Most runners know how it feels to run out of gas somewhere near the end of a long run. Over the course of several minutes or miles, things can go from good to bad to unbearable.
Many marathoners hit the dreaded “wall” and know how horrible those last grueling kilometres can be after the body’s fuel stores (primarily glycogen) run dry. When this happens, maintaining even an easy pace can become difficult if not impossible and can also leave you feeling totally exhausted and drained for hours if not days afterward.
Marathoners and half-marathoners are usually aware of the importance of fuelling for success in longer distance running events. Experts routinely recommend that runners of all abilities pay special attention to their fueling needs both before, during and after a long run or race.
As far as performance is concerned, any run lasting about 75 minutes or more–think anything longer than about 15K–could benefit from fuelling with some simple sugars (carbohydrates). This can come in a variety of forms such as energy drinks, gels, bars or chews (even candy, dried fruit or maple syrup can work) which come in a seemingly endless array of flavours, making it easy to find something that works for you.
A general rule of thumb for fuelling during endurance activities is to consume 30-60 grams of simple carbohydrates per hour of endurance exercise. This equates to about one gel or one pack of chews every hour.
It’s always best to practice taking fuel in training, especially during longer runs and possibly race-pace workouts as well. Find a fuel that works for you–this might require testing out a few options–and take it on a training run just as you would during a goal race. Practice how you store the fuel, the timing of taking it as well as how much you take. Do this at least a handful of times before race day to ensure you’re comfortable with the timing and technique. This will both train your body to utilize the fuel it’s given as well as give you the confidence to know you have what it takes to go the distance.