There is a condition and it is called “hangry.” I know. Hideous word. But it conveys a state of being for which no other word exists: where you are so hungry that you lose all restraint and become furious. It is a state that runners can get in if they don’t respect fuel and nutrition. I read this blog today and thought, 25km on no food? Not even a gel? That is bonkers. Yes, there are theories about running while fasting, but the human body’s glycogen runs out at some point and probably before 25km. Science on that is everywhere but here is a start. For me, I notice the energy depletion – known by Americans but not British people as “bonking” – after about an hour. So in both the marathons I’ve run, I have been regimented: nothing for an hour except some water, then a gel and water every three miles, and the water mixed with energy tabs if I could manage to get one out of my pouch and into the bottle. I’m good at nutrition, right? Except I’m not.
I still can’t get my diet right. I get carbs and proteins mixed up. I find myself thinking, what’s a chickpea? Is wholegrain bread good or bad carbs? I should know better by now but I don’t. Yesterday I was planning to do my club training run in the evening. A steady 7 miles, nothing too taxing as I’m saving my legs for Rombald’s Stride on Saturday. (I realise “saving my legs” is a nonsensical phrase to unsporty people.) I had Weetabix for breakfast, poached eggs on toast at 11, then at 3 thought I’d better eat something and had 2 vegetable samosas. That would be enough, right?
I set off with my club and my legs were heavy. After two miles though I’d forgotten about my legs because I was RAVENOUS. For the next mile I could only think of food. Then my only thoughts were, where is a shop? Where can I get jelly babies? The route took us from Kirkstall into town for two miles, then along the canal a bit, over the ring-road and into Armley. In other words, NO SHOPS. Finally, as we ran up Cockshot Lane, I saw a bright shop front.
Car showroom. Closed.
I saw another business with bright lights. Closed.
I saw another one. Convenience store! Open!
“I’ll catch you up”, I told our run leader. “I need to go to the shop.” He looked shocked. “Oh, OK. We’ll wait for you at the top.” The next minute was a flash: dash into the shop. Dig £2 coin out of my running jacket. Say with desperation “DO YOU HAVE JELLY-BABIES?” to the two lads behind the counter. They hand me a packet, looking a bit surprised. I give them the money, while sweating and probably panting. I take the bag, run out and start running up the road. Three young men who looked a lot like trouble seemed to enjoy the sight of my legs in shorts as I ran past, but I didn’t care. I needed sugar. SUGAR. I ran up the road. It took ten minutes. By the time I’d caught the others up (way before the top, run leader of little faith), I’d eaten half a dozen jelly babies. I felt a lot better. We stopped to regroup and I offered them around and everyone declined. Who the hell needs a jelly baby after three miles of running?
I did. I clutched them for the next four miles as if they were my jewels. My legs felt better and I ran faster. Funny, that. My trainer would be horrified to read this, along with the fact that I was still so hungry afterwards I ate a Chinese takeaway of tofu and black bean sauce, in about two minutes.
I chased that down with another Weetabix. And then, I wasn’t hungry.