From the 5K to the Marathon: What to Eat the Week of the Baltimore Running Festival

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

You’ve been training for October 15 for weeks and months and now the Baltimore Running Festival is just days away! You can’t get any faster or gain more endurance this week, but the food you eat can go a long way toward a successful race. Below you will find strategies for eating well this week to get ready for each of the distances that make up the festival:  

For everyone: 5K, Relay, Baltimoron, Half Marathon and Marathon


Choose Nutritious Foods to Repair and Restore Your Body

Ensure that your body is nourished and ready for a great race by eating a healthful diet this week. Keep it simple by including lots of vegetables and fruit in your meals and snacks, along with plenty of seeds and nuts for healthy fats, lean protein, and beans and whole grains. By the time you’ve filled up on all the good stuff, you won’t have room on your plate for sugary, salty, greasy foods.



Proper hydration begins long before you hit the course, so you’ll want to begin hydrating by drinking plenty of water in the days leading up the event. For advice on how to hydrate during your race, check out this video from our friends at Medstar Sports Medicine.


Nothing New

In the 24 hours leading up to your race, I advise my client to follow the simple rule of “Nothing New!” Predictable foods will lead to predictable fueling and digestion, which is exactly what you want on race day! Save those samples you pick up at the race expo for after the race, and visit that new taco truck another time.


Race Eve Dinner

On race eve, enjoy a reasonably portioned dinner with a good source of carbs. You may enjoy some protein and small amount of fat, but lay off rich foods that could leave you feeling heavy in the morning. Though fiber is a very important part of your diet, many runners cut back on fibrous vegetables and whole grains the night before a race to avoid feeling bloated in the morning. Enjoy dinner earlier in the evening to allow plenty of time for digestion.

Just for the Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and the Baltimoron (5K + Half Marathon for 16.2 miles)

For those running the half marathon (and those adding a bonus 5K in the Baltimoron), there are some additional considerations in the couple days before your event:


Incorporate Carbohydrates

There’s no reason to carb load over multiple days, but on Thursday evening—that’s the night before the night before your race—enjoy a carb-rich meal to load up on stored carbohydrates (aka glycogen). Good choices include potatoes and yams, whole grains, beans, fruit and, of course, pasta and bread if you tolerate them well.

The day before your race, as you’re following the rule of Nothing New, be sure to include some decent sources of carbohydrates to ensure you’re well-fueled on race day.

Just for the Full Marathon

While there’s no benefit to carb loading for a 5K, 10K or even a half marathon, there is most definitely benefit to carb loading for the full marathon by consuming about ¾ of your calories from carbohydrates in the 2-3 days before the event. With your body only able to store about 60-90 minutes of carbohydrates, our most efficient source of fuel, it’s in your best interest to show up at the start line with those stores full. (More on that topic HERE.)


Carb load the smart way

The carb load doesn’t require you to pound bagels, pizza and pasta washed down with sports drink, though. In fact, overdoing it by eating too much can leave you bloated and uncomfortable. A smart carb load means that you’ll eat about the same number of calories as you usually do, but more of those calories will come from carbohydrate and less from fat. When planning a carb load with my clients, I look at meals and snacks they already eat and make simple adjustments to proportions and ingredients. For example:

  • A breakfast of oatmeal with lots of seeds and nuts is usually a great choice, but during this period, we swap out the seeds and nuts for fresh and dried fruit, and add a swizzle of honey.
  • A big green salad for lunch is turned into a wrap or sandwich.
  • At dinner time, potatoes, yams, winter squash and whole grains take up a larger portion of the plate, and we cut back or eliminate oil and butter.

Try eating a number of carb-rich mini-meals or snacks rather than three large, heavy meals, especially the day before the race.

These strategies will take you through this week and to race morning, where you’ll follow the breakfast and on-course fueling plan you’ve practiced during the training season.

Have a great race, and if you need support in fine tuning your diet to support your active lifestyle, connect with a professional like me.

About the Author: Lauren Shafer

Lauren is a certified Health Coach who helps busy Baltimoreans articulate their health + wellness goals, and make measurable, sustainable diet and lifestyle changes for lasting transformation. Though she would never be described as athletic in her youth, Lauren started running as an adult, begrudgingly at first, until she discovered she actually enjoyed it. Now an 8-time marathoner and 3-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.

To learn more about Lauren and check out her health coaching and blog, visit or Contact her at


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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