How to fuel for a Half-Marathon?

Are you gearing up for a half marathon in the near future? Numerous runners ponder the best way to fuel for a half marathon. It’s a distance that exceeds a 10K run but doesn’t demand the extensive nutrition needed for a full marathon. Let’s explore fueling strategies for a half-marathon in detail.

The specifics of fueling for a Half-Marathon

In the context of a half marathon, runners don’t face the notorious ‘wall’ that typically emerges around the 30th to 35th kilometer in a full marathon. Nonetheless, during the 1.5 to 2 hours of running a half marathon, carbohydrate reserves begin to dwindle. It’s crucial to recognize that these carbohydrate reserves are the most efficient source of energy for endurance distances. Thus, ensuring that your carbohydrate reserves are adequately stocked before the race begins is essential. A 70kg runner will expend approximately 1500 kcal over the course of a half marathon.

Glycogen stores within the body are finite, capped at around 2000 to 2200 kcal for glycogen stored in both the liver and muscles combined. If these stores are optimized before the race and replenished in the morning of the race day, there’s no need for additional intake during the event itself. Conversely, if your glycogen stores are not fully prepared, consuming carbohydrates during the race becomes beneficial for sustaining your energy levels throughout the half marathon.

Optimizing carbohydrate stores before your Half-Marathon

Maximizing your glycogen stores in the days preceding the race is crucial. This process involves a strategic carbohydrate load. Prioritize the consumption of carbohydrates through easily digestible foods in the days leading up to your event.

On race morning, it’s essential to eat adequately without overindulging. Your goal is to fuel up without consuming so much that you risk side stitches. Aim to eat a substantial meal about 3 hours before the race to ensure proper digestion. Suitable food options include pancakes, ‘sport’ specific cakes, honey, fruit compote, or even a modest serving of rice paired with ham or tuna.

Hydration is equally important, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids such as tea, herbal tea, and water. Keep a water bottle handy and take small sips regularly right up to the start of the race.

Hydration and nutrition during the Half-Marathon

If your carbohydrate reserves have been adequately prepared before the race, the stored 2000 kcal should be enough to sustain you through the entirety of the half-marathon. Nonetheless, pre-race anxiety can sometimes lead to a slight depletion of these reserves. In such cases, consuming a carbohydrate source, such as an energy gel, between the 12th and 15th kilometer can prove beneficial.

Apart from offering a psychological uplift, this timely intake can also provide a much-needed energy surge in the final stages of the race. For a half marathon, a single gel, taken 20 to 30 minutes before crossing the finish line, is typically sufficient.

Hydration remains a critical factor. Drinking a few sips of water around the 10th and 15th kilometer markers is advisable to maintain throat hydration and provide a bit of moisture, particularly on warmer days when temperatures exceed 20 degrees Celsius.

To ensure a smooth race day, familiarize yourself with the locations of hydration stations beforehand by checking the official race website. This planning can help you avoid any unwelcome surprises and keep your focus on the race.

Fueling during a Half-Marathon: adjusting to your goal and runner profile

For those familiar with long distances, carbohydrate intake during the race might not be necessary. If you’re gearing up for a marathon and using a half-marathon as preparation, testing your limits without extra carbohydrates can be beneficial, aiming for a slightly quicker pace than your marathon goal.

Runners more accustomed to shorter distances may find carbohydrate intake during the race reassuring.

Post-race, it’s crucial to hydrate and refuel to aid recovery, especially if the half-marathon is part of your marathon training.

Regardless, adequate training for the half-marathon is vital, as the distance and its repetitive impact require a conditioned body. Tailoring your training to fit your needs is key, something the RunMotion Coach app can help with.

Avatar photo
Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for community management.