Running your first race can be a daunting experience, especially if you're taking on a full 26 miles. Long distances demand a commitment to training but also often require a full diet overhaul to ensure you're fuelling an aching body with all the nutrition it needs to repair and make it stronger. Paula Radcliffe held the women's world record for the distance up until 2019, so who better to get you race-ready in five simple steps? Nail your training and feel stress-free at the start line with Paula's essential tips.


Q: What are your five go-to snacks and ingredients?

1. Grains

Basmati, jasmine and different types of rice are always in the cupboard. I prefer rice to wheat as a fuel for the marathon. It just works for me. Also porridge oats.

2. Bananas

Sometimes I have one before I run. Sometimes I'll just have one in my bag for when I've finished. They're easy to mash up in lots of things, too. My kids love flapjacks made with mashed bananas.

3. Mixed nuts

Especially almonds – I love almonds and almond butter. It's good to have a handful of nuts straight after training. I think a little bit of salt is good so I have the dry roasted ones.

4. Salmon and other fish

I have a lot of salmon and fish in my diet because I love it. I justify it because it has a lot of good omegas (healthy fats) as well.

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5. Dark chocolate

It has bioflavonoids and a bit of iron in it – that's my excuse!


Q: What are the four most important things you would recommend people have in their kit bag for race day?

1. Carbohydrate drinks

These are a good way to keep loading up on energy to the start of the race. You want one with some electrolytes in it as well.

2. Power bar

Some people like to have just a little bit of an energy bar. Jelly babies, dark chocolate or something similar are good to keep you going.

3. Old clothes or a bin liner

It's good to have something you can keep on until the last minute that you can throw away. You send your kit bag to the finish but you want to stay warm before the race.

4. Anti-chaffing cream

Rub it on your feet before you put your shoes on. Apply it to any other areas that may rub because it's going to make the experience more comfortable.


Q: If you're training for your first marathon what are the three diet and lifestyle changes you'd recommend?

1. Be more hydrated

We say roughly an extra litre for every hour that you train in hot conditions. So if you're training every day, you need to be getting in almost an extra litre every day.

2. Consume plenty of protein as well as carbs

You're going to need to tweak your diet and pay more attention to carbohydrate and protein because you're building muscle and breaking it down. People always think about the carbs and don't think so much about the protein side of it.

3. Sleep

You need more sleep and more recovery time!

Q: What are the two most common mistakes new runners make and how can they avoid them?

1. Running in the wrong shoes

It's not the ones that look cool or have the prettiest colours. It's the ones that suit your running style. Go to a specialist store, run up and down, have them assess whether you're a pronator, supinator or neutral and then get the shoe that's right for you. It's going to reduce injury risk massively.

2. Pace yourself and build up the training gradually

Don't just jump in because it's the first week, being all enthusiastic and trying to do everything. Don't increase distance or time more than 10% a week.

Q: What is the one thing you can do on race day to get across the finish line that bit faster?

1. Don't over-stress it. Run how you feel and enjoy the atmosphere

Yes, you need to pace yourself but don’t over-analyse. Take in the atmosphere and tune into yourself. Run according to your instincts and what you feel is the right pace because the atmosphere will lift you on the day. If you look at your watch thinking, 'Oh, that mile was 10 seconds faster than I should have done it,' you'll get stressed. Tune into your body and stay focused. Know that everybody has bad moments in a marathon so don't panic when you get to them. You've just got to get through it and then you'll be fine.

Energy-boosting snacks to keep you going


Energy balls
Energy bites
Dried fruit energy nuggets
Spicy seed mix
Apricot & seed protein bar
Strawberry & banana almond smoothie

Protein-packed meals


Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa
Mexican chicken stew with quinoa
Moroccan turkey meatballs with citrus couscous
Vitality chicken salad with avocado dressing
High-protein recipe collection

You'll find more expert tips and meal plans in our marathon training and nutrition hub.


Are you running a marathon this year? Tell us how your training is going and share your own tips for success in the comments below...

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