It was well below freezing and snow covered the ground. I made my way to the start line and the nerves began to kick in. It was my first half marathon and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Somehow I managed to finish and the rest is history. Next came marathons, ultra-marathons and in two short months my first half Ironman.
The first question people ask me is usually “why? Why do you do these things?”. I’ve talked about it before but the short answer is to see what I am capable of because I am so grateful that I have a body that I have. The second question then becomes “but what do you eat?”. Long runs and bike rides can last multiple hours. I personally find that I am able to run for longer and just have an overall better run/ride if I’m eating food along the way. Through trial and error I have found what foods keep me going for two, five, or twelve hours at a time. Give this nutrition a try but also do your own research and see what other runners eat. Everybody is different so what works for me may not work for you.
If there is one thing I can stress the most it is to HYDRATE! To avoid getting a side ache be sure to take small sips of water. Otherwise you’ll have water sloshing around in your stomach making you feel sick. If you’re new to drinking water on long runs try and take a sip every 15 minutes or so. You might not feel thirsty but the longer you run the more dehydrated your body becomes. This may seem like a “no duh” moment but I’ve seen plenty of people neglect hydrating during runs and end up cramping before they can make it to the finish line or back to their house.
(all products I mention can be found in the "SHOP" tab under "RUNNING")
Long Runs/ Half Marathons:
I’ve made a habit of bringing my running water bottle on any run over a few miles. It has a pouch perfect to store gels or your car/house key.
For any run over an hour I usually consume an energy gel or Clif Shot Block. While these may not be the healthiest of ‘foods’ they are delicious and provide sustained energy. My favorites are GU gels and Spring gels. GU have a wide variety of flavors and better yet they clearly label which flavors are vegan. Spring Energy is similar to GU but has more ‘natural’ ingredients.
Clif Shot Blocks are more like gummies which can be tough to chew when you are trying to run. It really depends on whether or not you are fine with taking a minute break to try and chew gummies while you catch your breath. Whether I’m eating gels or blocks water helps it all go down much easier. Without water you find yourself with a case of cotton mouth chewing the same gummy for minutes on end unable to swallow.
When I ran my first marathon the only food I consumed was three GU gels. I hit a wall around mile 20 and was utterly exhausted by the time I reached the finish (well more than I should have been after running a marathon). When it comes to ultra-marathons let’s just say that’s when fueling tends to get a bit…strange.
Running for six plus hours requires a lot of energy and therefore a lot of food. On the course I’ve seen people consuming Coca Cola, potato chips, pickles, burritos, and frosting. It’s all about what sounds good to you in the moment, no matter how absurd it may sound to others.
My food of choice is Clif bars, PB & J sandwiches, and the occasional pickle or watermelon with salt. Even if you’re not moving a fast pace for those long runs, you are sweating a great amount. This is why so many people crave salty foods during ultras. I find it difficult to stomach potato chips when I’m 30 miles into a run. Instead I consume salt tablets every hour and half. How often I consume them depends on the dosage, how hot it is, and how long I’ve been running for.
What it really comes down to is what works best for YOU. Experiment with different foods, amounts of water, and how often you consume each. Food is fuel and it is why I am able to run such long distances. I know that I talk about the importance of eating whole plant based foods but it is completely okay to eat whatever makes you feel your best. If I’m at an aid station and the only thing that sounds appealing is a candy bar (vegan of course) then I am by all means going to eat it. Better to satisfy your weird cravings than eat or drink something you don’t want only to throw it up a few minutes later (yes that actually happens).
Training is the time to experiment. Find what feels good and be prepared on race day. I wouldn’t recommend trying new foods on race day because you just don’t know how your body will react. Worst case scenario is your stomach becomes very unhappy and the food exits you before you can make it to the bathroom.
Eating while I run provides me with more energy, makes my run more enjoyable, and allows me to run for longer. So grab a GU, some water, and go for run.