Vegan Marathon Training Q & A: Your Most Popular Questions Answered! Plus a Bonus: Race Nutrition Tips from Blog Readers

…So here I am, only two days away from Rock’n’Roll Seattle Marathon, and closer than ever to being able to write about something other than running and marathon training soon :). All of the training with its ups and downs is in, and since I can’t change anything at this point, I can only hope that everything works out well this Saturday.

So today I’m going to reflect on my vegan marathon training once more, this time in the form of a Q & A. By now I’ve covered just about everything about my training process in my marathon training updates, but there have been a few aspects that skipped my attention. Some of the questions below have been sent to me by readers like you, and others are most frequently asked by people in my day-to-day life when they find out that I’ve been training for a marathon. Plus, stick around till the end of this post – there’s a special bonus that readers like you have contributed!

Vegan Marathon Training Q & A - most frequently asked questions with answers from my experienceWithout further ado, here we go:

Marathon Training Q & A

Q: Have you run a marathon before?

A: Yes, I’ve done two marathons before, both of them in Pensacola, FL (in 2012 and 2013). You can see my race recap for the 2013 marathon over here.

Q: What was your training plan like this time?

A: I wrote this training plan myself following common knowledge and my experience with previous marathons. The plan consisted of 5 workouts a week – 3 runs and 2 gym strength training sessions. The running part consisted of two mid-week runs that capped at 6 – 6.5 miles, and my long run on the weekend capped at 20 miles three weeks before the marathon. All of the weekday workouts happened in the evening after work, and the long run was done in the morning on Saturdays or Sundays.

Q: What’s your marathon PR (personal record)? Are you planning on beating it this time?

A: My marathon PR is 4 hours and 4 minutes – the first Pensacola Marathon I did in 2012. In 2013, my time was 4 hours and 8 minutes. As much as I’d like to beat my PR in my upcoming marathon, I know it’s not very realistic because the course of Rock’n’Roll Seattle is very hilly, especially in the second half. So instead of a time goal, I have a different one – to try my best to run the entire time, and not to reduce to a walk even in the later stages. It will be incredibly hard, I know, but I want to see if it’s possible for me. In my 2012 marathon, I walked once during the entire marathon, at mile 24 or so. In 2013, I had three walk breaks, all in miles 23-26.

Q: Speaking of walking breaks… Do you ever walk during your long runs?

A: I do my best not to. I walked once during one of my first 10-milers, when one of the hills in my neighborhood turned out longer and steeper than I expected.

Q: Do you ever take bathroom breaks during long runs?

A: Yes. The route of my long runs goes by a small city park in mile 6-7, so I’ve been stopping by a bathroom there. I plan to have at least one bathroom break during the marathon as well – it’s better to lose a couple minutes on that than to run in discomfort for four hours.

Q: Have you lost any weight since you started training for this marathon?

A: I don’t believe I did, mostly because I didn’t have any weight to lose to begin with. I haven’t stepped on a scale in a while though, so I can’t say for sure. Some of my jeans fit a little looser in the waist these days, but I can’t tell if it’s from running or from doing strength training.

Q: How do you carry everything during long runs?

A: I have this running belt by Nathan with a fanny pack of sorts (see below) – it fits my cell phone, a few gels and some tissues for my runny nose. It goes around my waist, not hips, although I suspect you can carry it around your hips too. The pouch goes to the back, and whenever I need something, I just reach back without having to stop. I used this belt during my last marathon in 2013 as well.

How to carry your things with you during a long run or a running raceI also bring a water bottle with a koozie sleeve with the bottom cut off (here’s the technique for doing that). You can tuck in a car key and a couple gels behind the koozie if you aren’t wearing a fanny pack. By now I’m used to holding a bottle for the entire duration of my run, but for some of us it may take some practice. There are some contraptions for water bottles available in running stores and online that have pockets and handles to make carrying them easier, but I find that my koozie trick does the job just fine for me.

Q: Do you listen to music while running?

A: I don’t. I never developed the habit of carrying any sort of digital player or being comfortable with headphones in my ears while running, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Even on my longest runs, I enjoy ‘airing my head out’ and just focusing on the moment, listening to birds chirping, etc. Plus, it’s often just a matter of being safe and hearing cars coming when I run on roads with no sidewalks, which are plentiful in my area.

Q: Does your husband ever run with you?

A: He doesn’t – at least not in a while. Rob loves cycling, and I’m somewhat terrified of riding a bicycle, so each of us does their preferred outdoor cardio separately, and then we get home and tell each other all about our experiences.

Q: What do you eat the day before a long run? Have you been carbo-loading this week (leading to the marathon)?

As a plant-based vegan, it seems like I’m always carbo-loading! I try to get most of my carbs from minimally processed plant foods (potatoes, yams, grains), but I’m not shying away from an occasional bagel with a slice of Chao cheese for a mid-morning pick-me-up at work. This week I’ve had pasta, potatoes and other usual suspects of a pre-marathon diet, and will most likely have some sort of pasta again the night before the marathon. As for the days before my long runs, we often went out for dinner if we were away from home in Seattle or nearby areas, and that often included having Indian, Thai and other types of ethnic foods.

Q: Is your vegan diet an advantage or a disadvantage for your marathon training?

A: I truly believe that it is an advantage: I recover quickly even after the hardest workouts, I get to eat all the carbs I want while having the flattest stomach I’ve ever had, plus it’s great to know that no living beings had to be harmed in order for me to fulfill my (somewhat selfish) dream of training for such an athletic feat as a marathon.

Q: I’ve been thinking about running a marathon some day, but I can only run 3 miles at a time right now. How long will it take me to train for a marathon?

A: With hard work and dedication, anything is possible! If you can run 3 miles 2-3 times a week right now and start following a proper training plan, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to run a marathon within 5-6 months. Go for it!

Bonus: Mid-Run Nutrition Tips from Readers!!!

And now – a little bonus: tips for long run and race fueling brought to you by the readers of Vegan Runner Eats! (Okay, I totally almost wrote ‘Vegan Runner Eats Readers’ in the previous sentence, but truth be told, I don’t eat the readers of my blog :)).

I’ve talked about my fueling strategy in detail in this post, but a few of you have shared some great tips for getting just the right amount of nutrition during a long run or a race using real plant-based foods! So here’s what you guys recommend:

Siobhan: “When I run a (half-marathon) race, I usually eat a couple of dates about 15-20 minutes before the start. They’re great fuel. I keep them in one of those half-sized zip-lock bags and they don’t break down so I often eat the one or two I have left right after I finish.”

Nicollette: “I’m all about the dates! I do pit them and chop them in half before putting them into a ziploc for a long run, and depending on how I’ve fueled beforehand, whip one out around mile 7-8. I find a whole date a little too much for my mouth all at once (which would be completely preposterous if I wasn’t running– then I’d down several at a time). For me, nothing beats dates– not even sports drinks or gels.”

Miss Roulette: “Fruit leather or dried fruit strips. [They are] easy to carry and don’t dry out my mouth. And the taste is nice, which helps!”

Jan-Marie: “I make my own “Gu.” I use a spoonful of peanut butter (protein), some date syrup (carbohydrates), a smidge of molasses (potassium), and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (electrolytes) to thin it out a bit. It will be a thick goop that you can spoon into the end of a small Ziplock.”

Kat (after I mentioned that I lose a lot of salt with sweat while running, and needed a good way to replace sodium): “I tried salted sultanas [a.k.a. raisins] on a long run aaaaaaages ago, in training for my first half marathon, and it’s fantastic. Just add a little coarse sea salt to a big handful of sultanas and mix well, till you can see salt on them all but they’re not covered. Nom during late stages of run. Easy, and a simple little taste sensation when you’re ten miles in the hole and your whole body is telling you weird things.”

Thank you ladies so much for sharing your running nutrition tips! I’m sure the rest of us vegan runners can benefit greatly from these, especially if we’re looking for all-natural fueling sources.

A little note: In case you decided to try any of the tips above in your race training process, please do so at least a couple times before your goal race. This way you’ll find out how well your stomach can handle the food, and avoid a potential disaster during your race.

It’s time to wrap up today’s post, and let me just say: I’m so thankful to all of you readers of Vegan Runner Eats for keeping my spirits up as I trained for Rock’n’Roll Seattle 2015 marathon! Thank you all for reading my posts, leaving encouraging comments, e-mailing me your questions, and being just plain awesome! You guys rock!

On to the marathon!


Helpful reading:

You can find all of my Rock’n’Roll Seattle marathon training updates here.

What I eat on a long run day for best energy and optimal recovery.

Easy DIY tricks to make your running more comfortable – none of them cost anything!

In case you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends or anyone who could benefit from it! And stick around for more awesomeness – you can follow Vegan Runner Eats by subscribing in the top right corner of this post, or by following the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!

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About Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Being vegan eventually opened her eyes on the issues of animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and feminism. Alina hopes that her blog will help its readers on their path to making this world a better place.

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4 Responses to Vegan Marathon Training Q & A: Your Most Popular Questions Answered! Plus a Bonus: Race Nutrition Tips from Blog Readers

  1. Ruthanne says:

    Hi Alina, I wish you great success on your Seattle marathon. I have loved your columns about your prep and today’s Q&A and bonus. I am an over-70 vegan runner and you have been inspiring and extremely helpful. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing all this info and details about your training and prep! I hope it went well this past weekend! 🙂
    The Vegan Junction recently posted…Q&A with A Wonderful Vegan LifeMy Profile

    • Alina says:

      You’re welcome The Vegan Junction! The race went well, the hills didn’t kill me, and I’ll be posting a recap later this week!

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