Marathon Nutrition

I've done 4 marathons in the last 12 months but can't get my nutrition sorted. In the first couple I took one gel every 5 or 6 miles, but hit the wall pretty badly at about 18 to 20 miles. I then took a break of about 10 months before my third, where I tried "little and often", taking either a sip of gel, a jelly baby or a marzipan ball every mile.

I felt much better and didn't really hit the wall, but when I tried to repeat it last week, it didn't really work and I felt sick by about mile 20 and faded at mile 21, missing my target time by 5 minutes. Funnily enough though my times for my third and fourth marathons were within seconds of each other.

Has anyone got any advice? I think that too many gels make me feel sick and although I quite like the jelly babies and marzipan balls I've not been brave enough to leave the gels at home yet.

I have my next marathon coming up in 5 weeks and would like to have tried something by then.


  • Have you tried rice, popcorn or cereal bars? Something like a peanut Tracker has sugar plus a bit of salt and gives your stomach something a bit more substantial and less "sloshy".

    I tend to have them at miles 8 and 17 with jelly beans the rest of the way round.



  • If you are fading around 20 miles even with taking on nutrition then maybe there are other issues such as pacing, lack of long runs in training or nutrition in the days before the race.

    I'm usually on with gels but if I go off too fast or it's too hot I do struggle.
  • Have you tried a number of different ones or had bad experiences with one brand? May seem a stupid question but the reason I ask is because SIS gels tend to be very thick in texture, yet when I did the Brighton marathon this year they had a gel in little gold packets (name escapes me I apologise - Powergel I think?) and when I was handed that it was a lot more like a fluid. Maybe the fluid type may help you over a gel?
  • Millsy, I've wondered about the long run thing, but I've done 6 long runs (inc. two marathons) of 20 miles or more this year and have been careful about tapering and loading.I don't think the pace I'm going for of 3hrs 45min is out of reach as my HM PB is around 1hr 43mins and I've been very careful about not going out too fast.

    Michael & Scream - I'll try alternative gels and the peanut Tracker (sounds nice), seems a good idea. I've been using High 5 gels almost exclusively.

    I usually make up marzipan balls with nuts, raisins and cacoa nibs, which are delicious on the run. Maybe I should eat them in preference to the gels. 

    Thanks for your help. 

  • If what you use on your long runs work then go with that.
  • Millsy wrote (see)
    If what you use on your long runs work then go with that.

    I never take anything on my long runs, except maybe some water if it's warm, and have never been confident that I'd last a marathon. I might try and stick to more solid food like the jelly babies and marzipan and see how I get on.

  • It's always worth experimenting with nutrition strategy on some of your long runs. It stops any surprises on race day.
  • Millsy wrote (see)
    It's always worth experimenting with nutrition strategy on some of your long runs. It stops any surprises on race day.

    Thanks Millsy, maybe I shouldn't have used the word 'never', I do test various nutritional strategies on the last long run or two before a marathon, but would only take a couple of gels or whatever, just to check they don't make me sick. I certainly wouldn't take them every 6 miles or so. I think that I may go the whole hog in preparation for my next marathon in 5 weeks time.

    On my other long runs, I never take anything. 

  • Maybe not every run but I walkways try to do one "dress rehearsal" long run around 5 weeks out where I try and replicate race day as much as possible EG clothes, shoes and also when I will be taking drinks and gels. It will usually show up anything that doesn't work.
  • Thanks again Millsy. I read 'Nutrition for Marathon running' over the weekend and it's pointed out that I don't seem to be eating enough either on a daily basis or when it comes to carb loading.

    I'm taking it to mean that I can eat more cake than I currently do. Result ! image

    I also didn't realise the science involved in carb loading and when it refers to eating so many grams of carbohydrate per day leading into a marathon, it's not referring to the weight of the pasta (for example), but the weight of the constituent carbohydrates, which may be only 50 to 75% of the pasta.


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