Fueling the Run: 5 to Consider for an Energy Boost

Roland Brunner/flickr.com

By Megan Cox

Now that my long runs are over an hour long, it’s time to give my body that extra push when my footsteps go from slow and steady to slow and ploddy. Okay, so I made up the word “ploddy.” Whatever. I’m a writer. It’s one of the perks of the job.

Anyway, I need some energy. I need A LOT of energy. I have a two-year-old, a six-month-old, and a husband. That, my friends, is a job enough. Oh, and I do this thing where I write books. It’s cool, but I find that my mind and body are pretty worn out at the end of each day.

So I’m not the picture of liveliness when I roll out of bed at 5:30ish a.m. to achieve a ten mile run. I would hate the darkness at that hour if I weren’t so glad that it hides my makeup-free face and the fact that my hair looks like it’s playing keep away from my head.

My neighborhood loop is about two miles, so I circle it quite a few times to rack up the mileage. The first time or two I pass my mailbox, I gaze at the house forlornly, thinking about that nice soft bed I’ve exchanged for cold pavement. My running “buzz” takes about four miles to kick in.

Unfortunately, at about the same time, so does my rumbly tummy (did I just make up another word? Or did I hear that one on Winnie the Pooh?).

Now, before I ever leave the house, I chow down on a sports bar, but I’m definitely in need of a boost that’s easy to devour while I’m in motion.

Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of fueling options, but I thought I’d give you a list of ones that I’ve seen handed out during races by volunteers. If it’s at a race, it must be good for you, right? Hmm. I’ll let you decide.

  1. Sports drinks – Drinks like Gatorade or PowerAde not only hydrate the body, but they contain sodium for helping the body retain liquids. As for fueling, these drinks also provide calories, giving the body an extra surge of energy. I used a sports drink strapped to my side for a full marathon once, and I have to say it was definitely a positive force.
  2. Gels – Okay, some people LOVE these things. I’ve tried several flavors, and they just feel like a gelatinous wad of sugar in my mouth. I might as well run with a jar of jelly. If you like these, no offense. They’re just not my thing.
  3. Sports bars – No, not the ones where you drink beer and watch football—as much fun as those are. The food variety are served up on many a race course, the most notable brands being Clif, PowerBar, and Balance Bar. I have to admit that I really like to have one of these before I start my race, but I find it a little hard to nosh on while I’m running.
  4. Candy – Okay, so this is my thing. On the Baltimore Half Marathon a few years back, they were handing out gummy bears, and they were glorious. A more official form of candy would be sports beans, also known as the pedestrian jelly bean. My two-year-old calls them bean beans. You get the picture. Why this works for me and not the gels, I cannot tell you. Maybe fruity candy just makes me feel that running is all the more worth it. Maybe I like playing guessing games with Jelly Belly flavors while I run. I honestly don’t know.
  5. Beer – Uh, yeah. So it’s not like I’m suggesting you should try this, because I’m not. And I don’t know of any half marathons that serve beer before the finish line (correct me if I’m wrong!), but a four mile McNellies Pub Run in Tulsa and Oklahoma City has the Guinness Challenge.

It goes like this: “Participants will have to FINISH three 12 ounce Guinness pints during the 4 mile run; one at each water stop (at about mile marker 1.5 and 3) and one at the finish line.” I don’t know if beer could count as fuel.

I’m pretty sure it would dehydrate someone pretty quickly. In fact, I’m certain it would be downright dangerous for a long distance run. And who wants a herd of racers who can’t run straight? But boy, what an idea, huh?

All the same, I think I’ll stick to bean beans.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

One thought on “Fueling the Run: 5 to Consider for an Energy Boost

  1. I’m a GU girl. Strawberry banana, washed down with either some water or sports drink. I prefer Powerade, but not all races have Powerade.

    As for beer at a race… I did the Talladega Half Marathon this past Sept. and around mile 11 they were serving beer, Cheetos and cupcakes…No thank you.

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