Ruth Walters isn't just a runner and valued supporter of Pancreatic Cancer UK - she's also training as a nutritionist and blogs up a storm at Let Her Eat Clean. As part of our Marathon Series we asked Ruth to talk food-related fuel for your training...
In 2012 I ran three marathons in three months. A glutton for punishment, I just had to run one more in 2013. Aside from the sick and twisted satisfaction that comes from training for and running 26.2 miles and a strong desire to raise bucketfuls of cash for Pancreatic Cancer UK, what was it that kept me going I hear you ask…? Food. Loads of it. Tonnes of it. Plateful after plateful; mealtime after mealtime. There's nothing like an email from your personal trainer that tells you you're not eating enough that basically gives you carte blanche to eat alllllll the dark chocolate and sweet potato you can lay your greedy mitts on.
Joking aside, fuelling marathon training and then race day is serious business so here are my top tips for making sure you're hungry for more miles.
- Never under estimate how much breakfast will set you up for the day and subsequent training sessions ahead - I pretty much alternated scrambled eggs (with a side of spinach) and oats (with handfuls of nuts and fruit) throughout my training. Personally I could never perform well on an empty stomach and I needed a balance of protein and good carbs at every meal - especially breakfast.
- Always know where your next two meals are coming from - marathon training is exhausting and the last thing you want is to head home after a heavy session to an empty fridge or a fridge that only contains the ingredients for a supper that will take you a good hour to make. Sundays make for brilliant batch cook-offs, slow cookers are an absolute life line and bribing a housemate or loved one to cook for you occasionally is strongly advised.
- Hungry? Eat. Marathon training is not the time for calorie counting. If you're hungry (although be sure to confirm you're not just thirsty by having a glass of water first), then eat something. Also carry a snack of some sort in your bag / desk drawer / glove box. I personally found little and often kept me regularly topped up and never too full or uncomfortably near to bursting ahead of needing to pound the pavements. I was a big fan.
- Practice makes perfect - so, you've clocked up the miles, you've worn in your trainers, you've collected your race number, you've lined up your supporters but did you give as much careful thought and preparation to your pre-race supper and race day breakfast? Try out different foods at both these meals to see what fuels you best. My go to the night before was a hefty portion of roast chicken, sweet potato wedges, a mountain of spinach, some sliced avocado and a big dollop of houmous. Brekkie was always 4 eggs scrambled with butter and a super strong coffee - about 2.5 hours before the gun went.
- Hold the champagne (at least for 5 minutes) - post race you're going to be exhilarated, emotional, exhausted and psyched. You'll be desperate to rejoin family and friends and rightfully start some hard earned celebrations. But before you pop the corks on the fizz make sure you've done your depleted muscles a favour and proffered them some recovery fodder. My race day bag (that went into the luggage truck) always had a shaker with some protein powder and a small carton of coconut water in it. Try and get something a bit more substantial in after that - my go to is nearly always a burger and fries - and just be mindful that alcohol will be really dehydrating after all those miles run. Slow and steady wins the race on this one too!
You can read more of my marathon series over at :http://lethereatclean.com/category/marathons/
You can chat to Ruth about marathon nutrition on Twitter - she's @RuthWalters! Tag your tweets #TeamPanCanUK and bring your running team mates into the chat!