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Nutrition an important factor for runners during Fargo Marathon week

Runners start the half marathon of the Fargo Marathon Saturday, May 20, 2017, that finished in the Fargodome. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO—The Sanford Fargo Marathon begins at 7 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Fargodome. But in reality, if you're looking for any sort of peak performance, it can start now.

Putting the right and appropriate amount of fuel in your body is highly recommended beginning 36 to 48 hours before a race, if not longer. That's the advice of Kelsey Herrick, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics at Sanford Power in Fargo.

According to Herrick, those days of only focusing on the huge load of pasta the night before a long-distance event have morphed into more of an overall look at your food intake.

"We're really now focusing on the whole week before," Herrick said. "Some of the marathon and half-marathon runners should be carbo loading right now."

Not everybody has to focus on their diet. The general guideline is for people who plan on running an event that will take 90 minutes or longer, so those doing the 5K or 10K can probably eat what you eat, but still make sure to hydrate.

"A lot of it is tried and true: Athletes need more carbs, and endurance athletes need more carbs," Herrick said. "That has been consistent."

Also consistent advice: Don't try anything new.

"Know the foods your stomach can tolerate," she said.

Out-of-towners could face a challenge at local restaurants. Try to stay away from anything too greasy. For instance, Friday may not be the day to try the big burger, but you also need more than just a salad.

"Make sure when you're ordering something, it's something you've had during training," Herrick said. "It may not be the time to try a new restaurant. That can maybe wait until Saturday evening."

The timing of breakfast the day of the race also is important, and this is where you can take your dedication to a good race to another level. Herrick says ideally you will want to wake up three to four hours before your event and have a good breakfast.

That means setting the alarm clock at 3 or 4 a.m. for the marathon or 15 minutes later for the 7:15 a.m. half marathon start.

"I know people don't want to wake up that early, but you can go back to bed," she said.

There are a lot of you. Last year, there were 18,073 registrations for all of the events during the week. Of the 1,544 who signed up for the 26.2-mile marathon, 1,303 finished. There were 3,873 who finished the 13.1-mile half marathon.

Nutrition shouldn't take a vacation immediately after the race, either.

Herrick says take advantage of the food and drink that will be near the finish line in the Fargodome. You'll want a nice balance of carbs and protein to replace what you lost during the race. Chocolate milk, for instance, is ideal.

"I know a lot of people are going to want to have a beer and all of that stuff," Herrick said. And, hopefully by then, you'll be celebrating a good experience. If not, maybe look at adjusting your nutrition before the next race.

"I think it can help with your time," Herrick said. "If somebody has been struggling in trying to make a PR (personal record) and you're stuck around the same time, think about looking at your nutrition and seeing where to improve on. I think that can help a lot. Sometimes nutrition can be the last piece of the puzzle."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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