Eating While Running a Marathon

It had been two months since my last personal marathon. I wanted to do another one.

I planned a 22km route to take me from my house in Moscow to meet my friend Hans. Then we would run another 20km on the trails in Filievsky Park for a full marathon distance.

It was November in Moscow, so it was already starting to get cold. I modified my running gear by adding a thermal head band, running gloves, and long-sleeve shirt, but kept the shorts. It only feels cold for the first 5 minutes.

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I would be running my first ultra-marathon in December. In regular marathons I had survived on a few energy gels, but for the longer ultra-marathon distances I needed to learn how to eat while running.

I was curious how this would work and brought along some some bananas, medjool dates, an avocado, home-make chocolate coconut cake, regular water, and coconut water.

To get home, I brought some cash for a taxi and warm dry clothes to wear on the journey back.

I fit all this into a regular backpack, which added another 5kg (11lbs) to my weight.

I prepared all this the night before. When I woke up, it was easier to get out the door.

It was still dark almost the entire way to meet Hans. Moscow is relatively quiet at 7am on a Saturday. I pulled my backpack straps tight to reduce jiggling. The spare clothes held the food in place, but I had to slow down to a walk to get food out.

I had a banana to start the eating experiment and reduce my carrying weight. I usually have 2 bananas before running so my body is used to it. No problems with peeling and eating while running. Having half a banana at a time would have been easier to digest.

When I reached Moscow City, I crossed a covered bridge. My face and legs tingled coming in from the cold.

The sun came out as I continued along busier roads. I crossed another bridge, had another banana and finished half the marathon just before meeting Hans. He lives next to Filievskiy Park so he knew the trails well.

As soon as we started running together, I noticed how tired I already was compared to Hans. It felt good to get away from the traffic and onto the quiet park trails. Hans is a good runner and he pushed me to keep going. He was fresh and his energy was infectious. Running with him helped me combat the mental fatigue. Now I understand the benefit of pacers while running a race.

I started experimenting with food. Hans helped me get the food out, this was something I didn’t think about before. As you get tired, everything takes more effort. Next time I would simplify how I pack the food and make it more accessible.

Coconut water tastes great, a sweet and salty boost.

The other food experiments went well too.

Avocado – I massaged it in my hands to make it soft as gel, then gave it a good squeeze. This pops the stem bit out and the soft avocado oozed out. There was some mess on my hands (wiped it on my pants, no big deal). I probably got 80% of the avocado into my mouth, while the remaining 20% was stuck inside. This slipped down surprisingly well.

Medjool Dates – These are the big, soft date. I don’t usually eat these but I heard they were good running fuel. They are chewy. I added water to my mouth to help chew them up. I managed to eat 4 at a time, but just 2 at a time would be easier to digest.

The cake was difficult to chew up without water, so I only had one piece and saved the rest for after the finish

We ended the run back at the park gates. I did a few extra strides to get the full 42.2km (26.2mi). My time was 3:57:48 (5:38 km pace / 9:04 mi pace). About 25 minutes slower than my Moscow Marathon time 2 months ago. I was carrying an extra 5kg (11 lbs) while eating and filming, so I was happy with the run results and eating experiments.


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