What to eat before a Marathon


Oatmeal and toast! photo via Flickr cc rpavich

Lately, I have gotten lots of questions about what I like to eat before a marathon the week before and the morning of the race. I get it. You’ve put so much effort and time into training that the last thing you want to worry about is stomach distress. With the marathon being the beast that it is, improper fueling and hydration before and during, can mean the difference of a personal record or the dreaded DNF. So here goes…a few tips from myself and a few other elites.

Race Week:

Hydration: Hopefully you’ve been doing  good job with your nutrition and hydration all along, but it’s never too late. You can’t expect to be properly hydrated before your race by guzzling water or gatorade the morning of…it will just go right through you. I like to start each morning drinking at least 8-10 oz of water all at once. Your body will get used to it after a few days. Hydrating throughout the day is important particularly after your workouts, so focus on getting 3-4 more 8 oz throughout the day, more in the summer months.  I usually fill up a 20oz bottle of cytomax and finish during or after a run or workout. Certainly start focusing on getting your body properly hydrated about 10 days out of your marathon, particularly if it’s going to be a hot one.

Nutrition: Normally, you are training hard and burning tons of calories, so you might not pay attention to how much you are eating. During the last week, you will be in taper mode and not burning as many calories, but it does not mean you should skimp on your calories. Listen to your body and make sure you are making good low-fat choices. Sometimes I choose smaller meals, but eat more often. I usually still find myself wanting something before bed. It’s great to eat some protein before bed as it helps with your muscle recovery while you are sleeping. I usually choose bread and peanut butter or a drink some muscle milk. I’ll still eat my staple meals such as Salmon with rice and veggies, steak with potatoes and veggies.

Race Morning: 

Hydration: Usually I wake up 3 hours prior to the race time and chug about 16 oz of water all at once. Since I do this all the time, my body is used to it, and I don’t go into bladder overload. If do I have plenty of time to hit lots of bathrooms. After the initial water chug, I sip on whatever I am planning to drink during the race. Usually cytomax lemon-lime. I have practiced this plenty, so the chances of throwing it up during the race or hopefully slim. You want to try and drink at least 4 oz every 5k if you can. Focus on drinking early while your are still feeling comfortable.

The Last Breakfast: Again, I do this 3 hours before my race usually right after I chug the water. Most of the time I use the coffee maker in the room and make instant oatmeal because I’m still half asleep and a lot of hotel breakfast places aren’t open at 4 am. Go figure?! I also usually have a bagel or a muffin, to get a few extra carbs and help with all that water I just drank. I don’t like to be hungry on the starting line, so I might eat half a power bar or a protein bar if I feel my stomach growling. Generally the 3 hours before allows me to hit the bathroom and not worry about GI problems. I think the water helps with that as well. During the race, I try and take one gel about the 90 minute mark and have another on me in case I think I need it after 2 hours. Make sure you take a gel and then get some water in you to help it absorb better.

Other Elites:

Kara Goucher: 2 Olympian and 2:24 Marathoner has recently gone mostly vegan, but eats meat 1x a week and lots of fish. She also hydrates with NUUN products throughout the day. When I asked her what she likes before it was either toast, coffee and a banana or oatmeal, coffee and a banana. Check out Running on Veggies website for lots of great recipes.






Fernando Cabada: 2:11 Marathoner and  likes chicken and pasta the night before a big race. His go to breakfast is wheat bread with nutella. Yum!








Danny Tapia 2:14 Marathon and World Championship Team member likes to say with simple rice meals with chicken and Salmon the week of of race. He stays away from salads and other greens and foods too high in fiber to limit GI distress problems. He also avoids red meat and uncooked seafood. Breakfast is always the same and consists of coffee, a bagel with peanut butter, banana, oatmeal and some water and gatorade.


Blake Russell

Runner, Wife and Mom. Enjoying where the running world has taking me and looking forward to the journey.

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