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My Marathon Fueling Plan

My Marathon Fueling Plan
My Marathon Fueling Plan

Let me begin by stating that I am not a dietitian or a running coach. When it comes to fueling during a marathon,  I believe that every runner must figure out what works for them.  This may come through trial and error or from advice from a book or another runner.  Ultimately it comes down to what works for you.

When I ran my first marathon in December of 1999 I did not think about fueling during the race at all.  I just showed up to run with no particular pacing plan, eating plan or any idea what I was doing at all for that matter.  Around mile 20 I hit the wall- HARD.   (Marathon Finish time- 3:45:03)

My sisters and I after the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 1999

Ten years later I decided to give the marathon another chance.  (Coincidentally I did the same marathon!) This time I decided to do my homework.  Before running the Dallas White Rock in December of 2009, I used the Clif Bar Pace/ Fuel Schedule to help me know when to fuel.  Basically you just plug in your estimated goal time and it prints up a pace band.  Every few miles a time and mile is highlighted.  If a mile is highlighted it means it is calorie loading time.  I’m sure there are other plans like this out there, my friend just found this one and we both decided to use it.  Neither of us are sponsored by Clif Bar or anything.

Anyway, I had a great race and never hit the wall.  I ran hard and finished feeling strong. (Marathon finish time- 3:35:21)  I believe that better pacing and fueling were critical in my performance. I was pacing for a 3:40 finish time so it had me fueling at miles: 4, 8, 11, 15,18, 22 and 25. 

Feeling good at the Dallas White Rock Marathon- December 2009

I decided to use the same pace and food schedule for the Houston Marathon.  This time I was pacing for a 3:20 finish and it had me fueling at miles: 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24.  For me, fueling consists of either GU, shot bloks, or Chomps.  I follow the serving size portion. 

It is also extremely important to stay hydrated during a marathon.  I drink whenever I eat to aid in absorption.  Personally, I do not carry a water bottle with me when I race.  I don’t like the extra weight.  I use the water stations.  I figure out what miles will have water stations and I plan to eat during one of them.  (I do not stop at all the water stations but do for the specific miles I eat or if I feel like I need something to drink.)

So there you have it- my marathon fueling schedule.  It’s simple but it works for me.

What have you found works for you in a race?

7 Comments

  1. Awesome! I love this information Tia. I hope Cliff finds your post, because you SHOULD be running for them!

    Also, I’d LOVE to know if you followed a certain training plan or if you wrote your own. Would love to see some details on speed work and MP running. Could you send me a link if it’s on a post, or email me? My email is on my page.

  2. Thanks for this Tia. Funny, for my first marathon …napa valley 2003 (3:22/my best time) I didn’t have a clue about fueling and I ended up having one pack of Gu for the whole thing. Then in Boston 2004 I did pretty much the same thing…I just kind of sipped my GU…a little at a time. Then my third marathon I tried to use like 4 gels and got sick so my 4th and last marathon that was for fun, I ended up using 3 total but my husband and I shared them and used them gradually. Half or 1/4 at a time. I will surely be experimenting a lot with my training and hope that I find what works for me.

  3. I do 1/2 gels at a time. I do have a miles schedule when I use them, but I don’t stick hard to it. Last weekend I tried a new gel, it was gross, and I didn’t take anymore after that. So I ended up with just 3 gels instead of the four I’d planned, and my last was around 18…usually I plan to take something later in the race.
    I’ve actually raced with baggies of cooked oatmeal before! Sometimes I’m too cheap to buy gels!

  4. I think fuelling in marathons is so tough to get right. I’ve only done one and practised beforehand but on the day my belly decided that it just didn’t want what I was feeding it. I’ve since found out that traditional gels upset my stomach and now I use honey shotz.
    Another of my friends has jam sandwiches on the run – personally I find it a bit hard to eat solids but it all depends on the individual.

  5. Char- The honey stinger ones work best for my friends who have GU issues. Gracie- I like the baked oatmeal idea! I may have to try that one next time…

    Amanda and Raina- I am going to post my past training cycle in the next few days. 🙂

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