If there’s one thing that marathon training has taught me it’s that you can’t neglect the basics – fuelling & hydration. I’ve always vaguely known that fuelling and recovery aren’t my biggest strengths, but if there’s one thing that’s going to bring it home to you it’s finishing a 16 mile training run and not feeling recovered until three days later. Or not being able to complete a long run because you get struck down with a migraine mid-run. Both of which naturally hinder not only the rest of your training, but day-to-day life to boot.
So with just over a month to go until the big day, I really need to get on top of these to make sure I nail the rest of my long runs and make it to the start line in one piece.
I suppose there are three main elements to fuelling – before, during and after runs. The before and after are probably having the biggest impact on me in terms of migraines. Approximately 30% of my long runs are being struck by migraine at the moment – I get an ‘aura’ which for me takes the form of broken/distorted vision, tingling limbs and nausea. 50% of the time this passes and doesn’t progress to the vice-like head pain stage, the rest of the time it does. Either way, the aura is enough to – literally – stop me in my tracks, what with not being able to see my feet or the path. Particularly not ideal when it happens several miles from home, and I’m really worried about this happening during the marathon. I’ve put the triggers down to hormones and low blood sugar, and whilst there’s not a lot I can do about my hormones, my blood sugar levels are reasonably within my control.
I’ve settled on jelly babies as my main source of run fuel, but after a chat with my coach I’ve realised that I’m not eating enough of them during a run (currently 2 every 4k, which at long run pace is about 25 mins), so I’m going to up this to 4-5 every 20 mins to try to make sure I don’t run out of energy.
My pre-run fuelling routine also isn’t ideal as I tend not to get up early enough to let my porridge or toast (ideally both) be fully digested before I run, so this is a change I’m forcing myself to make for the next 6 weeks. You gotta do what you gotta do and all that.
Finally, I’m TERRIBLE at not getting some protein and carbs in me straight after running (anyone else feel nauseous or is it just me?) but the times I do manage it I notice an incredible difference the next day; significantly less drained, ratty, hangry etc. so I’ll be making this a big focus between now and April 23rd.
I always thought I was good at keeping hydrated, but I’ve realised that I’m just good at knowing I should keep hydrated. Which apparently isn’t the same thing. I’m not too bad at drinking post-run – I drink plenty of water with electrolytes for the rest of the day, but I definitely worry about drinking too much whilst running in case of weeing situations, and as a result I tend to under-hydrate (another migraine trigger), so I’m just going to have to suck it up and embrace peeing in bushes if necessary.
I’m also not great at hydrating sufficiently during the week so Brita kindly sent me one of their new Fill & Go bottles, which I’m trying to use every day to keep track of how much I’m drinking. I use it on my walk to and from work, which gives me no excuse not to drink first thing in the morning. Hopefully this will also reduce the amount of staring-at-a-computer-screen headaches I get. The bottle comes with a filter so the water tastes ‘clean’ which is a bonus.
So I know what I need to put into practice between now and London – here’s hoping I can actually do it! I have a new list of marathon goals which I will share soon, but for now I’m going to do all that I can to get to that starting line fighting fit.
*Full disclosure: I was very kindly sent the water bottle for free by Brita in exchange for a review. All opinions (and migraines) my own.