5 (Must Do) Tips to Prepare for the London Marathon | The Diet Consultant




With the 34th Virgin Money London Marathon kicking off this Sunday (13th April 2014), there is an incredible buzz in the capital! Over 36,000 runners have signed up to take on this amazing challenge; having put in the miles week in, week out, the days ahead is their time to relax and recover. However, if you are running the Marathon or know somebody that is, there are some important considerations to make to fully prepare for the 26.2 miles this Sunday morning.

Here are my top 5 things to tick off the ‘to do list’….

1. Get your Head Down

With just 6 days to go, you may have scaled down your training hours, this combined with a common case of pre-race nerves; has started to impact your usual (habitual) nights sleep. Poor sleep has been shown to alter ‘perceived effort’ during endurance exercise, which means if you’re not able to get your usual zzzz’s in the week leading up to the Marathon; the race may feel (even) harder to run than normal! Of course, I would recommend the usual sleep enhancing rituals before bed; turn off electronics (at least 2 hours) before, optimise room temperature and take time to relax.
TIP: Adjust your normal bedtime hours early this week, so that you are going to bed at the same time you plan to on Saturday evening, allowing a full nights sleep, prior to, an earlier than normal start on Sunday. Adjusting bedtime hours now will reset your body clock, increasing the likelihood of a much needed deep sleep before the race.

2. Stay well Hydrated

Dehydration is cumulative, which means if you start the week dehydrated and fail to drink enough to adequately hydrate; you may end up starting the race in a performance compromising state. It’s therefore, important to ensure you drink well all week. The easiest way to do this is to drink regularly throughout the day, particularly with meals (the natural salts within your food, further enhance hydration). You don’t need to go crazy on the fluids, just enough to ensure that you are peeing regularly and that your urine is a pale straw colour.
TIP: With that said you might want to stop drinking larger volumes the closer you get to bedtime, as needing the loo during the night is certain to scupper your perfectly implemented sleep prep!

2. To Load or not to Load

The carb loading strategy has changed considerably over the years, with research suggesting a less aggressive, non-depleting and more realistic approach is sufficient to saturate muscle glycogen stores (the energy we store in our muscles from carbs). With the aim of going from 5-7g carbs per kg of body weight per day to 8-10g, two-three days before the Marathon. Your plan should look a little like this….

Monday – Training day -eat and drink normally (i.e. High fibre carb based meals and snacks, with lean protein and lots of veg’)
Tuesday – Same as Monday – with slight taper in training
Wednesday – Same as Monday – with slight taper in training
Thursday – Rest day – Start to adjust the proportions of protein (meat/fish) and carbs (pasta, rice, potato) at meals, so that you are slightly increasing your carb serving whilst at the same time decreasing your protein serving (maintain a large serving of veg’ as usual)
Friday – Light training day – Repeat Thursday’s serving sizes.
Saturday – Rest day – Repeat Thursday’s serving sizes.
Sunday – The Marathon-  Large carb based breakfast about 3-4 hours prior.

The aim here is to eat more calories from carbohydrate not more total calories! This is why I recommend reducing serving sizes from protein such as meat and fish to counteract the extra calories from bigger servings of carbs. Eating regular meals and snacks based on wholegrain carbs (sweet/old/new potato, brown pasta, basmati rice, cous cous, wholegrain bread, oats and muesli) are perfect!
TIP: If you are struggling with your appetite, then you can always add honey and dried fruit to your cereal and yoghurts or drink extra carbs by replacing some of your daily fluid intake with low fat milk and/or fresh fruit juice.

3. Bland isn’t boring, it’s reassuring!

The last thing you need on race day is a dodgy tum! Stick to foods you know, like and tolerate. Friday and Saturday are not the best days to try the new local Indian restaurant and while the local Italian might offer a reliable serving of pasta to help satisfy your 8-10g.kg.bw of carbs, steer clear of chilies and spice. In fact, I would highly recommend cooking at home where you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that you are eating a well planned meal with all the ingredients you need, minus the ones you don’t.
Tip: If you are susceptible to runners tum (diarrhoea and cramping) before and during your event, swap your wholegrain carbs sources with white refined options from the Friday. Reducing the fibre in your diet could help to ‘slow things down’ a little and reduce the symptoms you commonly experience.

5. Plan Race Day Nutrition

You’ve done all you can to ensure you are ready; you’ve slept well, maintained hydration, you’ve saturated your glycogen stores and avoided foods that may cause you tummy upset. Don’t fall at the last hurdle; plan your race day nutrition! Plan to: –

  • Consume your breakfast 3-4 hours prior to the race (~6am), it should provide you between 1-4g.kg.bw of carbohydrates, either wholegrain or refined options (depending on your usual gut symptoms).
  • Carbs in Pictures, 160g breakfast (2g.kg.bw) for an 80 kg man, might look a little like but like this (all of it)….
55g Oats, 150mls SS milk, 1 tbsp of raisins & 1 tbsp of honey

55g Oats, 150mls SS milk, 1 tbsp of raisins & 1 tbsp of honey


2 x thick slices of toast with strawberry jam

2 x thick slices of toast with strawberry jam

200 mls Fresh Orange Juice

200 mls Fresh Orange Juice

Check the scheduled Marathon fluid and fuel stops (pages 16-17 of your Final Race Instructions), cross-reference this with your planned fluid intake (adjustable depending on the weather) as well as your carb intake throughout. The race organisers are offering Lucozade Sport drinks and gels throughout. If you plan to use another brand of products (preferably a range you have used during training), then think bout how you’ll carry them and when you will take them. Ideally, you will have measured your fluid needs and practiced your fuelling strategy within training, however if you haven’t the general recommendations are as follows;

  • Aim to drink ~ 4-800 mls of fluid/hour (gradually) during the race, most of your drinks should contain electrolytes (sodium), to replace those lost in sweat.  Check your sports drink contains sodium (ideally > 0.5 g/litre).
  • Aim to consume 30-90g of glucose/fructose containing drinks or gels gradually, every hour, after the first hour.

Tip: Do not try anything new on race day! If you haven’t tried out any particular sports nutrition drinks or gels, try them now. It won’t be the same as race day (as you won’t have trialled them during a long training session) but at least you’ll know you like it!

As with all big sporting events, its vital that the final days are well planned.  The Virgin Money London Marathon is no exception and with many participants running 26,2 miles for the first time, the smallest of details could have the biggest impact on their performance. After months of blood, sweat and tears, these extra considerations should if nothing else help runners to feel prepared, in control and ready to smash it on the day!

I’ll be cheering you all on from the busy, spectator lined streets of London! I’d love to hear how you are getting on, with your marathon planning in the comments section below?





Burke, L. Nutrition strategies for the marathon : fuel for training and racing. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) 37, 344–7 (2007).

Burke, L., Hawley, J., Wong, S. & Jeukendrup, A. Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of sports sciences 29 Suppl 1, S17–27 (2011).

Noakes, T. Fluid replacement during marathon running. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine 13, 309–18 (2003).

Oliver, S., Costa, R., Laing, S., Bilzon, J. & Walsh, N. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. European journal of applied physiology 107, 155–61 (2009).

Stellingwerff, T. Case study: nutrition and training periodization in three elite marathon runners. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 22, 392–400 (2012).

About The Diet Consultant

The Diet Consultant (aka Sharmain) is passionate about helping others to achieve their nutrition and fitness goals . She is a Sport Nutritionist and Clinical Dietitian, a food and fitness lover with a huge 'dollop' of empathetic and realistic reasoning. Here to make sense of the nutrition confusion out there, keeping things simple, making change easier.


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