A really common question once you start running for longer distance is what do you use to keep your energy levels up along the way. Usually, it’s mostly about replacing the sugar that you lose every hour. But depending on who you talk to it might involve a bit of honey and some nuts or it might involve gels or chews or sugar tablets or jelly beans. Really, there’s no science to it. It’s all about trying out different things to see what works for you and what your stomach is going to be happy about as well as your energy levels.
In general, you need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. But you will need to start before then so your tank isn’t empty. What that carbohydrate looks like will depend on what suits you and it can take awhile to train your stomach and your palate to handle some of the fuel options!
So, I set out to ask some cool people I know what they do for long runs.
“Every 40 mins I have water with a gel and I sip away a lot towards the end. I have Camelbak so it’s hard to say but over a 30 plus k run is probably drink 3-3.5L. At the marathon I drank at every water station. At first just sip or 2 but towards end I couldn’t get enough in”
“I drank a bottle of PowerAde on my 15k run last week and had a couple of half cups of water. That felt about right for the conditions (warm).”
“I drink loads the day before then sips each 3kms (that’s where the taps are). A gel before I left then another Gu at 10 then 14km (for an 18) also had some GF fruit chews that snacked on at 8 and 12 and 16 but not sure if these made much difference”
“I stop at the bubbler at 5, 10 and 15km approx and drink 3-4 litres the days leading up to the run. I run with red frogs still playing with gels and shot blocks.”
“I drink about 3L the day before, and have a bottle next to me in bed and drink about a glass before I leave. I ran 21km the other week with just a few sips of water and zero gels. Same day I smashed my PB by 4 minutes. It was a relatively cool morning so wasn’t thirsty. However on marathon day it was hot and I was terrified of dehydrating so I did my usual prep the day before and had a water and a powerade every 5km and shot bloks every 10km. I felt great hydration-wise the whole way. Personally I think diet and hydration in the few days before is where it counts. That’s what works for me. I’ve only used gels (shot bloks) in a half marathon once and that was just practice for the mara. I have never needed them for that distance. I would probably do up to 25km without them. Honey sachets or jelly beans are enough for me. I take carb loading very seriously ha ha!”
“I only carry my water on 2+ hr runs & the more of these I run the less I’m needing to hydrate. Usually only a honey straw about half way through a long run. And coffee features prominently somewhere in there”
“ I tend to grab for a gel (Gu choc mint) every 45mins on runs over say 15km. Recent marathon saw me take all 6 Gu shots I had stashed – 1 before the race and the rest interspersed, last one had at 38km.
I tried to drink plenty the day before but am naturally shocking at consuming water normally (working on changing that). I wouldn’t normally carry water for anything under 21-25km as my run course is usually around the river somewhere with access to water – it’s also dependant on the heat and humidity. I am also a new jelly bean convert”