Running is a very specialized sport and that goes for the gear and fueling too. What works for one runner may or may not work for another. The trick is to read up on various options, talk to your running buddies and trainer, and then try things out for yourself. The training period for a marathon is not just for training the muscular and aerobic systems. It's also a time to test out fueling and hydration options, clothing, shoes, GPS watches, etc. Use the 3-4 months preparing for the marathon to see what works for you. But start early in the training, don't wait until the last few weeks.
Also, keep in mind your race date. A good portion of training for a fall marathon takes place in the heat of summer. So, most of your training runs may be in shorts and a singlet. But if your race is late fall and in a chilly location, you may end up racing in tights and a couple of top layers. So, be sure to have your race day attire options figured out. Go worst case scenario. Better to be ready than caught off guard. Be sure to test out all clothing too. Nothing worse than discovering that your bad weather clothing option is the king of chafing.
I'm always amazed when I get calls from someone who isn't a client and they're asking about hydration and/or fueling and it's the week before the race. Anything they use or try to use that they haven't used during training is a gamble. My #1 Race Day Rule is never wear, eat, or drink anything on race day that you haven't used during your training.
Below are my favorites from my current training for the upcoming Philadelphia marathon. Remember these items work great for me. You may try something below and it not work at all for you. That's fine. It's all about finding what works best for you.
My feet aren't too picky when it comes to socks. I do have a few requirements, however. First, I like a snug fit. Close fitting socks tend to cause less chafing and blisters. Second, no cotton. I like 100% technical fabric. This aids in the snug fit as well as moisture management. Third, no-show or low cut. I don't like socks that come past the ankle. Just my preference. I've run in many different brands of running sock from Champion, to SmartWool, to WrightSock, to Balega. They all work well. One sock I keep coming back to over and over is Feetures High Performance Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock. They have a great fit and work well for me.
I've used many different GPS watches over the years. I've used two different TIMEX GPS watches, two different Garmen GPS watches, and two different Soleus GPS watches. Each had aspects I really liked and each had things I disliked. For my Philly training, I decided to try out the TomTom Runner GPS watch. I love this watch. It was easy to use right out of the box. It has a large customizable display. One of the best features is that it gets a GPS signal quicker than any GPS watch I've ever used. Literally just a few seconds after pressing the GPS button, I get a signal. As a coach, that's awesome. Another cool feature is that the display pops out of the watch band so you can easily slip it into the charging dock. It keeps its charge well too. No worries about it going dead in the middle of a long run. It also easily syncs up to Strava which is the app I use to keep track of my mileage, routes, running shoe miles and engage in friendly running competitions with myself and other Strava members.
I've never really had chafing issues, but for some reason in this training I did. I lost 23 lbs
Night Before Long Run Fueling:
I'm a big multi-grain pasta and brown rice lover. Most of my night-before long run meals include either pasta or rice, chicken, and veggies. Below are some of the various combinations I've enjoyed.
1. Stir fried rice, veggies, and chicken over brown rice with whole grain bread
2. Chicken Primavera: whole wheat pasta, chick peas, broccoli, and cauliflower sauteed in olive oil
3. Mixed Greens topped with grilled chicken breast, dried cranberries, walnuts, broccoli, sprouts, and strawberry walnut dressing
4. White chicken chili. Contains navy beans (instead of kidney), white and yellow corn, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix, and traditional chili spices.
5. Potato and carrot soup
6. Brown rice topped with black beans, grilled chicken, yellow corn, Mexican spices and low fat Mexican blend cheese
Pre-Long Run Breakfast Fueling:
toasted whole wheat English muffin topped with peanut butter and some type of preserve such as orange marmalade. Sometimes I'll put banana slices and honey on top of the peanut butter. Occasionally I'll have whole wheat pancakes. I eat my pre-long run breakfast about an hour to 1.5hrs prior to the run.
Coconut water is Mother Nature's Sports Drink. It naturally contains sodium, potassium, and carbs...what you'd find in a sports drink like Gatorade. Coconut water, however has about 3x the potassium and a little less carbs. I use to deal with calf cramps on long runs, particularly on hot summer runs. I sweat a lot. Staying hydrated and keeping my electrolyte stores topped off is big for me. Since using 100% coconut water, I 've not had cramping or hydration issues.
As for fuel during the run, my go-to gel is Chocolate Outrageous by GU. I usually take one at mile 6, 12, and 18. Because the coconut water doesn't have quite a much carbs as Gatorade, I'm able to wash the GU down with the coconut water that I carry in my handheld bottle. I start my run with the handheld filled with coconut water and as I sip on it, I'll refill it with water. My long run routes take me by some water fountains. On race day I'll grab some water cups (as needed) and refill my bottle on the run. My favorite handheld water bottle is the one shown here by Ultimate Direction. It has a pouch perfect for storing gels and the unique nipple like spout allows you to suck the water out keeping spills from happening. It also cuts down on the amount of air being swallowed.
Post Run Refueling:
1% chocolate milk is my go-to post long run refuel option. I try to get this in within 15-30 minutes of completing the run. Chocolate milk has the perfect 4:1 carbs to protein ratio needed to optimize the rebuilding process after a long run. Horizon makes a juice box size that doesn't need to be refrigerated and is really convenient to throw in your car and have ready after a long run. If I have access, I like to jazz it up by putting the milk in a blender and adding a banana and some extra protein power. This makes a great smoothie.