Low Carb Marathon Training – Will I Do Better

Low Carb Marathon Training

This year I am training for and taking part in my first marathon, I will be following a low carb marathon training programme.

I am in the early stages of my training at the moment, in fact as I write this I am just coming to the end of my first months training (May 16-2018), the training programme is a six month plan and I will actually run 26 miles before the race.

The race is in October so I have another five months to get in shape.

Carb Loading

I have now been on the low carb diet for three months, when I started running last year, I started to lose weight at the time I was following Joe Wicks, not his exercise plan but his eating plan.

I felt great I was looking better, but I found that it was way out of my budget and besides the training Joe does is not really geared towards running, and to be honest I don’t think a HIIT programme is for people my age.

Low Carb Marathon Training

Carb Loading

When I started taking part in races, I started doing research to find out what runners eat to get themselves ready for a race, everything I read at the time was geared towards carb loading.

So I followed this and used it to fuel my first 10k race, my first 10 mile race and my first half marathon.

What I found was I was feeling ill during my training runs and races, I felt bloated and on a couple of occasion felt like I was going to vomit. I thought it was just me being new to running or I was not fuelling up properly for the events.

Are Gels Any Good

During my training I got some gels to get used to using them, this was the advice I was receiving. I found them alright and I could quite easily get them down while running, and they didn’t make me feel ill or anything.

I followed the instructions for using the gels while running the races especially the 10 mile and half marathon races. The only thing I found wrong with the gels was I had sticky hands after having them.

To make sure I was following the advice I received on carb loading correctly, I started getting up early to have my breakfast 3 to 4 hours before the races, and I did this on some of my training runs I wanted to make them as close to race conditions as possible.


Things Went Wrong

In the 10 mile race towards the end so many people passed me I felt like I was going backwards, it was a bit demoralising especially when you had just passed them moments before.

I just had no energy left, my legs felt like lumps of lead even when I got onto the flat for the run in to the finish line, at this point I wanted to put a sprint in to the finish line but my legs just would not go.

To be honest with you I am surprised that this did not put me off taking part in the half marathon. Once again I thought it was just me being an inexperienced runner, and not doing the fuelling process correctly.

Low Carb Marathon Training

Were Did I Go Wrong

When running the half marathon all was well, I was happy with the pace I was running at, I felt good the weather was good for running, it was actually quite good for Scotland at that time of year.

But when I got to within two miles of the finish line my legs started to go, at one point I did consider stopping and giving up, I couldn’t understand it I had done a really hard 10 mile run during the training and I felt fine.

The 10 miles was the longest run on the particular programme I was following, and I felt that the extra 3 miles would not be an issue as the route for half marathon was fairly flat.

But I pushed myself and managed to limp over the finish line, having ran the whole distance, which I am proud of as that was the only thing I wanted to do, when I run in another one I will be trying to complete it in two hours or less.

All that I read led me to believe that if I fuelled correctly I should have enough energy to complete the race without any problems. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it was no consolation when I was told that there were people who looked a lot worse than I did at the end of the race.

Low Carb Diet

And now I am low carb marathon training, and I have got to say I have found a difference in a very short period. In the morning I do my training runs on an empty stomach, all I have is a drink of water to make sure I am hydrated then off I go.

If I am running later in the day I find it more beneficial eating six to seven hours before the run. The way I came to these times has been through trial and error, I have found that my performance is hindered if I run too soon after eating no matter how small the meal.

After being on the low carb diet for a short period of time, I can honestly say I have not felt any of the affects that I did when carbs were a big part of my diet.

You might be wondering if I am not fuelling my runs on carbohydrates how am I fuelling them, after being on the low carb diet you body goes into what is known as ketosis and in this state you are burning fat for energy.

Losing Weight

I said earlier that I started to lose weight when I started running, but during the time I was carb loading I started to put that weight back on. Don’t get me wrong I did not start running to lose weight.

Low Carb Marathon Training

It’s Not me Honest

I started to run to get fit and hopefully reduce the risk of becoming diabetic. I have yearly checks since I had a TIA in 2009, and on more than one occasion I was told that I was borderline diabetic.

I was happy to lose the weight because I looked better (my stomach was not hanging over the top of my trousers). Since being on the low carb diet I have lost even more weight and got my 32-inch waist back.

Run/Walk/Run Method

While watching a television programme about active elderly people I saw a couple in their 70’s, at the time I had just turned 60 and I wondered if I could run a marathon and it stayed with me till I finished working for a living.

Another addition to my low carb marathon training is the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. After the half-marathon I felt that bad and I thought there is no way I could run a marathon.

I know I would never be able to run the full distance of a marathon, this is why I have added the Galloway method to my running. There is bit of a stigma about people walking during a race, and that’s how I felt myself when I started out your running a race the keyword is running.

Low Carb Marathon Training

Run Walk Run

I was a bit apprehensive about using this method because I felt that it would harm my times, and to be honest when I started using this method I felt like I was getting in the way of the other participants when I start my walks.

I have used it when doing a Parkrun, and I must say my times in the Parkrun have dropped by a couple of minutes, but it is early days and I believe you should give things enough time.

I have noticed one thing since I started using this method, I look forward to the walk breaks. The intervals I use are running a minute and walking thirty seconds, I start near the back of any event I attend now so that I don’t get in anybody’s way.

The longest race I have done using this method and on the low carb diet, has been a 10k and I ended up with a new PB, beating my previous time by 2 minutes 27 seconds.

Was it the diet or the walk breaks that helped me better my time? I am afraid I don’t know the answer to that. What I can say is that it felt great passing people and being able to put a sprint in for the finish line.

Unlike in the 10 mile race where I was the one that was being passed.

Cadence Drills

What are cadence drills, to put it simply it is speed training but they are not sprints, you keep your stride small and increase your feet turn over. The cadence drills are designed to help you increase your pace, these should be done once or twice a week.

It’s a simple method you run counting the steps of one of your feet and you run for 30 seconds, then rest for a minute and do the same again trying to add one or two steps to your count each time, it is best to start with 5 repetitions and build up to 10.

If you have access to a track this would be a good place to do them, if not then try and pick an area that is as flat as possible. When I think about it they are a good way to warm up for a race, so a note to myself “start using them before races”.

A Final Note

Is it possible to run on a low carb diet, based on my training so far I would say it is, I am having less problems than I did when carb loading.

I still have a lot of long runs to do before the race, I am planning to stay on this diet till after the race and then I will decide if I wash to continue with it. I will be writing post about my ling runs, so as the saying goes watch this space.

These are some of the things I am experiencing during my marathon training, I would like to hear your experiences please feel free to add them to the comments below.

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11 Comments

  1. vivek

    Hi Bill, I don’t run marathons but I do train quite a bit. The minute I saw low carb marathon, I’ll confess, I had a bit of a shock. I wasn’t aware running on low carbs was even possible given the energy demands?
    I’ve tried low carb diets before but none of them worked for me. There was an initial period of lightness but that was swiftly followed by deteriorating performance in the gym and on the field.
    Good to see its working for you. Good luck with your training!

    Reply
    1. Bill (Post author)

      I would be interested to know how long you were on the diet, it can take up to six weeks before you are fat adapted.

      During this time you will see a drop in performance, I would recommend the New Atkins New You.

      Reply
  2. Dany

    Hi Bill,

    I also love to run and my favourites are the intervals. I’m not running a marathon, not my goal 🙂 but just to keep in shape.
    Have you tried the intervals training? What are your thoughts?
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Bill (Post author)

      Interval training is good as long as you keep your body in the fat burning zone long enough, are you seeing the results you want.

      Reply
  3. Stefan

    Hi , I enjoy your confession about the marathon . I didn’t know all that info about taking breakfast 4hour before run or 7 hours . So in order to take part at marathon , require a lot of self-discipline and a lot of strenght . I will bookmark your page for more info .

    Reply
    1. Bill (Post author)

      The discipline is really on sticking to your training plan as best you can, I work two days a week and try to work on my rest days.

      Reply
  4. Anita

    Am not into running but more of stationary workouts. I also prefer going low on carbs though my metabolism is good and is able to process any form of carbs.
    But i would like to know what gels are those you were taking when on the marathon never heard of them.
    What kind of motivation would you give someone like me to take up running as part of a workout?

    Reply
    1. Bill (Post author)

      Hi Anita

      The gels come in two forms a solid block or near liquid, the liquid one’s are the one’s I used, the easiest way to get it out of the packet is to hold the bottom with one hand, and hold just above with two fingers of the other hand, and pull the packet through them, this is how you end up with sticky fingers.

      Reply
  5. Felix

    Interesting article, Bill. I also used to run a lot some years ago, also half-marathons.
    I never put too much emphasis on my menu. Just ate some light meal not later than 2 hours before training/ or race. Didn’t practice carb-loading, neither avoiding carbs.
    I think everyone’s different and you just have to find out, what suits you best.

    Reply
    1. Bill (Post author)

      You are absolutely right everyone is different and there is no one size fits all when it comes to diet.

      Reply
  6. Lee Ann

    I am not a runner (bad knees) but I do love to walk. I have been trying may diets to try and get some of the menopausal weight off, but haven’t found one to help yet.

    I wish I was able to run, as I think that helps our body more than walking. I do have a tread mill with incline and speed adjustment.

    I am getting close to 50 and would love to become healthy. Is low carb and keto the same thing?

    Reply

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