Nutrition and staying hydrated during your virtual run

In the final 24-48 hours before any race you need to stick to what works for you. This is especially so for any marathon where it’s always you versus the distance and fuel.

Try not to worry about what other runners are doing and never introduce something new during your final prep. Now is the time to practice what worked best for you before long training runs and any half or full marathons previously undertaken.

There will be articles, social media hype and gossip about runners trying or using a special gel, drink, bar or snack and the temptation to follow is huge. You will be nervous about your virtual marathon or 10k but hopefully excited too! Trying to stay calm, organised and sticking to what you know works for YOU is the key! It’s very easy to also fall into the virtual race trap of thinking nutrition and fuel won’t be as important if I’m not in a real race with lots of other runners! It is more important now more than ever before.

If running a full marathon, the reality is your body will still be covering just over 26 miles on virtual race day and working hard for several hours or more. You therefore need plenty of energy from healthy carbs to fuel that run and marathon effort from start to finish.

I hope the tips below will help you to have best virtual race day possible, leaving you feeling full of energy all the way, especially in that tough final 6.2 miles…

Before your run

  • Aim to eat a good breakfast 2-3 hours before the start your race/run. Remember to eat slowly as nerves can lead many to eat breakfast too quickly, or not at all and upset their digestion or reduce energy levels.
  • A good example of a race day breakfast includes toast & jam, bananas, porridge, bagels and combinations of these all with a little fruit or yoghurt perhaps. Practice these options in the next week or two and see what works best for both you and your comfort and energy levels.
  • Enjoy your usual morning coffee or tea and try not to over hydrate on water and fluid. Some like to sip a sports drink occasionally in the final couple of hours to ensure energy levels remain high and you stay hydrated. Try not to comfort drink or consume more fluid than you would before a normal long run.
  • Snack on half an energy bar or a banana around 60-75 minutes before the race start. This will boost your energy stores one final time and should digest well before you start.

During your race

  • During the race, fuelling can help you sustain your energy and pace towards the end. The beauty of a virtual marathon is that you can plan your gels, snacks and fuel to fit with your timetable and route, so use this advantage to fuel little and often. Gels are still the easiest and most effective way to get any energy quickly and easily into your system. One gel after 30-45 minutes and one every 30-45 minutes thereafter can be a good strategy for all distance races, longer runs and the marathon. Take your time with a gel though, it’s not a shot! Sip it, don’t down it and you’ll find it is easier to digest and the body will absorb more. Energy drinks or even jelly babies are other common options – these can be harder to digest but do work, although it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need more of these to provide the same energy as a gel would in most instances.
  • Sip on water occasionally if required in the race/run but try not to overdo it – we don’t need to be drinking gallons of water. Start your virtual race well hydrated and then sip to thirst or every five kilometres or so to keep topped up. You may want to set up your own drink/aid station with family and friends from your bubble at this point and on similar locations along your route to help. Look forward to a drink station and plan gel breaks into your race helping to create segments and goals as you look to break the marathon distance down to achievable chunks. If running solo without support think about a lightweight running hydration pack or bottle & gel belt to take everything with you. This will save you carrying fluid by hand and any gels can be tucked into the bag or belt also. Please be sure to read our Medical Advice ahead of your long run(s).
  • Top tip – Take your first gel after 30-45 mins. You won’t feel like you need it, but constant topping up maintains energy levels. Leave it too long and you will risk hitting the wall and never catch up on those energy stores.
  • Remember if it’s hot, drinking water can cool you down but take care to not overdo it! Sports drink will hydrate you more.  Pouring water on your head and neck can help if it’s warmer as this will cool the body. Also by cutting your pace and running to a perceived effort rather than your usual pace will help too. My best advice is slow down if it’s hot and listen to how your body feels to gauge what pace and effort you should be running at.

Good luck and fuel that run!

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