part of the learning process! I can’t recommend trying things out for yourself enough, but as a starting point, I don’t think you can go too far wrong if you follow the points above.