FUELING: The Secret to Conquering the Wall & Enjoying a Marathon

Contributed by Tom Medevielle, a 2016 Ambassador for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon.

The wall is a very real phenomenon experienced by marathoners and endurance athletes.

Our bodies are amazing machines. If we properly glycogen-load two days prior to a race with sugar or honey (about 1/2 cup) – sorry pasta aficionados – we can run for approximately 2 hours on that stored glycogen as fuel. Unfortunately, very few of us can run a marathon in two hours. If we do not put gas in our car, it does not move. And that is what happens when we run out of stored glycogen: we hit the wall, and moving becomes an enormous mental battle and physical challenge, just like pushing our car would be.

If we do not properly fuel during a race, our bodies will resort to using our organs as fuel (Rhabdomyolysis) – a very serious medical condition. So how do we properly fuel during a marathon?

Many runners use gels or blocks. I have heard of runners consuming Twinkies and drinking Coke during a race. In a manner of speaking it is a personal choice. My experience with gels during my first marathon was frequent visits to the porta-potties along the course. Needless to say, my digestive system didn’t handle gels very well. Although, I like to have a gel with caffeine towards the later portion of a marathon, like Mile 18. To properly maintain our energy during a marathon we need to replace half the calories we burn per hour, this is the secret! Simple, isn’t it? I’ll just stop by a store or snack stand along the race course every hour and order up a healthy marathon snack, right? I haven’t seen it yet and that is why gels are so popular because they are convenient.

We need approximately 200-300 calories per hour, which is about half the calories we burn per hour while running a marathon. High fiber fuels lead to a tour-de-porta-potties during the race, which is not conducive to glamorous selfies!

My experience proved through running 8 marathons and two ultramarathons are rice cakes. No, not the flat Frisbee kind that taste like paper, but a top secret formula I came across on the skratchlabs.com site blog produced by Allen Lim the President of Skratchlabs. He uses cooked sushi grade rice mixed with chopped dates, toasted silvered almonds a little bit of honey and, brown sugar. I use an ice cream scoop and place it on saran wrap which I wrap with aluminum foil.

They are convenient to carry and deliver just the right amount of fuel to keep you going during your 26.2 mile party! Bon appetite, and happy trails!

1 Reply to "FUELING: The Secret to Conquering the Wall & Enjoying a Marathon"

  • comment-avatar
    Yateesh Mallya
    June 16, 2016 (2:25 pm)

    This is very helpful. However, i resort to Gu gels and glucose water on my long run trainings. I find gels very helpful to me. Chews don’t work with me.