Fellow marathon runners…firstly we FEEL ya, but we are all very nearly THERE. We’re both injured and are currently feeling the psychological strains and pressures of the penultimate few weeks of training, but we all just have to put our positive Polly hats on and plough on.
So the more people we speak to, the more we realise dicky tums are SO common in runners, so we thought we’d whizz up a quick blog in between foam rolling about it.
Firstly, you can train your gut! Just like you train your body to run the distance, you can train your gut to go to distance too and teach it to absorb carbohydrates on-the-go. GI issues are so common amongst runners but they should not result in under-fuelling throughout your marathon; 26.2 miles is too far to go without topping energy levels up and can actually be really dangerous when the tank gets empty. It’s definitely a process of trial and error, so you have to start testing out different solutions/energy gels/sweets (or whatever your preferred fueling option is), the method of intake (sipping a fluid/chewing on sweets) and the timing of consumption well before the actual race in order to get it as right as you can. We’ve been taking gels around 45 mins in and then again, every half hour and trialing one caffeine one in the mix – it’s great for a mental boost, but definitely give them a bash on your last few short runs before the big day.
In terms of products to use, you don’t have to be constricted to supermarket options marketed for sports – the majority of which are quite intimidating/intense in packaging and are often full of sh*t so might actually cause your gut more issues than they’re worth!
Instead you could go for simple pantry cupboard items like homemade banana chips, a handful of raisins or simple gummy bears/jelly babies as they are all carbohydrate rich. HOWEVER, if you opt for the more natural options you must also be mindful of electrolytes, which are normally incorporated into the special sports manufactured brands.
We’ve learnt this the (very dehydrated) hard way, electrolytes are vital in training as well as racing due to their ability to keep internal balance in the body and reduce risk of dehydration- something that can cause stomach cramping, nausea and other GI issues.
Water is obviously good in terms of hydration but it doesn’t contain the potassium/sodium/magnesium/calcium needed to prevent cramping or fluid imbalance. A natural approach is obviously salty food post-race, but you can get certain tablets which can be chewed mid race to keep things balanced (Nuun tablets are good).
Precautions can be taken pre-race, so I know we’re usually banging on about increasing your fibre intake BUT it’s usually a good idea not to eat very much fibre in the days before.
We’d never usually condone this but our research burrowing has mainly said the best race prep diet would usually be deemed as quite an ‘unhealthy diet’ because it’s really bland and not exactly brimming with spices and lots of colourful fruits and veg… but we think it’s important to be able to let the experimental/variety approach go for a short period and remember it’s not for very long. Just try and find a balance that works for you – possibly more soluble than insoluble fibre (peeling skins off stuff), and easily digestible protein like smooth peanut butter rather than crunching on nuts etc, can be kinder on your digestive tract. Lisa has actually been diagnosed with a dodgey ileocecal valve, which might be affecting her IT band injury – more on that to come – so she’s been off nuts and roughage and raw fruit and veg.
Long and short is GI issues are totally normal and you shouldn’t feel weird when your guts go a bit weird…running does weird things to ya!!
And at the end of the day, you can try and ‘train the gut’ as much as you want and take as many precautionary measures, but race day will always be a bit like entering the unknown and you’ve just got to keep a calm head on you and not stress out in the lead up….
Adrenaline has the ability of not only getting you through the painful miles, but also going into survival mode when it comes to just telling your gut to get on with it! We’re right behind you, don’t forget to send us your marathon snaps to @thegutstuff and we’ll all get through it together.
The Macs x
Big thanks to Dietitian Imogen Wolesley who helped us out with all this advice, she’s also a running WHIZZ, so knows her stuff.