Race Strategy

Gu Gels Flavor Pack

"Should I eat gels during a marathon?"  We get asked this question frequently.  The short answer is: probably!

If you've ever hit the wall in a marathon, it's most often due to running out of carb energy.  For the typical marathoner, this happens somewhere between mile 18-22.  It's caused by depletion of glycogen reserves, stored in the liver and muscles.  Hitting the wall makes it very difficult to keep running and most runners slow to a dizzy walk.

Man running 4 hour marathon

Running 26.2 miles in 4 hours requires a high level of fitness.  Fewer than 25% of marathoners have broken the 4 hour barrier.  Nearly all of the marathon must be run and a good pace must be maintained throughout.

Marathon Pacing Chart

Here's a handy marathon pacing chart to determine your needed pace in minutes per mile.  Pacing is based on the marathon standard distance of 26 miles and 385 yards, or approximately 26.22 miles.

Blister on running foot

Blisters and running go hand-in-hand.  Or, is that foot-in-foot?  Puns aside, blisters can be excruciating. Blisters form on the bottoms and side of the feet and toes, and between the toes.  Tight-laced shoes can also cause blisters to form on the top of the feet.

Woman running marathon in 5 hours

The objective of the marathon runner race strategy is to finish a marathon within 5 hours.  To do this, you'll need to run a majority (75% or more) of the marathon.  This is a great strategy for new runners who are adequately prepared, experienced athletes who have had limited preparation, and the slow but steady runners.

Woman drinking coffee before a marathon

Caffeine has been found to increase athletic endurance in numerous scientific studies. For runners, caffeine can be helpful in reducing the effects of fatigue. In the marathon, that means faster speed and greater ability to stay running.  However, caffeine is not without side effects, which is some cases, may affect performance negatively.

Hitting the wall or bonking in a marathon

Hitting the wall sounds like a violent, painful activity.  It's not literally "hitting the wall", but feeling like you've hit something when you run out of carbohydrate energy.  Runners become weak, dizzy, experience headaches, blurred vision, and more. It frequently happens when running a full marathon, generally after 18 or so miles.  The most common period is between 20-23 miles.

Spinach pasta for marathon carbo-loading

The final preparations for a marathon will help insure a successful race. Failure to get ready in one of these areas can turn a great experience into one much less exhilarating. Here are the basics to focus on in the two weeks leading up to your marathon:

Woman and man running a marathon

The goal of the marathon survivor race strategy is to finish a marathon within the typical 6 1/2 hour cutoff time at most marathons.  The marathon survivor strategy is appropriate for those who've never run 26.2 miles before, for slower runners, or those who have not trained optimally. If you read our 30 day marathon race schedule, you can figure out if you fit in the "marathon survivor" category.