Fast Food for Mountain Marathons

Start of Mourne Mountain Marathon 2008 with bags full of lovely food! Photo courtesy of Mourne Mountain Marathon
Start of Mourne Mountain Marathon 2008 with bags full of lovely food! Photo courtesy of Mourne Mountain Marathon

During mountain marathons, you need two types of food – one type for when you are running during the day and another lot for when you’re hanging out at the overnight camp.

The overnight camp food is easy – you need dehydrated food that is lightweight and got loads of calories. Dried tortellini pasta mixed with cup-a-soup is always a favourite, with powdered custard for afters. Pot-Noodle also does the job and handily provides you with an empty cup for your coffee the next morning. Personally, I go now for freeze dried foods – high calorie, lightweight, handy, and come in delicious flavours such as chicken curry or meatballs such the chefs at Reiter conjure up these days. Yes, it’s 6 Euro a pop. But when I’ve trained for 12 long hard months, I reckon it’s worth spending a little money so that you have the right food for the event. The food also takes about 10 minutes to rehydrate – during that time, you can shove the packet under your jumper and get a lovely warm feeling on your belly…

A few sachets of Complan also go down well just before bedtime – if my granddad was able to live on them for a year, then they must have something good in them.

To cook all this on, I’m a great fan of the MSR Pocket Rocket and lightweight titanium pot. You can even make your pot lighter by bringing some tinfoil instead of the lid, and for the hardcore amongst us, you can remove those ‘heavy’ pot handles with pliers.

There will be none of me going out on the course on Day 2 if I’ve not had my coffee, so coffee sachets are a must for the morning. Instant porridge is a great starter, though can be a bit messy to clean up the pots and pans afterwards, especially when you’re already late for the mass start. Sometimes though I can’t stomach much, so end up just forcing down an energy bar.

Overnight Camp at end of Day 1. Photo courtesy of Mourne Mountain Marathon.
Overnight Camp at end of Day 1. Photo courtesy of Mourne Mountain Marathon.

Food on the course is another matter. I once made the unfortunate mistake of trying to eat a Powerbar Performance Bar whilst on the run. My teeth were subsequently stuck together for about an hour, making breathing somewhat strenuous. Since then, I’ve been informed by a mountain biking friend that sticking the Powerbar up your shorts for a while helps soften it and make it easier to eat. I’m still not too sure about eating a bar that’s originated from my sweaty shorts, but it’s a tip that someone out there might appreciate.

Since that stressful powerbar encounter, I now stick to gels. One an hour with 500ml of water – yeah granted, a lot of water, but I find I bonk without it. Water’s a heavy thing though to be carrying around, so I scoop from a stream, drink there and then, and store my bottle for another hour.

And then, most importantly, I have a few chocolates hidden away at the bottom of my bag. These are STRICTLY FOR EMERGENCY PURPOSES, like when I’m feeling cold or tired or afraid or lost or hungry or exasperated. One chocolate and I’m back on form… not surprising given that I am female.

Just to note that Rogaine food is an entirely different matter. If I’ve only gels to eat for 24 hours, I’d definitely be retiring early. So in my bag go sandwiches and crisps, chocolate and brownies, cold pizza and cereal bars, nuts and nice cake. And then at the race finish, its beers and burgers, tea and cake all round. It’s the only time when I gain weight after an endurance race.

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