Full and Half marathon training guide

Full and Half marathon training guide

By Alister Gardner - 5-7 min read  

1-3 days before the race:

Carb loading time! It is time to build up your glycogen reserves and give your body a rest. Meals should be mostly carbs, like pasta, rice and potatoes, with a variety of veggies, fruits and a little protein to make sur you’re in the best of shape come race day. Brown bread, pasta and rice have lots of extra nutrients compared to white. Aim to stay hydrated but don’t overdo it –add a glass or 2 of water or electrolyte mix to your regular daily routine. If you are serious about your race then NO alcohol. Plus, get a couple of good night’s rest and do some light stretching.

Pre-race dinner:

Stick with the carb plan! This is the energy source endurance athletes need to perform their best. Often you are away from home so pasta is an easy option to find in restaurants or prepare beforehand. Go easy on the fats, proteins and fibre (yep, white pasta is ok on this occasion if too much fibre doesn’t agree with you). Don’t stress about a poor night’s sleep, you already had two good night’s rest beforehand, right? ☺. Again, NO alcohol.


Carbs continued! Don’t over indulge, you’ll be carrying what you eat. Foods like bagels and porridge provide sustenance and bananas are easy to digest. If you drink coffee then go ahead and have your morning cuppa. Caffeine has some great benefits to stimulate the body. Keep it simple and aim to have eaten at least 2 hrs prior to the race to be sure your stomach has settled and the food digested.


If it has been over 3 hrs hours since breakfast then you may want a quick snack around 30 minutes before the race to bump up your blood sugar level at the start line. A XACT ENERGY fruit bar is are perfect mobile snacks to keep your energy reserves up and can be eaten easily between check-in and the start line.

During the race: Marathon and half marathon

Aim to take an energy gel or chew like XACT ENERGY fruit bar every 30-45 minutes from the start of the race. The number of gels you eat depends on how long it will take you to run your race and how hard you push. The harder you push, the more energy you burn and so should take a bar more frequently.

This could be between 6-8 chews or gels for a marathon runner depending on your time.



30 mins before race

XACT ENERGY blackcurrant with electrolytes +/- caffeine

45 mins


1 hr 30 mins

XACT ENERGY blackcurrant (added electrolytes with or without caffeine)

2 hrs


2 hrs 30 mins

XACT ENERGY blackcurrant (added electrolytes with or without caffeine)


3 hrs



3 hrs 30 mins

XACT ENERGY blackcurrant (added electrolytes with or without caffeine)


4 hrs


4 hrs 30 mins 

XACT ENERGY blackcurrant (added electrolytes with or without caffeine)


Pro tips:

  • Sweating is the main cause of electrolyte loss. The more hot and humid it is, the more you should aim to replace lost electrolytes. Your sports drinks and gels are the best source!
  • Help your bars and gels go down with a mouth full of water if you can. You should be aiming for 500-1000ml / hr of fluid intake. This can vary with temperature and sweat rate.
  • Mix up your energy chews. Have fun and take a variety of flavours to keep your taste buds on their toes (XACT ENERGY comes in 6 flavours: strawberry, apricot, orange, maple, blackcurrant and e-beet (extra electrolytes in an apple and beet juice bar).
  • Caffeine is great for stimulating your central nervous system and reducing perceived effort. XACT ENERGY Blackcurrant has 50 mg and will pick you up as you start to feel worn down.

Scoffing a whole gel or energy bar in one go while on the run can sometimes be tough on the stomach, taking two or three small bites of a XACT ENERGY fruit bar will do the same job and be easier for your system to manage.


Congratulations on finishing your race!! It’s time to reward your body so plan to eat a small snack within 30 minutes of finishing to get your energy back and start recovery. Aim for a mix of both carbs and protein. The XACT PROTEIN wafer (official marathon race recovery bar at the finish line) will have you covered. Before you head to the beer tent, try to drink 500-1000ml fluid to help rehydrate. Once you have something to eat and drink, now you’re ready for that celebratory beer!



Alister is sport nutrition specialist and an elite runner specialising in long distance trail running, as well as a co-owner of XACT.