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How to fuel a marathon on race day

After months and months of training, your work is done. Blood, sweat, tears and more sweat have all gone into the preparation and now it’s your time. Your time to test yourself against the marathon distance.

London 2019 will be my 7th marathon. My 4th attempt at tackling the Big Smoke. One aspect of marathon training that can sometimes be an afterthought is nutrition, yet nutrition, particularly in the run up to the race can have one of the biggest impacts on your marathon performance.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to this subject. But below are some of my tips which I’ve learnt from my own experiences as well as other snippets of information I’ve picked up along the way.

This is not a definitive guide to what you should be doing, what works for one person may not work for the next but hopefully there may be something useful for you to use in your own marathon experience.


Pre-evening meal

My go to meal the night before the marathon is pasta. The night before my first marathon I had carbonara and garlic bread and have repeated the tradition ever since. There’s a lot of talk about carb loading and it’s probably the best part of marathon training but don’t go crazy, you don’t want to go overboard and be left feeling bloated and sluggish the next morning.

I’m not speaking from experience, but I’ve read that it’s advisable to avoid spicy or high fat dishes and try and to avoid highly acidic foods as well. You don’t want to risk heart burn while running or worse still, some sort of embarrassing accident.

The day before the marathon, remember to keep hydrated. I carry a water bottle containing an SiS Hydro Tablet. I’ll consume two of these throughout the day. The tablets are handy as you can carry them in your pocket and add them into any form of water bottle as required.


Breakfast before the marathon

I’ll normally wake up and have breakfast around 3 hours before the start. Breakfast for me consists of porridge topped with dried fruit, again this is what I ate before my first marathon and have done ever since. Maybe it’s superstition but I always must start race day with a coffee.

The key point that I would stress is don’t try anything new. That goes for breakfast and your pre-evening meal. You should be practicing your race day nutrition in training during your long runs. If you’ve never had coffee before a long training run, certainly don’t try one the morning of the marathon just because someone at the expo recommended it to you.

During the morning I’ll also consume a 500ml carb drink, my go-to is the SiS Raspberry GO Electrolyte, I’ll normally sip this as I’m getting ready and on my way to the start line, I’ll also snack on a banana. It’s important to be hydrated but again you don’t want to overdo it.

Around 20-30 minutes before the race I’ll take an energy gel, I love the Science in Sport GO Tropical Isotonic Gels. This gives my body time to utilise the energy for the first few miles.

And 10 minutes before I’ll take an SiS caffeine shot.

Again, what I would stress is to only use gels or caffeine shots if you have tried them before. And you should really trial during your training runs.


During the race

Science in Sport nutritionist Ben Samuels advised that my energy gel strategy should be based on time not distance, i.e. a gel every X minute not every X mile. This will prevent fluctuations in race pacing effecting your nutrition strategy. He also informed me that in general, your body can digest and absorb up to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour from gels, equating to 3 gels per hour or 1 every 20 minutes.

Based on this, at London this year my plan is to carry 7 energy gels with me and consume them approx. every 20 minutes.

As I continue with my training, I’ll trial this on my long runs to make sure this plan works for me and provides enough energy to see me through to the finish line. This is more than I have carried previously but I would rather carry more than not enough. There is nothing worse than starting to feel tired and knowing you have no gels left.

I’ll also try to take a small amount of water from each station. If you start to feel dehydrated, then it’s possibly too late. Its best to try and stay ahead of the game.



Recovery is key and you should start thinking about it as soon as you cross the finish line.

You need to make sure that you start replenishing fluid levels, but you also need to ensure you are taking on enough protein to help repair your muscles.

I leave a pre-mixed carb drink (GO Electrolyte) and a protein shake (REGO) in my bag and will start drinking them after I collect my bag and start making our way back to the hotel.

You might not feel like it, but I always insist on walking as much possible. If I stop for too long after the marathon my legs will seize up. So, I find walking helps to loosen my legs up… a little bit at least.

To help aide recovery, I also make sure I consume REGO protein shakes in the days following the marathon, even if I’ve not running.

I hope you’ve found some these points useful. Good luck to everyone running Spring marathons this year.

Written By

Peter Butler