Nutrition, Fatigue and Fast Finishes – Secret to Success



When you work with marathoners as fast as 2:10 and as slow as 6 hours, you learn a thing or two about what makes for a successful race. The training might be different depending on the goal, but every runner needs to consider three crucial factors.


I’ve known successful marathoners who eat a lot before and during the race, and I’ve known others who eat very little, if anything, before successful marathons. Tim Noakes, author of Lore of Running, is now touting a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet leading up to a race and no fluids or fuel during the marathon. Other runners seem to require a full buffet to run their best.

I echo what others have said: Start with the least complicated race nutrition strategy, then change fuel if that doesn’t work. Most runners do the opposite. They want to have good training runs, so they fuel up with the maximum amount of drinks, gels, chews and various energy-delivery items to help them feel better. But feeling better in training is not necessarily the best way to race faster on marathon day. You may need some rough transition days to help your body adapt to new ways of fueling.

The least complicated strategy in the marathon is to not drink or eat. Just run. Before the establishment gets up in arms, let’s admit that few marathoners know if this strategy is best for them, because they always fuel. What if you went through one marathon training phase and trained your body to perform without fueling? Who cares if you bonk on a few training runs? Maybe that’s the best thing that could happen. See if you adapt enough to avoid bonking the next time.

The second-least complicated strategy is to use a slowly absorbed carbohydrate source or to take only sports drinks during the race. (Note: I advise all marathoners to consider carrying their own fluids so they can drink what they want, when they want.)

The third and most common strategy is to use sports drinks and gels according to the recommendations of the manufacturers–namely, drink two or three good swallows of sports drink every 15 minutes or so and ingest a gel every 45 minutes or so. Most runners use this strategy, so it has the most backing as effective. On the downside, it increases the potential for side effects. GI distress is the most common, but spiking and crashing of blood sugar is another serious side effect. If this turns out to be your best option, go with it, but be sure to try the simpler options first in order to find what works best for you before race day.

Read more on this topic: Lessons on Fueling for Training and Racing and The Runner’s Ultimate Nutritional Recovery Routine (RUNRR)


All marathoners know when they have power in their legs over the course of a long run or long race–and when they don’t. When leg fatigue does occur, it’s frustrating because your breathing is fine, your mind wants to push, but your legs simply won’t respond, or they cramp. Here are a few strategies to build fatigue-proof legs:

Higher Mileage Helps
If you can increase your mileage by 10 to 20 miles per week and stay healthy, your legs will be more resistant to fatigue in your next marathon.

Do Long, Long Runs
The length of a long, long run depends on the athlete. Faster runners (sub-3:00 marathoners) find that a 3- to 3.5-hour long run accomplishes the goal because this is well beyond the time they will take to finish the race. Many of us 3:00 to 4:30 marathoners find that simply running for the duration of our marathon goal time is sufficient. Because the recovery time is so great, I’m not a fan of super long runs for slower runners, but they still must get in 3–4.5 hours to address leg fatigue.

Run Hills
Plan more of your runs over hilly courses and do hill workouts. This was the old-school method of strengthening the legs, and it still works. It’s also good to do some downhill training to condition the quads.


Sounds easy, but it’s mighty hard. That’s why runners have to work on it. You can have your nutrition dialed in and your legs can be strong, but if your mind isn’t ready for the type of fatigue that occurs in the marathon, you won’t race well. This is precisely why many first marathons (especially from speedy runners) don’t go well. Most runners are used to the fatigue in a 5K, 10K or half marathon, but the fatigue in the marathon is an entirely different beast. It’s not a problem with breathing. It’s not a problem with lactic acid buildup. It’s simply a problem with fatigue, physical and mental. Unless you insert some workouts in your training that mimic this type of fatigue, you won’t be ready for the marathon.

The best way I know to simulate marathon fatigue is to add between one and four fast-finish long runs into your marathon program. These should last 16–20 miles, start at a pace just slightly faster than your normal easy run pace, but then, over the last 4 to 8 miles, build to the fastest pace you can run, even sprinting at the end. These are extremely hard efforts but effective in preparing athletes for the mental toughness required to run well on tired legs.

Read more on this topic: Fixing the Fade and Lucky 7 Speed and Stamina Workouts for the Marathon


Thinking it’s time for a prehab program? Our 3HAB Pre-Run Routine is your prehab stretching, mobility, and strength training rolled into 3 simple movements that you can do before runs

Video On-Demand: 3HAB Routine of the Week

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Injury-proof your body from the ground up with a fun, new routine delivered to you every week for a year designed to mobilize, stretch, and activate. $1/week, billed annually. Auto renews every year.

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A new 3-movement pre-run routine each week to build a strong, supple runner’s body.

No time for prehab? Not anymore! Introducing our innovative 3HAB routine – three simple movements, done before (or after) each of your runs that across the program will build a strong, injury-resistant body. And best of all, it takes less than 5 minutes!

With the 3HAB Pre-Run Routine of the Week, you get a new, fun follow-along video routine each week focused on a different area of your body. It’s your prehab stretching, mobility, and strength training rolled into 3 simple movements that you can do before runs. Across the year, you’ll move from head to toe and back again and quickly notice a big difference in your runs.

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Have Fun Building a Strong, Supple Runner’s Body

A new routine focused on a specific area delivered to your inbox every week means you never get bored and will look forward to progressing to the next week. Routines can be done in around five minutes.

Identify and Work on Fixing Imbalances

Follow-along videos with coach’s notes can be accessed anywhere, anytime. You learn how to identify your “problem” areas and how to fix them. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel from the first step on your runs.

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For only $1 a week and a few minutes spent before each run you have no more excuses (or guilt) for not working on your body! Feel good about yourself and start to feel a difference in your running. Strong, smooth and loose = faster running.

Special Introductory Price of $1 per Week

How 3HAB Works

  • After signing up, you’ll receive an email with the link to the first week’s 3HAB routine.
  • Simply click the link and you’ll access Coach Angela’s video explaining your first week’s routine.
  • Each routine takes less than 5 minutes to complete and works to mobilize, stretch and then activate the targeted body part. (You know you can invest 5 minutes to improve your running!)
  • Do the routine then go for your run. Notice how much better your run feels. (Or, do it after your run as part of your cool-down.)
  • For the next 52 weeks, your new routine is delivered to your inbox. How easy is that?!
  • Routines start with the foot and move up the body in 8-week cycles. After 8 weeks, you return to the foot and start the next level of exercises.
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Want to feel better on your runs? 3HAB is for you. 3 movements in less than 5 minutes. You got this! Let’s get started.

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“I got my first Boston Qualifier today with a 21 personal record!”

– Ramona M.


The 3HAB program is a 3-movement routine that addresses an area of your body each week to help you have better runs and, over time, build an injury-proof body. There are 52 routines in the program and you get one routine to work on each week. You start by working on your feet in Week 1 then move upwards in the body with each successive week in 8-week cycles. Then, you return to the feet and begin the next level of injury-proofing. Super simple. Uber effective.

Ideally, you’d do the routine before each and every run. However, we know schedules can be tight so we ask that you commit to doing the pre-run routine 2-3 times per week.

3HAB is our lowest cost prehab routine. It cost just $1 per week. (Yes. You read that right.) The full year of 3HAB routines is just $1 per week (billed annually) and across the year, you’ll do routines that work on your feet, calves/shins, hamstrings, quads/knees, glutes, core/lower back, thoracic/upper back and shoulders. Every 8 weeks, you’ll advance to the next level of movements for each body part, learning where your deficits are and correcting them. You’ll love getting a new routine each week and we’ll be here for you throughout the year.

We firmly believe that all runners should do some prehab training to keep injuries at bay and increase performance. The 3HAB system is designed to compliment our other prehab programs to help you have better runs. And to be honest, we know some runners are so busy that they can’t get to a full prehab program but we want you to be doing something so we created this quick routine.

Each week, you’ll be sent your new routine via email. In the email, you’ll link to the website where Coach Angela will walk you through the week’s routine in her weekly video. This video can be watched on any device at any time so if you are ready for your run, just pull up the video on your phone and follow along. Simple as that!

Angela Tieri is a certified personal trainer and multi-time Boston Qualifier. Her running success ranges from short distances to the ultra marathon and her secret to success is McMillan training (of course!) and a commitment to staying injury free. She understands how injury-proofing and running fit together and because she’s a runner herself, she “gets it” and works with runners everyday to help them stay injury-free while pushing themselves to new PRs.

The Power of 3HAB

In 2 weeks I can’t believe the difference in my feet and legs! Your foot and calf routine has made such a difference! I have been doing it 2 times a day instead of only before runs and it’s just amazing how my legs feel! You guys have done what no other physical therapist has done for me! I am truly grateful! Can’t wait for next week’s video! -Monica M.

At an age (69) where I should be marking dramatic declines in my strength, mobility and running times, I’m instead seeing improvement. I credit my two years of training with Angela as the major reason I’m turning back the clock. – Jack T.

I have felt more improvement with our handful of sessions than all the mix of PT, massage, doctors etc. that I have tried so far combined. My only regret is that our paths didn’t cross earlier! – Marios A.

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Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

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“I got my first Boston Qualifier today with a 21 personal record!”

– Ramona M.