Nutrition Before Running A Trail Marathon

BY Hal Higdon

If your 18-week nutrition is good, you don't need a last-four-days boost. Or, much of a boost. I keep preaching that the Golden Rule is 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, 15% protein. 

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I am running my third marathon this Saturday and have tried to follow your Intermediate plan as closely as possible. I’ve covered a total of 600 miles and feel very ready. There is a little twist in that this is a trail marathon with moderate climbs and only a small section of road. But the question I have relates more to food. With four days to go before the run, what food items will serve me best? I am fitter now then I have ever been, but is there anything that will just give me that extra boost to allow me to perform better, particularly in those last few miles when energy runs low?


If your 18-week nutrition is good, you don’t need a last-four-days boost. Or, much of a boost. I keep preaching that the Golden Rule is 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, 15% protein. The last few days before the marathon you might up the percentage of carbs slightly, particularly the night before the race. Consider also that pasta is not the only route to a high-carb diet. I also favor rice dishes, so might pick a Chinese restaurant rather than an Italian restaurant—at least the night before the night before. And you can have lean meat or a slice of salmon as long as your side dishes provide a few extra carbs; a baked potato, for instance. The runners who have the most success carbo-loading in those last four days are the runners who have paid attention to their diet in the previous 18 weeks.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.