How to make sure you keep going all the way to the end of a marathon
by Camila Fernandez Marie Curie fundraiser Camila is running the Virgin Money London Marathon for Marie Curie and will be writing a regular blog in the run up to the event in April. If you already have a place for this year’s event, we’d love you to join our Daffodil team to raise money for Marie Curie.
As the mileage ramps up and I trot into unknown territory, I've had to seriously evaluate how I will fuel my legs to keep going. I've read and heard multiple tales about ‘hitting the wall’ and ‘bonking’ (does that sound slightly rude to anyone else?), where your legs feel as though you are running through tar and you struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Basically, your body is fuelled by either fat or carbohydrate and primarily relies on using the latter. Typically, the body can store up to two hours of glycogen (the carbohydrate's sugars) at marathon pace before resorting to fat to feed the muscles. However, despite fat being a largely abundant resource it takes a lot longer to be broken down into usable energy – resulting in the ‘bonk’. I've heard about people using energy gels during races to try and prevent this happening but I've also heard the horror stories that came with them – namely, people urgently needing the loo or suffering from an upset stomach mid-run. The advice I received from friends was to use training as a time for trial and error as everyone reacts differently to different types, brands and flavours. Gels aren't a guarantee to stop the ‘bonk’ in your legs but they can help make you feel more energised by increasing the glucose levels in your blood.
As my first 15-mile training run loomed, I knew I would need all the help I could get. I find eating before a run tricky but I knew I should also start experimenting with what breakfast choices would work for me and how long before running I should eat. I stocked up with some gels from my local cycling shop and ate a bagel topped with peanut butter one hour before I set off. I quickly discovered that one hour wasn't long enough as it repeated on me several times. I'd read that gels should be ingested every seven miles and washed down with water but I wasn't braced for how disgusting the texture and taste would be. I struggled to keep it down but 15 minutes later I had a new surge of energy! I only managed one gel on that run and I might not have found the right flavour or brand for me, but they are definitely something I would like to keep experimenting with. 26.2 miles is a distance to be reckoned with so you need to listen and look after your body to ensure you get over that finish line as safely as possible.