Couch to 5K
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First half marathon - advice / info request


I graduated just before Christmas and have now been lucky enough (aherm) to get a place in my hometown's first ever half marathon (only 2000 places, which seems huge but I gather is comparatively small?). As it's the first one, the council have set a 2.5 hour time limit so I need to complete in that time or risk being the last, lonely runner coming in in the dark...(even though it starts at 8.30am, that's how it looks in my anxiety dreams). I'm on week 4 of the bupa intermediate training plan and it's going well, with my pace so far showing I should just about make the time limit. But I'm struggling with the amount of info out there about fuelling - when, what, how much and when to eat/drink it?? What has worked for anyone else who's done this and how did you find out what worked? I feel like I don't have a lot of experimenting time as the 12week programme leads right up to race day and I don't run further than 10k until week 6.

Any advice or pointers to some easy to understand beginner level advice gratefully received...

10 Replies

Thanks KittyKat, this is really useful, I will try it on my next long run, next week (I just did a 10k today; 8 miles is the next one). I have noticed what I eat beforehand has a big effect, as well as what time of day I run - aiming for more consistency in what I eat and drink between runs sounds like a good plan. I've not yet tried sports drinks, but will do. And the article was fab - frozen grapes sound delicious but I can't help but feel they would not look quite as appetising after 45 mins in my running belt!

Thanks for the good luck wishes, after struggling today I think I'll really need them...


Regarding the list of foods in that article, I've tried a few when on long trail runs when I often stop at some point to check my map or take photos and take a few minutes to eat. I take home made energy bars and have tried the wee pretzels. I'm reluctant to take dried fruit because of GI issues. (I usually eat loads of trail mix (dried fruits and nuts) when hiking when this is not a problem.)


Thanks Swanscot - do you have a link to/recipe for any good home made energy bars?


I often make this recipe from this site (or a version of it - different each time, depending on what nuts, seeds and dried fruit in the cupboard).

Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars

Yield: 14-16 large bars

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 25 Minutes


1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if necessary)

1/2-3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (I used 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pepita seeds (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or fine grain sea salt, or to taste


Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5" x 12.5") and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out.

In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.

Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even. Use a pastry roller to smooth out if desired.

Bake for 23-27 minutes (I baked for 25 mins.) until firm and lightly golden along the edge. Place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then carefully slide a knife to loosen the ends and lift out. Place granola slab on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 mins. (if you are impatient like me).

Slice into bars once they are cool.

Approximate nutritional info: (per bar, based on 14 large bars using 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries): 186 calories, 8.7 grams fat, 22 grams carbs, 4.7 grams fibre, 6 grams sugar, 6.6 grams protein. Without dried cherries, bars have approx. 3.6 grams of sugar and 166 calories.


Oh, that sounds delish, I'll be trying those out this week - not too bad on calories either, as so many shop bought ones are.

I've not long returned from my long run and I cannot believe what a difference the jelly beans made!! After my second 10k run I was starting to think I wouldn't manage the half and was feeling really nervous about today's run, but I ate 3 jelly beans at mile 3 (just over 30 mins) and at mile 6 (just over an hour) and it was like I'd ingested rocket fuel! I'm so pleased with the difference it made. I think this timing will work for me and will coincide with the water stops as you said, also it's easy to remember when to eat them rather than tracking timings. Thanks for the advice and the recipe, much appreciated.


I've run 3 half marathons so will share what works for me. When on my long training run, I'll carry water and jelly sweets (Haribo or Randoms). I'll maybe have my first drink of water at 30 minutes, and water and two sweets at 50 minutes. I then aim to have more water and 2 sweets about every 20 minutes.

When racing I don't carry water, but take the water from the water stations and have 2 sweets just before or after the water. There's has usually been 3 water stations on each run. One point, at my first HM race, which was in November, it was a cold morning and I think the water had been sitting in someone's car overnight when the temp had been below 0°C. The water was still very cold at 11am and it was difficult to drink much without getting a cold headache'.

Start practicing your fueling strategy on your long runs. I am unlucky to be like many other runners, and suffer with 'runner's trots' on long runs so need to know what I can eat both before and during the race.

The above has worked for me to run the 3 HMs in just over 2 hours (I'm still to achieve the elusive sub-2 hour finish).


Thanks, great advice, I was wondering how many opportunities there might be for water as I'd prefer not to carry it if possible. I will start practising my fuelling but I've just realised that one of the things puzzling me is how will I know if it's worked? Do you get a whole new surge of energy or is it more preventative so that you don't start flagging? Also, do you have a preferred sweet, or any high sugar ones?

I think from recent experience of having to dodge into loos I will also have trots issues to manage!! I've heard there are usually loos on the route, hopefully I'll have either sorted it by then or there won't be too many people with similar issues :-).


The race information usually tells you in advance where the water stations will be. That way you will know to expect them. I like to get my sweets out of my wee waist belt just ahead of the water and take one before drinking and one after. I hope by taking them when I take water on board will help them provide energy quicker.

I find it hard to say if I've got it right or not. I found that if I don't take any fuel on board - only water - that I start really flagging by 15km. But if I leave it until then to take it, it's too late. I've read that it's good to start taking fuel at 60 mins, and every 20 mins after, so that is what I try to remember to do.

I take Haribo jelly sweets, because I've had several wee free packets sent to me in with stuff I've ordered from the cycling/running onlineshop, Wiggle, so I reckon they must be what other cyclists and runners use! Then I found Randoms in the supermarket and they seem very similar. Other people take jelly beans or jelly babies. Or, you can go down the route of taking 'proper' energy gels, which are measured amounts of carbs as well as glucose.


Hi Sedw, I'm training for a similar race in just over five weeks' time (eek!) so have been struggling with the same questions for a while. After the shambles that was the Sheffield Half Marathon I found out that races need to provide water every 3 miles, so that's when I have a few sips. Last week on a hot day I guzzled about 200ml after the first 5k, which made the next couple of km horrible - sips is the way to go. Most importantly, we need to be drinking loads the day before a long run. As for fuelling, I've been trying gels. I've tried a couple of brands and my stomach seems to take them ok. I'm up to 16k so far so have only been taking one, at the 10k mark. I'm guessing another gel will be due quite soon after 16k, if not before, to help in the last 5k!


Thanks for your replies and sorry for delay - been camping! Am just about to go for an 8 mile run (almost 13 k) so will try fuelling at 30 mins as kittykat suggests, with jelly sweets and had pasta for dinner last night. Managing my hydration will be difficult - have woken up really thirsty after terrible night sweats so am frantically downing lots of water but know I will now need to plan for plenty of wee stops! It's soooo hard to get it right...

Did you end up running the Sheffield half in the end? I know some did but others didn't - sounds like a nightmare, really not what you need when you've been training for weeks. Hope your next one goes much better.


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