Marathon reflections from a sports scientist: Nutrition

August 2, 2018

It has been over two months since I completed Edinburgh marathon.  I could easily say that it has taken this long for me to reflect because I was scarred by the ordeal but that simply isn't true.  I loved it and I am back in training for my next event.  


Rather than internally reflect on my experience I thought that the Athlete Focused Insights page could do with a personal account of my experience.  I have been fortunate to work with hundreds of professional athletes from many sporting backgrounds and, generally, I am the person sitting back and prescribing rather than taking part.  


I hope my experience training and also experience within the sports science profession can provide a relatively unique perspective to help anyone out there looking to complete their first marathon or endurance event.  


Let's begin with the nutrition aspect of this.  For most, this would be low on the priority list but I have seen many individual's fail due to poor nutrition and I was not planning on making the same mistake.


This part of my training really stepped up in the last few weeks and certainly in the last 3 days. I would say this was the biggest success stories for me. I followed Alex Boyles Marathon Loading guide from our company Athlete Focused Nutrition. Of course I’m always going to say it’s good! However not for the reason you may think.




I used the plan as a template and changed it to suit my preferences so it wasn’t the plan per se that was the reason I liked it. The main reason was the accountability that it brought. Obviously, I know Alex and he checked in with me regularly to see how I was getting on. He offered ideas of how to get the carbohydrates in and reassured me during those days that I wasn’t over eating and that the excess food would be beneficial in the long term. The process really made me understand why many athletes utilise a nutritionist for a longer period of time. The small insights I gained as well as the accountability improved my understanding of food as fuel a lot in a short space of time.


The food during the last few days was certainly enjoyable. Plenty pasta, rice, bread and the odd guilt free doughnut and muffin! Who doesn’t want to eat like that and not care!? If anything the next time I would be more strict with the foods I was eating – by this I mean removing the amount of variety and keeping it very simple, even eating the same things for a few days. I think trying to have a varied diet is something I have always done for health purposes but at this stage it’s more about fuelling properly so keeping it simple is as important.


The final part of the nutrition puzzle was race day. I was starting around 10am so I made sure to eat around 3hours before. I had some porridge and a bagel with jam. Luckily I felt hungry and the nerves hadn’t kicked in so it went down fairly easily. When travelling through to Edinburgh (which took approximately 90mins) I drank a sports hydration drink which contained a reasonable amount of carbs. I then necked a double espresso 30 mins before the start.


Once I got going I drank at every aid station (roughly every 5km) and took a SiS gel at 45 mins and 90mins. I then think I made a couple of mistakes! I took a caffeine energy shot at 2hours 15mins which didn’t unsettle my stomach but made me feel a bit strange for a few miles. The shot was also very sweet and when I came to take my last gel at 2hours 45mins I couldn’t stomach it. I tried for a mile or so to get it all down but threw half of it away. Next time I’ll avoid the shot and stick to gels and sports drinks.





In Part 2 I will go into more depth regarding the training I underwent and reflections upon that.  In the mean time if you would like advice before embarking on a marathon please comment or get in contact. 










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