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The secret to a good long run: eat more food

22 August 2022

On Sunday, during a camping trip and following two nights of broken sleep in a tent, I ran 20 miles along Norfolk country roads and afterwards I simply carried on with my weekend as if it hadn’t happened. My secret? Food. Before the run, during the run, after the run: food, food, food.

I don’t often run 20 miles and am not particularly fit (for me) at the moment – I’m just trying to get to the start line of the Rutland marathon on September uninjured, with three long (18 miles +) runs under my belt. I am 46 and my knees do a weird click when I stretch my quads, but it turns out that age does bring some experience. Before my first marathon, a long run could wipe out a whole day: the aching hips, the toilet issues, feeling sick afterwards, feeling lightheaded during.

Nowadays I put in the work not to feel like that. But don’t worry! It’s not real work and most of it is very very tasty. Here’s what I did for Sunday, in case it helps you with your long run routine.

The day before

I treat a long run (18 miles plus) like a marathon. I try to carb load, drink enough water, and try not to drink too much alcohol. On Sunday this meant:

  • Some carbs for *every* meal the day before, plus a snack. I had a massive flapjack from the bakery in Wells-next-the-Sea.
  • Extra carbs with dinner/ evening meal. I was camping so I had baked beans and sausages – not a great pre-run meal – so I had a big slice of sourdough with it and afterwards I was feeling quite full, so I had another slice.
  • Pudding. I had toasted (or as my daughter said “roasted”) marshmallows. Yes please.
  • A beer, sure, it’s saturday night! But nothing after 9pm, and a pint of water after.

The morning

  • Finish eating 1.5 – 2 hours before I start the run
  • Some caffeine to start my… morning routine.
  • Eat boring, non fibrous, carbs. If I would usually have two slices of toast, I eat three. On Sunday I had a big iced bun and half a(nother) flapjack.
  • ( I avoid peanut butter, after several trips to the bushes at the Bewl Water Marathon 2017)
I got up at 5:20am – recommended

The run

  • It was hot, so I took two full soft flasks (500ml) of water with electrolyte tablets, in my vest. I sip regularly when I feel like it. Towards the end of the run I stopped a couple of times to drink a bit more. I came back with some left, but I would rather take more and be safe.
  • I had two gels, at 6 miles and 14 miles – I use Science in Sport ones – I wouldn’t say I like them, but they’re easy to get hold of in supermarkets and I am now used to them.
  • I took some sweets (jelly tots: a bad choice, they are like glue in your mouth) and ate them at 10 miles and 16 miles. They tasted of regret.

After the run

  • I eat as soon as I can – I had a packet of salt and vinegar hula hoops and an apple when I got back to the tent.
  • Drink, obviously.
  • Eat something with protein within the hour – nuts, cheese, something small is fine.
  • Drink again – easy to forget!
  • Have a proper meal when I feel hungry, it doesn’t have to be big, I’ve fuelled the run already. I had half my daughter’s (massive) burger, and an ice-cream.
  • Have a beer, if you like! I had one from the Adnams tent at Blakeney village fete.

Healthy choices?

A 20 mile run is an extreme thing to ask your body to do. It needs quick energy, easily available, to do it well. Looking at this list, very few of these foods look like “healthy” choices. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good. This is what good looks like for me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. africker permalink
    26 August 2022 2:07 pm

    Thanks for this. I have never run that far and I suspect it is in part as I lack the fuel. I did a 15 mile XC thing back in March and was not in a happy place by the end – almost certainly due to running out of everything. Buns for brekkie!

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