Running a marathon is tough. Running a plant-based marathon doesn’t have to be more difficult. Learn my tips and tricks on how to run a marathon on a 100% whole-foods, plant-based diet.
I ran my first marathon in November.
And, as I promised in How to Run a Plant-Based Marathon (Part 1), I’m back with an update about how it went and to share my advice on how you can do the same.
In my last post, I wrote about how I got into running and I shared my typical diet for training. If you’re curious, definitely go check out that post and read up on what I eat in a typical day. In this post, I want to talk about the marathon itself, with an emphasis on how I managed it on a plant-based diet.
Let’s start from the beginning. Actually, before the beginning: the day before the marathon.
The marathon I ran was about an hour away from my apartment. I realized it would be much easier if I didn’t have to wake up at 4am, drive an hour, find a place to park, get there early, etc.
So my friend and I drove up the day before the marathon and stayed with some friends who live close to the race.
Our friends’ house was a short walk away from the race. This was great because I didn’t have to worry about parking or traffic on the morning of the race. If you can find a friend or a hotel within walking distance of the race, I highly recommend it. Not only can you sleep in on the day of the race, you get a nice warm-up in while you walk to the start line.
Another day-before necessity: eating. You might be nervous for the race and not even feel like eating anything, but you want to eat enough carbohydrates so your body has immediate energy to burn as soon as you start running. That means eating some good carbs the day before.
If you’re running a plant-based marathon, your body is probably used to digesting a lot of fiber, but you want to be careful with your fiber intake before the race. Too much fiber and you could have digestive issues during your run.
For high-carb, low-fiber meals before the race, I mostly ate sweet potatoes. I packed a large bag full of Japanese sweet potato rounds to snack on throughout the day. For dinner, I ate a regular sweet potato steamed in the microwave.
I also ate some carrots and bananas. Again, these are high-carb, low-fiber foods that I know I digest well.
I eat a lot of nut butters, so even though it is high in fat, I carried around a tub of peanut butter with me. Peanut butter goes great with bananas, carrots, and sweet potatoes, so it helped me eat those foods when I didn’t want to eat anything.
Even if you don’t want to eat, you should make yourself eat something every couple hours. Even a couple of bites is better than nothing. But don’t over stuff yourself either; you don’t want to feel heavy and bloated on race day.
To help avoid bloating, eat your last meal early. Give yourself plenty of time to digest before you go to bed.
And go to bed early! You may not feel like sleeping either, but with 8-10 hours until your race, there’s nothing better you can do for yourself.
I was very lucky in that I slept well, got a full 8 hours of sleep, and since I was so close to the race, I didn’t have to get up super early. I woke up feeling excited and nervous, yet ready to tackle the marathon.
My race started at 8am, which is actually later than I ran my long runs. I also knew that I should eat before the race, something that I normally don’t do before training runs. So, I was a little out of my element.
But I knew what my body needed that morning and I listened to it.
I saved some sweet potato from the day before and ate that and a banana for breakfast. It was enough to give my body some fuel before the run, but not too much that it made my stomach hurt.
I also drank some kombucha for electrolytes. If you’re not used to drinking kombucha, I don’t suggest trying it the day of the race. But I’m used to drinking it during long runs and knew that the extra electrolytes positively affect my run performance. (Plus, it’s not filled with chemicals and/or sugar like typical sports drinks are.)
After that I made sure my friend, who was helping me out during the marathon, had all the food I could want during the run: bananas, dates, lara bars, kombucha.
Then we walked to the start line.
After waiting around in the cold for a while, the marathon finally started. I took off running and my friend headed over to the first spot she planned to meet me.
I had dates in my pocket, in case I needed energy before I met to my friend.
My general plan was to take water at every aid station and eat a date (sprinkled with salt – to balance the water) if I needed food.
This worked well. I listened closely to my body to tell me when I needed to eat. I wasn’t sitting around waiting for my stomach to growl. When you’re running a marathon, you need to pay attention to everything your body does (or doesn’t) do.
If I noticed that my muscles were feeling sluggish, I would take a bite of a date. Or if I noticed that my head started to feel fuzzy, I would drink kombucha.
I have to say though, the biggest key to my success in running a completely plant-based marathon was having my friend Lauren with me. There was no food at the aid stations that I could eat, but Lauren made sure that I had everything that I needed.
I had my phone with me and we called each other every couple of miles to check in. I told her how I felt and she gave me advice and encouragement. She ran almost the entire distance of a marathon that day to make sure I had food and kombucha when I needed it.
So my biggest piece of advice for success in running a plant-based marathon is to get support. Find a friend who will literally run a marathon to help you run a marathon. Or, ask a couple friends to station themselves at various points throughout the marathon with food and supplies.
When you finish a marathon, you will probably be feeling a lot of different things: pain, exhaustion, exhilaration, hunger…
You just ran 26.2 miles, so you should do whatever makes you feel good. But you want to make sure you are still taking care of yourself. For me, this meant eating a vegan muffin and staying on my feet to make sure my muscles didn’t get too tight.
Make sure you get some fluids and try to replenish the nutrients you lost during the run. Eat immediately after the race, but also plan to grab a larger meal in the hours following your run.
My friends and I went out to a cute vegan restaurant after my race and I got some good carbs and protein in with a peanut tofu bowl.
As you spend the rest of your day recovering, take care of yourself. Make sure you get plenty of fluids and food.
Running a marathon on a plant-based diet is far from impossible! Just prepare and recognize that you have to take care of yourself. Good luck!
a daughter of the Lord who eats lots of plants. I’m glad you’re here! On The Plant-Based Catholic I bring you nutritious, plant-based (vegan) recipes, explore the relationship between food and faith, and share my unique lifestyle.
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