Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Training the gut for marathon success

Published Fri 14 May 2021

A big bowl of pasta and lots of water.

It’s the common yet superficial perception of what preparing for endurance events entails, but for Australia’s elite marathoners it’s only the foundation of a much bigger picture.

Sinead Diver, Ellie Pashley, Lisa Weightman, Liam Adams, Brett Robinson and Jack Rayner have all met the Olympic standard in the marathon which stands at 2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women, staking a strong claim to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.

Awaiting in the notoriously humid city of Sapporo is a grueling 42.2-kilometre journey in brutal conditions, making nutrition paramount to their success.

To prepare for this experience, the six marathoners recently completed a training camp in Cairns with a sharp focus on fueling their bodies for optimal performance on the big stage.

Athletics Australia’s National High Performance Nutrition Lead, Jessica Rothwell, attended the camp and implemented a variety of strategies to ensure the Australians have the edge over their competitors.

“Given Saporro is going to be humid, some of the things we were doing included hyperhydration and menthol gels,” she said.

“We need to minimise significant fluctuations in their body temperature and match sweat losses as closely as possible because of the heat and humidity, if we don’t do these types of things, it will be a very tough run.”

The camp served up challenging sessions with conditions to match, giving Australia’s endurance machines a chance to simulate the nature of the Games. The athletes ran upwards of 170-kilometres per week the harsh Cairns sun.

“A lot of the training sessions were from 10am onwards so they were getting some good heat exposure. We were looking at their sweat losses across a range of sessions so now we have a good understanding for all of them in terms of their sweat rates per hour,” Rothwell said.

Rothwell acknowledged the difficulty in executing the strategies, addressing the importance of allowing the body time to adapt.

“We need to train the gut. We need to ensure they are practicing getting more total fluid and carbohydrates in across some of their longer and higher intensity sessions which will really help them on race day,” she said.

The strategies combined give the six Australians every chance to compete at their best at the Olympic Games.

“If we can ensure they stay nice and healthy in the lead up and have all the strategies we can help prepare them with in terms of the heat and humidity, they will be in the best position possible,” Rothwell said.  

The group will compete in multiple events in the lead up to the Olympics, with the Gold Coast half marathon a key opportunity to trial new techniques before returning to Cairns for staging camp, where they will add the finishing touches to the thorough process.

By Lachlan Moorhouse, Athletics Australia
Posted: 14/5/2021