Whippet Wisdom: Marathon Fueling

As the calendar turns to September, marathoners begin their peak training for NYC so everything matters a little bit more.  One key component to race day success is fueling your body properly.  As someone who failed terribly with this component in two marathons, I decided it best to rely on more seasoned marathoners for their advice plus ask a first-timer what advice they have been given.  Thanks to Matt Wong, Steve Wo and Megan Jones for taking the time to provide input.

Steve: Now is the time now for NYC marathoners to experiment with their fueling strategy or new gels to see how their stomach reacts to them.  For marathons, I take a gel at 8, 13, 18, half a pack at 21 and the rest at 23.  Splitting up the last pack helps keep my mind occupied in those final miles. I drink water with the gel so practice eating the gel before stopping at water fountains. In between gels, I drink Gatorade. For those not running major marathons like NYC, you may have to plan differently because smaller marathons will not have water stations every mile.

Matt: Here is a blog post for taking gels during a marathon which I have found very useful.  It provides a simple scientific explanation for what your body is experiencing and explains ways to counteract.

Megan: In my very limited marathon training experience, I’ve heard conflicting things for gels and marathons:

  • Train during your long runs as if you were really taking the gels/ whatever fuel. For example, if we were following Steve’s plan of taking them at miles 8, 13, 18,  21/23, then that’s how you should train
  • I have also heard to train taking them later so, if you plan to take your first at 8 on race day then train by taking it a mile or so after (mile 9 or 10)
  • And I have also heard not to train with fuel and run tired

I have run 10 half marathons, but have only figured out proper fueling in the last four.  In those four half marathons, I had UCAN 20 mins before the race and a gel at mile 7. I always carried a water bottle with Nuun to avoid stopping at water stations unless necessary at mile 11 or 12.  My biggest question is: how can I adjust my half marathon plan to fuel for the marathon?

We will post this piece in the Facebook group for experienced racers to express their opinions and first-timers to ask questions.  Everyone is different so figure out what works best for you.  Start testing different formulas and hypothesis now to develop a plan for race day.

In a future post, we will discuss practicing your chosen techniques in training events (Marathon Tune-Up, Bronx 10-miler, Grete’s Half and Staten Island Half) because practice makes perfect.

Look forward to a healthy discussion on this topic in the Facebook group.  Have a great week!


More about Chris Forti

Chris grew up just outside of Boston where he competed at the high school and collegiate level. In Boston, he coached athletes with varying objectives - from youth to high school to adults - and went so far as to marry his favorite athlete. He joined the Whippets in 2013 and is excited to be coaching for this highly motivated group. He works at siggi's yogurt in New York City as a demand planner and can be found playing "catch the red laser dot" with his favorite kitty, post-run. He calls himself "40" because "Forti" is evidently too many typeface characters to handle and can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@chris40runs), and Instagram (@chris40runs)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *