700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Marathon Training: Best Practices for Your Best Performance

Aug 05, 2019
Grouper of runners standing around talking to each other

The 40th Annual Nationwide Children’s Columbus Marathon is just over two months away! As a four-time past participant of the race myself, I can confidently say there is no feeling comparable to the energy of race day. There are Patient Champions at every mile, huge cheering crowds and the best volunteer crew taking great care of every detail.

As a sports dietitian, I know the fueling plan is often the most difficult part of the training plan. But, a nutrition might be the competitive edge that helps you get that PR for which you’ve been striving! In order to optimize your training, nutrition needs to be a regular component of the workout plan - period. A car needs fuel to run properly, just as people need a healthful and nourishing eating plan. Routine eating has to be a priority; meal and snack planning takes extra time and is often pushed to the side due to hectic life schedules. Yet, the benefits of a fueling plan include:

  • Prevention of low blood sugar and its symptoms including dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and blurry vision
  • Prevent GI upset: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Decreased muscle tiredness and soreness
  • Helps muscles heal and recover and aid in injury prevention
  • Increased focus and attention span

Remember, it’s not all about what you eat the morning of the race. It’s ensuring you fuel well most days of the week. On the days leading up to your long runs, and especially race day, remember:

  • Simple: there are no magical foods or supplements, however, you might find foods that you feel more comfortable with. You have to figure out what works for you!
  • Familiar: do not try any new foods. If you want to see how a food settles, try eating it surrounding a practice run.
  • Light: avoid foods that are greasy, heavy, creamy, spicy, and rich foods that might not sit well on your stomach. This might also include dairy products.
  • Practice: figuring out your nutrition plan for race day is just as important as your training runs and proper running shoes. You should start practicing how you plan to fuel before the race with your long runs. Everyone is a bit different, so take the time to figure out what foods and timeframe work best for you.

The following chart is aimed to help you with pointers regarding pre, during, post run nutrition as well as hydration considerations:

Timing Recommendations


Food and Beverage Pairing Examples

Pre Exercise

 >2-4 hours beforehand


  • Find timing and types of foods that work best for you
  • ½ bagel with nut or seed butter

  • Avoid foods high in fat, protein, and fiber
  • Packet of oatmeal w/ dried fruit
  • Pre-race hydration should focus on water

  • Small granola bar + ½ banana

During Exercise

After the first hour:

  • Hydrate! Take small mouthfuls of fluid - do not chug water!

  • Energy chews
  • Gels
  • Maintain carbohydrate stores during the race
  • Honey
  • Half-marathon runners: aim for 30-60 grams carbohydrate per hour
  • Sports drinks
  • Gummy candy
  • Marathon runners: aim for 60-90 grams carbohydrate per hour
  • Dried fruit

Post Exercise

Aim for 15-60 minutes post

  • Consume carbohydrate & protein pairings to help replenish and recover exhausted muscles
  • Turkey sandwich and glass of chocolate milk


  • Include sodium as part of your meal to help replace electrolytes & retain fluid lost in sweat
  • 2-3 eggs and two pieces of toast with butter
  • Replenish fluids lost during the race with water, milk, chocolate milk, or sports drinks
  • Fruit smoothie with yogurt, berries, banana

Your morning coffee is okay as long as you practice drinking it before a long run and if it is not something brand new that you implement on race day. Caffeine is shown to have performance benefit in endurance events, however, proceed with caution if you’re not a regular java drinker! It will be an early morning, but my advice is don’t chance it and stick to your tried and true plan.

Feel confident that both your training and fueling plan support your performance and comfort on race day. I assure you, putting the time in now will be more than worth it! If you’re running - I wish you all the best of luck! If you’re not running- I’ll be cheering alongside you on the course! For more information, please visit our website.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Jessica Buschmann, RD
Sports Medicine

Jessica Buschmann, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. As part of her role at Nationwide Children’s, she provides nutrition services to Ohio Dominican University’s athletic teams and the general student population.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.