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Jelly Belly

Since I last wrote, I’m pleased to say that I’ve continued with running and have got into a relatively good routine. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve run another two 10K races, as well as my second half-marathon. Whilst my times won’t make Haile Gebrselassie tremble or Mo Farah shit a brick, it’s nice to be able to fall out of bed and be able to run thirteen miles without much thought. It’s getting easier to run distances - just last night I ran 12.75 miles and feel sufficiently alive to tell the tale. It’s also turned into something social, with my good friend @bikesian65 accompanying me on many a weekend trot. Even my four year old son has had a go - he got his first running medal a few weeks ago, becoming part of our joint collection.

I’m fitter now than I think I’ve been at any other point in my life - and I’m hoping to add another medal to my collection when I complete the Plymouth Half-Marathon in three weeks’ time.

When it comes to running distances, I’ve slowly become accustomed to it - and slow is the word to use here. I’ve told you many a time about how stumpy my legs are, but that can turn into a problem when you’re running distances. A half-marathon takes me over two hours. My longer-legged counterparts could have completed the race, come home and had a cuppa by the time I cross the line. As a result, my terrier-legs are working for longer. This presents a problem, namely that you end up draining all the energy from your legs. From what I understand this is a common problem because your legs are fuelled largely by carbohydrates (glycogen) - of which you have a two-hour supply. After that, you’ve got to supplement the energy by other means. If like me you’re running for more than two hours (did I say I was slow?), then you’ll need to take in some more carbs as you run. Most people use energy gels (such as the “Gu” pack I’ve shown below) and periodically pop them as they go.

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The inconvenient truth is that they taste like flavoured wallpaper paste - and as there’s only so much Polycell I can consume before I want to be sick I needed to find an alternative. What’s a compact source of pure carbs that I can easily carry and consume as I run?

The answer appears to be Jelly Babies. Each Jelly Baby has about twenty calories and is about 80% carbohydrate. They’re easy to chew on as you run, the don’t taste like poo and they seem to release their energy in about ten to fifteen minutes. I know this because as part of last night’s run, I decided to use them in as close to a controlled experiment as I could get. I ran the half-marathon distance (13.1 miles) and from mile three onwards, popped a baby at each mile checkpoint. By my (admittedly poor) calculations, even if you’ve consumed 200 calories in Jelly Babies, you’ve probably still burnt up well over 1,500 calories by running. That still sounds fine to me.

Did it work?

Yes, it seemed to do the trick. As I got well into my fourth mile, I started to feel a bit of a sugar rush, which seemed to stay with me. My calves didn’t seem to hurt so much either. Even if the results are purely psychosomatic, I’m not going to complain - because if nothing else, I felt perkier and less, well, buggered. That can’t be so bad, can it? The only thing I’d change is that perhaps I’d start taking them from mile 2 - and keep them in a little bag so they don’t turn into a squashy mess in my shorts’ pocket. Sweat does make them taste pretty manky after a while.

Using Jelly Babies seems to work out at less than half the price of using gels, so they’re probably not such a bad thing to use in day-to-day running.

On returning home I did some further research. It seems that Jelly Babies are a common “running food”. This chap’s blog post gives a really good breakdown of Jelly Babies and shows why they’ll probably work better than a gel. As well as the carbs, they’ve also got a bit of protein and some important electrolytes. They’re like little power pills. A lot of people swear by them, although it appears that there’s lots of other suitably sugary pic’n’mix sweets out there that’ll fit the bill too. I’ve heard that Wine Gums are equally effective. Vegetarians may need to find gelatine-free alternatives.

And yet, as I reflect on the whole thing, it just seems a bit surreal. Eighteen months ago, this entire discussion would never have popped into my head. Here I am talking about nutrition during distance running. I’ll find out whether my research proved fruitful in about three weeks’ time. I’ve got a time of 2hrs 18 minutes and 24 seconds to beat - reckon I can do it?

I’ll let you know soon.
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