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Marathon Training Tips (From a Dietitian Who’s Run Four)

16 January 2017

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If you’re like many Oklahoma City runners, the end of the holiday season means it’s time to lace up your running shoes and get back out there. Springtime races are approaching, and training is in full swing. Brent Wilson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with INTEGRIS. In his six years of running, Wilson has completed four marathons. With the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon coming up in April, he is sharing training tips from his dual perspective of being both a dietitian and a seasoned runner. Here’s what Wilson has to say about hydration, carb-loading, recovery and more.

What’s different about the Oklahoma City marathon

The mission of the Memorial Marathon — commonly referred to as the Run to Remember — is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memory of those who were killed and unite the world in hope. The names of each of the 168 victims of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing are displayed along the course, and 100 percent of race proceeds benefit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The race also honors survivors and first responders. Ask anyone who’s participated, and they’ll tell you it’s unlike any other race. Wilson couldn’t agree more.

“I love the sense of community that the race brings,” Wilson says. “When you’re out on the course and you see the names of all the lives lost on that horrible day, it’s just a humbling experience. It truly is a run to remember.”

Two things not to miss in trainingBrent Wilson

No matter which race lies ahead of him, Wilson focuses on two main things throughout his training regimen: hydration and proper carbohydrate intake.

Wilson stresses adequate hydration not just on race day, but every day, to give your body the foundation it needs. “Drink water every day, not just the day of or before the run. When you are training, you will likely be going on a long run almost every week. Treat this run like the marathon. Hydrate for several days before the run. Don’t wait until the last minute to try and get enough water.”

Try this hydration hack: Wilson recommends dividing your body weight in half to get the number of ounces you should be aiming to drink each day, at a minimum. For example, a 200-pound male should at least be drinking 100 ounces of water daily when training for a race.

“I carry water with me on long runs,” Wilson says. He prefers the hand straps that can be placed around a water bottle, but he’s also tried hydration vests and belts. Use whatever feels most comfortable to you.

When it comes to carbohydrate intake, Wilson warns runners not to overdo it. “Many people think they have to eat an extreme amount of carbohydrates before their runs to ‘carb load,’ but it really doesn’t take much more than what most people normally eat,” Wilson says.

“If a typical meal contains 45-60 grams of carbohydrates, I’d say add 15-30 grams of carbs to your typical meal to ensure adequate carb intake.” Wilson’s favorite carb additions include a banana, one or two pieces of toast or two-thirds of a cup of pasta or rice.

A dietitian’s favorite mid-race fuel

Many runners carry portable food sources with them during a race for on-the-go glucose and sodium replenishment. From gelatin blocks to gooey gel packs, most fitness retailers carry a variety of options. Wilson, however, prefers to prepare his mid-race snacks himself.

“I have tried all the fuel supplements, but for me, I prefer real food - something low-fiber to prevent GI distress, but with enough sodium to prevent cramps. My go-to is a flour tortilla with ham and mustard … I know it sounds weird, but works for me. It has simple carbs, protein and sodium, which is everything I’m looking for while running.” If you use a running belt or something with pockets, try carrying a homemade snack on a training run.

Dealing with painful flare-ups

For many runners, months of training inevitably leads to shin splints, tired joints or muscle aches. Wilson uses anti-inflammatory foods to help combat these issues.

“Flax seeds, ginger and turmeric are all included in my diet to help fight inflammation. An easy way for me to get all three is to add them to a smoothie post-run.”

Wilson’s Go-To Recovery Smoothie:

1 cup plain kefir
½ cup berries
Handful of spinach
1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 tbsp. ginger
1 tbsp. turmeric

Finding the strength to just keep running

When Wilson struggles to find motivation to train, as most runners do at one point or another, he remembers his favorite quote from the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall:

“You don't stop running because you get old - you get old because you stop running.”

For more tips on healthy ways to fuel your body while training, read our blog on pre-race nutrition.

New to the race scene? We've covered how to conquer your first race with runners' and walkers' training guides.