What to eat before a half marathon?
March 14, 2007 12:06 AM   Subscribe

I am running my first half marathon in April and I don't know what to eat. What should I eat the night/morning of?

I have been training for a half marathon for about 6 months now and feel pretty confident stamina and muscle wise. The one concern I have is what to eat.

I have tried a variety of things but nothing seems to settle well. I don't like Power Bars or Gu, so I would rather have a traditional type breakfast. If I have eggs or cereal it feels heavy while running.

Also, the night before there is a carbo load dinner which I will be attending but the only thing I am afraid of is eating too much! (Italians can't resist pasta) How much and what should I eat?
posted by bigcheesegump to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Bananas are nature's Power Bars. A couple of bananas and maybe a container of yogurt if I'm really hungry seem to work really well for me as a pre-run breakfast. (I think Gu is absolutely disgusting, and energy bars tend to feel more like I swallowed bricks.)

As for eating the night before, it's really a matter of knowing your body. How much can you eat and wake up without feeling too full? Eat that much.
posted by limicoline at 1:10 AM on March 14, 2007

Night before...pasta, but not too heavy.

Before the race... 1 banana, maybe 2.

I have never run a marathon before, but this is what my girlfriend ate before she ran one last year as did everybody else in the group she trained with.

posted by chillmost at 1:43 AM on March 14, 2007

A banana and half a bagel in the morning. Some pasta in the evening, but not too much.

The truth is that you've got more than enough glycogen (and so much more fat) than you will need to get through your distance. What you eat in the morning is for two things: to prime the pump a bit, and to make your stomach feel good. Since you don't really need the calories you shouldn't worry too much on that score.
posted by OmieWise at 4:33 AM on March 14, 2007

What they all said worked for me just fine (Marine Corps Marathon). However, I'm a big fan of the Gu during the run - that and plenty of sippin' water... use one of those waist belts that holds one water jug, not the ones that hold six 'mini-jugs' as they're a pain to fill back up.
posted by matty at 5:00 AM on March 14, 2007

Just make sure you hydrate enough. I could not figure out why I always felt exactly like I had a hangover after half marathons (headache, nausea), but dehydration turned out to be the culprit.

I would eat one banana and a Cliff Bar prior to a race. The Cliff Bar guarantees that the race will only be the second most physically challenging part of your day.
posted by 4ster at 5:22 AM on March 14, 2007

What do you usually eat the morning of a big training run? If it works in training, then it shouldn't foul you up during the race. That's the route I always took, anyways.
posted by inigo2 at 5:35 AM on March 14, 2007

You should nail down your routine during training and stick with it on race day. Changing things at the last minute can be a recipe for disaster.
posted by randomstriker at 5:56 AM on March 14, 2007

Agreed that you should try to replicate your pre-training environment as much as possible. What worked for me was a few granola bars. During the race it was a mixture of water and gatorade and I nibbled on a Powerbar for about miles 4 - 14. Once again these are all things I did during training and they felt fine so come race day it felt fine.

Good luck!
posted by mmascolino at 6:01 AM on March 14, 2007

My routine that has worked very well in the past year (for a 9am Sunday race, low 1:20s time)

Saturday night:
6pm: bread & baked ziti
9pm: bowl of Life cereal
6:30am: bowl of Life cereal
8:45am: Energy gel & Gatorade
7 mile mark: Gel & a few swigs of Gatorade
posted by djb at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2007

you won't be needing gel and a few swigs of gatorade at the 7 mile mark of a half-marathon unless you plan on being out on the course for a *very* long time. It won't do you any good and it could upset your stomach. If you're used to taking in food during runs and you feel you must (psychologically) then it's Dumbo's feather and suit yourself.

I will echo what others have said about pre-race eating- don't over eat the night before and make sure you take in enough fiber and fluids the day/days before to stay nice and, um, regular. You don't want to feel the urge to carbo unload minutes before the gun goes off (or, horrors! Shortly after).

Practice eating some easy to digest foods the mornings before runs and workouts and make note of how they settle. Go with whatever works for you. Hydrate well the night before, do not over-hydrate the morning of the race.

I used to sip water slowly over an hour period two hours before half-marathons in hot weather or any marathon. Along with coffeee, I probably took in about 16 oz. total. An hour before the race I would stop drinking anything. Ten minutes before the gun I'd drink an additional 6-8 ounces of water. (I never used gels or powerbars during races).I ran bests of 1:16 for the half-marathon and 2:41 for the marathon in 2000/2001 before I retired.

PS-(oh- and I ate a pre-race breakfast of two strawberry pop tarts and a large cup of coffee about 2-3 hours before most races. Luckily never had a problem with having to enjoy breakfast twice. YMMV etc.)
posted by stagewhisper at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2007

I can't stress how important it is to practice this on your long run days. Every one is different in what they can handle and the only way to find out is to try it, and it's best not to do that during your goal race.

I eat peanut butter on whole grain toast washed down with about half a liter of water. I can't stand gels from the foil packet, but mixing one with three parts water makes it tolerable for me. The energy they give me mid race is rather remarkable.
posted by advicepig at 11:21 AM on March 14, 2007

I like peanut butter on a bagel. Or one of these Quaker oatmeal squares. But practice first during your training. And get very well hydrated the day before. Morning of, not as important, or you'll have to pee during the race.

Of course, YMMV.
posted by pyjammy at 11:57 AM on March 14, 2007

I can't eat before I run. Eat a meal at least 12 hours before. Then set the alarm for six hours before you race, wolf something small down and go back to sleep.
posted by TrashyRambo at 8:01 PM on March 14, 2007

I didn't want to admit to it, but stagewhisper's clearly a more accomplished runner than I'll ever be, so: coffee is my secret weapon! I know the caffeine is dehydrated and all, but man, I just run better with a couple shots of espresso in my stomach.
posted by limicoline at 6:35 PM on March 15, 2007

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