Tag Archives: diet

First Marathon: What Went Wrong

Science at workOne of the things I have enjoyed most about having run a marathon is how much I learned along the way. I am very aware that I have barely scratched the surface of most topics related to running and training and I find it encouraging that there is always something new to learn about the sport. Part of running is science and understanding how the body works and how all the muscles work together, and part of running simply personal and figuring out what works best for you.


Considering I was able to finish the marathon, I think it’s safe to say that not that much went wrong, but there are certainly some lessons learned from this first experience and some things I will do different next time. I’ve mentioned before that my running friend and I took a 16-week plan and crammed it into nine weeks. Definitely lesson number one. Continue reading

Marathon Diet Debate

DebateThere is no question that individual runnersĀ  and athletes will find the diet, routine, and training that works best for their own goals, pace, and body type. An interesting debate on Complete Running leads me to believe that there are two ends to the “what to eat and how to fuel” spectrum and the rest of us fall somewhere in the middle. Seven-time marathoner, Mark Iocchelli, argues the less is more angle to fueling up for running and depends solely on his body’s pre-stored glycogen and a few swigs of water to power through long runs and marathons.

Iocchelli’s standpoint is strongly argued by Steve “Runner” Walker, a 19-time marathoner who treats each marathon as an “experiment of one,” a mindset that I can relate to. Each race is slightly different and you learn from each one what works best for you from food to shoes to pace, etc. I found Steve’s spaceship analogy a little over the top, but his basic argument is that less is not enough when it comes to fueling up for long runs. Since we do not normally go out and just run 26.2 miles our bodies are not prepared to fuel us accordingly on a whim. It takes training but also, according to Steve, replenishment of fuel stored to avoid hitting the wall during a long run.

Thomas Bubendorfer rounds out the debate with more of a nutritional focus and I think helps set the tone that defining your marathon, training, or overall healthy diet will depend on many of your own personal goals and preferences. What camp do you fall in: fuel-free or fill ‘er up?

I look forward to learning from my own first marathon what routines work and don’t work, but I can safely tell you this–I know I will be downing at least one pack of Gu and plenty of water along the way.

Marathon Week: What to Eat?

Food pyramidWhether training for a marathon, a triathlon, a 5K, or nothing at all it’s always worthwhile to set healthy eating goals. I would like to tackle the much larger topic of healthy eating over a series of posts and here will be focusing on what the best practices are with regard to meals for the final week before a marathon.

For the past nine weeks I have been averaging somewhere between 30 and 35 miles of running each week and the calories burned during those sessions adds up. On my longest runs, my Polar watch said I burned about 1800 calories so I can fully expect that running a full 26.2 miles will burn at least 2000 calories. I thought a good starting point for this post would be to learn how many calories I should be consuming. According to a basic Caloric Needs Calculator, I need around 1900 calories a day.

Doing a little math (not at all my strong suit), knowing I will burn 2000 calories on Sunday, if I want to maintain my current weight that means this week I should try to consume an extra 285 calories per day bringing my daily intake to 2185. Had I started thinking about my training diet when I started training, I probably would have followed the rule of thumb to add about 100 calories for every mile to my daily diet. Unfortunately, you can’t just randomly add calories; it’s important to know what layers of the food pyramid those calories should be coming from. If I had my way they’d all come from the tip top fats, sweets, and dairy categories.

MarathonRookie.com suggests that 65% of calories should come from good, complex carbohydrates, 10% from low fat and lean proteins, 20-25% from unsaturated fats and all balanced with plenty of vitamins, calcium, and iron. Carbohydrates provide the glycogen necessary to fuel the body through a long run so it seems that if I build up the glycogen stored in my body the week before I will have sufficient fuel to burn on race day.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) I am not a calorie counter. I simply eat until I’m full and often until I’m just about stuffed. I like food, what can I say? I also know from experience and from research that it’s not smart to vary the diet too much before race day. The body gets used to processing certain foods and I have no intention of messing with that system before my first marathon. I would, however, like to identify the best balanced diet with the foods I normally eat and with the food already in my kitchen though there are plenty of good marathon recipes out there. Any special recipes or best foods you want to share?

I believe in writing this that I have figured out that my own personal marathon week diet needs to be the right percentages of the food pyramid with types of food my body is already used to. I will err on the side of adding more carbs and do my best to make sure they are complex carbs like cereal, oatmeal, wheat bread, pasta, carrots, and apples. I will also use the day before the run to “carb load” and I admit I’m looking forward to it!

And for future training, I’ll start my diet off at the beginning.