• Helen Phillips

Crisp confessions for carb loading ... yes really!


A few weeks ago I met up with Simon Martin, one of the Runner’s World VLM pacers to find out about his running journey. Simon has run countless marathons, paced the 3:45 group to the finish line for four VLM marathons and taken on some of the most inhospitable ultra challenges, finishing 5th in this years Fire and Ice Ultra in Iceland.

Here’s an insight into how he prepares to run a marathon, and his recovery routine after.

Crisp confessions for carb loading ... yes really!

So Simon, how do you prepare for a marathon?

I’ve run loads of marathons and ultras, but I still get tetchy and unpleasant to be around … (so I’m told!) I’m paranoid that someone is going to step on my feet and injure me, or get some deadly lurgy.

Cheesecake Runner: But you don’t get an uncontrollable urge to clean the house? How strange!

What about carb loading what do you eat and when do you start?

My diet changes about 24 – 48 hours before a race. The day before a race I’ll have sushi for lunch and pasta carbonara and risotto, yes I double up on carbs, for dinner.

Cheesecake Runner: I feel another recipe coming on … Watch this space!

The day before a race I also focus on hydration. I add salts to my water to help prevent my cramping.

Race morning, seeing as I’ve eaten so many carbs for dinner I don’t need to eat much, but have muesli and a granola bar. I also have an energy gel 1 hour before the start of a race.

How do you fuel for your racing?

I use a camelback (if I’m not carrying a pacing flag), which has if filled with water and salts, to help prevent my cramping.

I supplement this with sports drinks, I will have pre tested the brands that are available at the race in long runs.

For energy I use either Honey Stinger gels, which are really hard to find in the UK and if I cant get them I use Cliff gels. Gels work for me and have them with water. Everyone is different, so you need to find a gel that works for you.

I take 4 gels through a marathon at regular intervals.

I know you also eat jelly babies. Legs or head first?

I eat them whole! I used jelly babies through my Fire and Ice ultra (only 5 for the whole day) and downed them in one! I wasn’t fussy about flavours, I ate what came out of the packet.

Cheesecake Runner: Poor jelly babies! I go for legs first and prefer citrus.

How do you recover from a marathon?

Once I’m done I eat and drink in a way that makes me feel happy.

Cheesecake Runner: Yes, we met up after VLM last year! You were “rehydrating well!”

I usually forget to stretch after a marathon, but will use foam roller a lot in the days that follow and get a post race massage.

Cheesecake Runner: I love my foam roller. But find you need real courage to use it after a marathon!

How soon do you start training or running again after running a marathon?

I’ll do an easy recovery run the following day and be back at club training a few days later. I’ll have heavy legs at training so wont run fast. It’s more to keep my legs ticking over.

After I’ve run an ultra I find my legs ache with a dull aching pain for a few weeks. My body has taken a pounding, so I get back to running when I feel like it. After Iceland my first run was 12 days later. But I waited another 5 days for until the next time I ran. It was only 3 – 4 weeks later than I felt inclined and able to run again properly. Cheesecake Runner: Yikes, you're putting me off ultras now!

What’s your guilty, after the race, food pleasure?

Has to be crisps. After I’ve run I always want crisps or chips. And after a race I have been known to drink champagne and eat crisps in bed recovering!

Cheesecake Runner: What a great idea! Get that magnum on ice!

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