What to eat before a long run? It's an ongoing question for me. Remember that I get up before a lot of long runs at a scary-early time... Tomorrow, for example, I'll be up around 4:00am. I will get my clothes on and then I'll need to eat. I don't know if you've tried eating at 4am, but it's actually pretty difficult, as your stomach is not awake and doesn't care to eat anything. Here's a little history...
Pre-2006 Season, I didn't eat anything before running, ever. It never bothered me and I never worried about it, but I was also running significantly shorter distances.
2006 Season, I started my day with Clif Bars. This worked fine for a little while. But, by the time I was a few months into the season and I was up to 20 mile runs, my brain or my stomach or both started rejecting the Clif Bars. I would gag on the first or second bite, and every bite after that required effort. I remember being in a state of pure misery trying to choke down a Clif Bar the day of the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon.
2007 Season, At some point, I switched to bagels. This worked for a while, but I don't eat bagels otherwise, so I end up buying them and they go bad, or I can't figure out what to eat on them. Plus, they're too big. I did go through a period where I would bring a whole plain bagel in the car and gnaw off bites of it, leaving it sitting on the seat... so that when I got back to the car I was greeted by stale, half gnawed on bagel that for some reason my pre-run self thought I'd find appetizing later. Bagels are not horrible, but I still have trouble eating them.
2008 Season, At some point in 2007, I switched from bagels to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This works out nicely because I usually have bread, peanut butter and jelly in the house. I learned that I can only stomach a half of a sandwich that early in the morning, and for a long long time, it's been what I eat before every single morning run - short or long. I think I screwed myself by switching to whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and less sugar jelly... As I switched to each, the sandwich got less and less appetizing to my pre-run self, despite the fact that other parts of the day I can eat all of them with no issue. It's been harder and harder to eat the PB&J, and I've found that even switching back to white bread, trans-fatty peanut butter and regular jelly has not resolved the issue.
2009 So, imagine my delight when an impulse buy at Trader Joe's two weeks ago turned out delicious! I bought Sunflower Seed Butter, which I'd heard about online as being very tasty. I don't even like sunflower seeds that much. It was so good! Ah ha!, I thought, I'll eat this before my next long run and it will solve my long run eating problems! Oh no. It was so bad, so very very bad. At 4am, my taste buds, my brain and my stomach all rejected the Sunflower Seed Butter, and deep down I know that even my normal PB&J is going to have the same result next time. The Sunflower Seed Butter was horrible. It made me miserable, and I felt like I could still taste its nastiness even hours later. It's been sitting untouched in the fridge ever since and the thought of eating it makes me cringe. The thought of eating any nut butter makes me cringe. It was bad enough that last week, I had a bowl of cereal before my run at Loch Raven (and I never eat cereal before a run).
And so, for tomorrow's long run, I've got to find a solution. What in the world is appetizing at 4am? Well, appetizing and also won't make me sick during the run (which I think rules out cereal, which was fine for a short run but probably not great for a long run). Jeff Galloway once suggested eating nothing before a run, and eating more during the run, but the thought of replacing breakfast with sport beans and gu and other disgusting things sounds even worse than the sunflower seed butter.
I think I might try eggs. Some of my running friends thought that sounded horrible, but it may not be bad, as I love eggs. The only reason I hadn't tried it before now was because they take so much time and effort, but I'm willing to give it a go.
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