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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

Carbs…Who Needs Them?

Who you gonna call?

I know we aren’t supposed to compare ourselves to other runners but I do. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to run as fast as Shalane or Meb (or the rest of our awesome Olympic marathoners)? That would be awesome, right?

However, I think if I found a genie in a bottle and he only let me have one wish, I would have to wish for an iron stomach!

Oh, how I would love the ability to eat…anything…before or during a run without having to worry about whether I’m going to lose it while running. One way or the other. I’ve read stories about Dean Karnazes ordering pizza or Chinese food and eating it on the run and I think “How does he do that?”. Not that I WANT to eat pizza during a run but it sure would be nice to have a bagel with peanut butter before a long run or be able to take gels during the run and not wonder what it’s going to do.

Is that too much to ask of my stomach? Apparently, it is. Sigh.

Last week, I went out for a 12 mile run and I was miserable. I barely made it to the bathroom…twice …during that one run. I ended up calling it at 10. It doesn’t happen with every run and I try to be consistent with what I eat before a run (also the night before) so it’s frustrating that sometimes my stomach behaves and sometimes it doesn’t. Really frustrating.

My solution to this “problem” is to not eat before I run. This system works pretty well for me for runs up to 10 miles. On runs longer than 10 miles, I sometimes bonk in the last mile or two. I’d only done that up to 13 miles before though. This week, I ran a 14 miler before work and decided I didn’t want to take the chance of my stomach going wonky so I didn’t eat anything before it. I took 2 gels with me but ended up not using them and just drank water. And I had a fabulous run! The best part was that I didn’t bonk and even negative split the run. Woo!

That 14 miler made me wonder if other runners were doing long runs without taking in carbs. So, of course, I went to the source and asked on Twitter: “What’s the longest run you’ll do w/out eating before/during or using a sports drink/gels?”

I received 35 responses and this is what they had to say:

dadspoint: 16-20 miles depending on the heat and humidity

KRona217: upto 10 miles without eating or sports drink

misfitstray: 25km in training

AaronNorman: I usually don’t eat unless running more than 18-20 miles. Glycogen stores should be enough to get most runners 16-18 miles.

iRunAlaska: I’ve gone as far as 18 in training with no drink or fuel. Not particularly fun, seeing if I could.

nmwied: never eat b4 unless a race, 2hr is when I start 2 add in gels otherwise just h2o under 2hr

IndyGirl87: 60-80 minutes depending on weather conditions

gingermarauder: 10 miles

bebita_3718: I run six miles on an empty stomach…. if I’m going farther than that, I eat a something small. No more than 200 calories.

spaceneedl: 10 miles.

akrunnerdude: 10 miles for racing, 14-16 in training.

kashmoney0689: umm I’d say I’ve done 7 miles and then I had to eat something and hydrate … That was during my half in Feb.

lizsassymolassy: BUT, I haven’t gone over 7mi at a time yet…could change habits during runs once I hit longer runs!

lizsassymolassy: I always have toast w/ pb and half of a 5 hr energy for runs over 3 miles, 30mins before. Just H2O during.

davidtraxler: What’s the longest run …..drink/gels? In a Race: 10 miles, In training: 15miles.

mikew30: yesterday I ate quite a big lunch, then ran an hour or so after. Ran for 96mins, and didn’t need the food I’d taken with me.

mikew30: I eat all the time before, so hard to say. during I’d say HM / 2 hours is the most I’d run without having more carbs.

supersubfigo: 13-14 miles

DiminutiveRunr: 8 miles for me!  🙂

innerphoenix: Anything beyond 6 I feel the need for something.

mogle1128: for me, 5-6 miles tops….

hollybluecreek: 10 would be the max.

marathonarturo: I’ve completed a few  half marathons without any support b4 or during.

wesleyroelke: 10k.

DMott3: I’m alright until start getting into double digits

shesoffrunning: Anything > 8 miles.

HeidiRuns: after 6 I start wanting nutrition.

TattooedRunnr: Probably about 12 miles for me.

KristyH5: I did 14 like this on Sunday and the last 2 miles were really tough.

KristyH5: I can make it 10-12 miles. After that I fade.

desertendurance: I NEVER eat b4 (really weak stomach)…then I go 6 before I start taking in nutrition – About 100ish cals/hr #notMANYcals

GPescatore: 12 Miles

_martyn_fisher: No more than 10 miles. But I’d often have gels/food prior to a 5 miler. So anything between 5 & 10 miles can go either way.

runlikeawarrior: Eating before: 3-4 miles; Gels: longer than 10 miles (generally training for half or full so also training nutrition)

bmlueb: 8 miles for me with nothing not even water. I’ve done 13 but it didn’t feel the best.

Thanks for the responses! It’s very cool to see what every one is doing. It makes me wonder how far I could go without eating or drinking carbs. I wouldn’t do this for a marathon but it might be fun to try on an 18 or 20 miler.

Mark (@mogle1128) also shared this link with me from Runner’s World about running carb-depleted. Check it out:

Running on “E” By Alex Hutchinson

After reading the article, I’m wondering if the 14 miler went so well because my body is becoming more efficient at burning stored carbs? A girl can hope!

So what do you think? Do you run carb-depleted already? Would you? Do you have an iron stomach I would be jealous of? Let us know!

[photo supplied by me]



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This post was written by:

- who has written 717 posts on Run It Fast®.

Lisa (RIF Club Member #5) has completed 27 half marathons, 13 marathons, 5 50Ks, 2 12 Hour races, and 1 100K. Her favorite races to date are the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Leading Ladies Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, and the Jackson Jackass 50K. You can follow her on Twitter @runlikeacoyote

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