Beer, baby food and choc chip cookies – welcome to the crazy fuelling sources of the day-night marathon runners.
Ask a dozen different runners what they’d eat over a 24-hour event and you’d get a dozen different answers for sure. But within those preferred portions, comfort snacks and energy boosters lies a formula for sustenance, stamina and success.
Here’s how those who’ve gone before prepared their bodies for the ardours of a 24-hour race – and what they ate during and after their challenges
Team GB 24-hour runner and inov-8 ambassador, team.inov-8.com
Pre race: “Before every race I always have a mug of coffee and a big bowl of porridge (1 mug of oats (100g) with 2 mugs of water/ Almond milk or milk with salt) as it can be a bit of time between breakfast and the start of the race.
Some 24-hour races start at 12 noon and I find the porridge keeps me full for that time. In the week building up to a race I stick to meals I know – the porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch, chicken for dinner, nuts as snacks. The only thing I do change on the week of the build-up is that I’ll drink some beetroot juice, which I stop on the Wednesday before the race.
Race snacks: “In the first eight hours I try to eat a lot more solid foods which have protein in them – chicken, tinned salmon, cheese – once an hour during a walking break. I may supplement with a flapjack or half a Chia charge bar. Drinks-wise I will have electrolytes and water or chocolate soya milk.
In the middle eight hours of the race I switch to more sweets (Jelly babies). And in the final eight hours – anything goes. I find that it’s a bit of a struggle to eat and so I start to rely on gels, Coke or my favourite, Red Bull and bananas.”
Recovery recipe: “I can feel a bit woozy after a 24-hour event and so I try to eat quite quickly after the race has finished. Lucozade Energy tablets and a Mars Milk Shake (which I love) are in my post-race recovery bag. I will also try to eat something more substantial in the hour or so afterwards, for example, some tuna pasta is good.
Long-distance runner and Team GB triathlete
Pre-race: “In the week leading up to a 24-hour race you don’t want to stray too far from the foods that you normally eat and that your body is used to,” says Emma. By this point you will be in a tapering phase so will be doing less exercise as it is which means if you eat similarly to how you usually eat then this in effect will be carb loading. “Just try to keep the sugar content a bit lower and the wholesome food content higher (i.e. your fibrous fruit and veg and lean protein) so you don’t feel hungry at any point in this week.
On race day go big with lots of carbs but cut back on the fibre content though.”
Race snacks: “These should be easily digestible, so liquid or if you can stomach it, whole food. Gels and powders are all down to personal taste, but the basics are – very low protein and fat, no fibre and mainly carbs. A lot of people work well off 60gs of carbs per hour – again snacks or liquids – drinking when thirsty (little and often), and also having a 1:1 ratio, electrolyte drink to water.”
Recovery recipe: “For the proceeding 48 hours make sure you have more protein than carbs in your meals, and at least two glasses of water because dehydration has been shown to have a more detrimental effect on your body recovery post-race.”
Ultrarunner, 2015 winner of the 118-mile Spitfire Scramble 24 and Spartathlon competitor. His is an atypical approach to day-night fuelling
Pre-race: “I have been through times when I have tried shakes and protein snacks and so on,” says Corderoy. “But I prefer a less-processed approach – fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, an afternoon snack of fruit and nuts and then for dinner I would eat lots of vegetables, lentils and a small amount of rice. It’ll be less, quantity-wise, as I’ll be tapering and not burning so many calories. A difference would be that my salt intake will rise. For race-day breakfast I will have a cereal bar and fruit – a banana and an apple. I’ll eat throughout a 24-hour and a pre-race meal would only affect the first two hours or so anyway.”
Race snacks: “I will eat every hour or so, anything from three chocolate chips biscuits to a handful of peanuts and Jelly beans mixed. Other snacks are an apple, a cereal bar and salty biscuits. My complete intake for the Spitfire Scramble which I won was: 100gs peanuts, 50gs of Jelly beans, 1 packet of Tuc biscuits, half a packet of chocolate chip cookies and five apples, a can of cola and one litre of black coffee.”
Recovery recipe: “Immediately post-race I finish up the crap (sweets, biscuits and peanuts) that I bought and didn’t eat in the race. That evening it will be my usual dinner but my portions are larger than usual for a week, as I play catch up with calories and protein lost during the event.
First placed female in the 2015 Spitfire Scramble 24, running 107 miles. As a vegan her nutrition plan takes on a wholly plant-based shape void of dairy, meat, eggs or fish.
Pre-race: “I tend to eat a low processed carb, high fruit/veg, high fat diet when training and in pre-race weeks. No pasta, potatoes, rice or bread products. I do however eat a lot of bananas so any carbs I get are from fruit and veg,” says Kate. “As a rule of thumb I try and eat ‘raw ‘til 4’ when I’m planning for a race, with a cooked evening meal. For example, Thai curries with lots of coconut milk, so high fat, but with no rice with it. Tofu adds extra protein – although I really don’t find I need to make an extra effort as I meet all of my needs simply through what I eat. Sometimes I just love comfort food though, like soups, or stews.”
Race snacks: “During runs I start by fuelling as though I was running a marathon for the first six hours or so. I use high and low GI carbs to provide balanced energy release, Isotonic drinks and baby foods. Baby foods provide carbs through fruits and also through rice – a longer burning carb source.
I also use fruits such as dates and dried strawberries/raspberries at this point.” “As time goes on I switch away from carbs to ‘fat burning’, at around 40 miles in, at which point I need very little fuel. I drink Coke between the electrolyte drinks and snack on dark chocolate covered fruit such as cranberries and raisins. I’ll also snack on nuts as they allow instant release of energy. I eat something every lap (10km usually) and take something in my pocket. The later the race goes on the more I go by instinct, eating only when I feel the need.”
Recovery recipe: “I have a beer usually before I do anything, then I just get calories in however I can, whether that’s cake or crisps I take that opportunity to enjoy something more of a treat! The last couple of months I’ve been doing back-to-back ultras – anything from 65 miles to 107 miles – so my aim between races has been refuelling lost calories.