Ready, steady...go!

Are you fit for a marathon? Photo: Adam Davy/PA Photos
Are you fit for a marathon? Photo: Adam Davy/PA Photos

Marathon season is upon us, and whether you’re taking part in any big events this summer or have started training to tackle something in the future, preparing early and effectively will make all the difference when it comes to performance, avoiding injury and, most importantly, enjoyment along the way.

Ted Munson, performance nutritionist for Science in Sport (SiS), and Deep Heat and Deep Freeze brand ambassador Toby Garbett, a triathlete and Olympic and two-time World Champion rower, share their top tips on fuelling and nutrition and perfecting your prep ahead of race day...


From supporting your training regime through to staying energised on the big day, nutrition and hydration play a key role. Ted Munson, SiS performance nutritionist (, suggests:


“It’s carbs that fuel you predominantly on race day, so it’s important to eat carbohydrate-rich foods leading up to your run. We recommend 100g of carbohydrates for an evening meal, such as pasta or potatoes, avoiding excess fat, fibre and spicy food. On the morning of the race, have a carb-based breakfast, such as toast or cereal, three hours before the start.”


“Most of us have enough carbohydrates stored in our bodies for 90 minutes of exercise, so for the race itself, you will need additional intake. We’d recommend two to three isotonic energy gels per hour of the marathon.”


“A runner can lose up to two litres of fluid an hour in warm conditions, so starting your race fully hydrated is essential to your performance. Sipping an electrolyte drink before and during the race will mean you’ll be fully hydrated. Aim to replace 500 to 1000ml of fluid per hour depending on your sweat rate.”


“It’s important to practice your nutritional routine. In the final weeks of training, consider what works well for you and don’t do anything new in terms of nutrition on race day. Measure what levels of carbohydrate and water you’re comfortable with while running, then stick to these amounts on the day to avoid unexpected discomfort or dehydration.”


“The first 30 minutes after the race are most important for recovery; it’s essential to start the recovery process immediately and drink plenty of water to rehydrate. A good recovery gel, that can be easily absorbed, will help muscles recover. Have a balanced meal when you get home and, again, replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. It’s also worth taking in protein the night before and on the night of the race, to ensure muscles are in a good condition.”


With years of Olympic training and World Champ medals under his belt, Toby Garbett is no stranger to the physical and mental discipline that goes into preparing for a challenge. Here are his top tips to ensure you’re ready for race day:


“The marathon is a bit like an exam, you can’t cram at the last minute - but you can improve your performance with the right revision. Make sure you taper your training and work lifestyle ahead of the big day, by resting your legs as much as you can and mentally unwinding with lots of good sleep.”


“The Six Ps - ‘perfect planning and preparation prevents poor performance’ - applies more than ever for a marathon. It’s vital you decide what kit you’re going to need, and have it prepared well in advance of race day. Have a practice of race morning, even just the day before, to ensure your kit’s prepared and portable. This prevents last-minute flusters, which will only exacerbate race-day nerves and distract you from the important task of mental focus and preparation.”


“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised it takes me slightly longer to get into ‘the zone’ when exercising, as my body has to warm up to get to its optimum function. This time can be reduced greatly with a proper warm-up, which, in the short-term, will increase blood-flow to muscles and stimulate your cardiovascular system, allowing you to perform better. Long-term, being warm and stretched will help prevent musculoskeletal injuries.”


“It’s very easy to become distracted at big sporting events: you might get distracted at the expo leading up to the race, or become focussed on the latest bit of kit that you don’t have. Even on race day, you can lose your focus with all the media coverage and other runners. Try to find some personal space where you can take a moment to relax your breathing and prepare your mind - you might find it helpful to visualise yourself running with good technique and positive energy. This should enable you to execute your race plan to best effect.”


“In the last hour, if you’re not already in the queue for the loos, make sure you join it, as they’re always long! Take an old jumper and plastic bin-liner with arm holes. You might feel silly, but this will keep you warm and dry with the inevitable standing around - it’s crucial to help prevent injury and maximise performance by beginning the race with warm muscles. Any clothing left at the start line is collected for charity, so you know that whatever you sacrifice for the race will go to a good cause - the icing on the cake for what should be, don’t forget, a fun and memorable experience!”