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The moving buffet

March 18, 2010

Long-distance running is, in many ways, like a picnic. I realised this at jog club this week as I was chatting to another runner preparing for a marathon. As I’ve mentioned before, when you run a marathon, you burn more energy than you happen to have kicking around your system. Consequently, you need to consume carbohydrates as you run to try to avoid hitting the wall.

== Summary == An assortment of Bassett's Winegums.
Not quite the balanced nutrition most people think of, but surprisingly popular amongst distance runners. Image via Wikipedia

Like a well-planned picnic, your average distance runner will pack a veritable smorgasbord of snacks. Personally, I’ve experimented with marzipan, sickly orange-flavoured carbohydrate gels and energy drinks. Others favour jelly babies, jelly beans, wine gums, or any other pure-sugar hit. I’ve even heard talk of jaffa cakes.

A picnic wouldn’t be a picnic without a thermos of tea, or a bottle of bubbly. Again, runners pack a veritable lake of liquid, and take on about 125ml of liquid every 15 minutes. Training runs might be supported by a Camelbak (or other wearable reservoir) or a curious sports drink holster. A little like Miami Vice meets a vicar’s tea party in lycra.

During a race a runner can expect to be proffered a variety of different drinks, from plain water in a plastic cup or small bottle through to a selection of different flavours of energy drink. There’s even one marathon run in France between vineyards where runners are offered wine. (Mental note: If I make it through Paris, might well consider signing up for that one…)

No picnic is complete without a blanket, and again, even runners manage that. Having snacked and slurped their way through a 26.2-mile buffet, they can expect to be wrapped in a (mighty attractive) space blanket to avoid cooling down too quickly.

And after all that eating and drinking, what next? A jolly good meal – of course!

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