Callum Hawkins

Callum Hawkins: the secrets to fuelling a marathon

Britain’s rising distance runner, Callum Hawkins, shares his well honed nutrition strategies for tackling a marathon.

He may have just missed out on the medals at the 2017 World Championships this summer, but there’s still no stopping the 25 year old.

Despite finishing 4th, he still put in an impressive performance with a with a personal best time of two hours 10.17 minutes – enough to equal the best performance by a British athlete in the men’s marathon at a World Championships.

Now with his eyes set firmly on next year’s Commonwealth Games, the HIGH5-fuelled athlete shares his nutrition secrets and tips for those hoping to crack their marathon PB this Autumn.

For a runner who’s pipped to race alongside the likes of Mo Farah in future events, it may be easy to assume that preparing for the full marathon distance comes easily, but what resonates most is Callum’s honesty when he admits that for him – as for most of us – the challenge of making up the miles and the volume of training required, is still testing.

“I think the hardest thing is just the amount of training that is required just to be able to run one,” he explains.

“For London, I was up at 120 miles a week with my shortest run being 8 miles which was closely followed by another 8 miles later that day. The harder sessions that I do often go over 20 miles. Training for a marathon can really take its toll on the body but it’s so rewarding when you finish.

“Finishing 4th at the World Champs, I felt both over the moon and disappointed. To be able to see a medal just down the road was tough but looking back I don’t think I could have done much more than I did. It was quite a stressful build up as I got injured and ill during it, which allowed some doubts to creep in, so to finish fourth was amazing and a huge relief.”

Running at such a pace requires impeccable precision not only in his approach to training, but when it comes to fuelling. The reasons behind it may sound straightforwards, Callum is quick to impress the importance of getting your nutrition right, both for training and recovery – to runners of all abilities.

“Nutrition is huge for a marathon for three reasons. The first is so that you are able to train hard. You need to make sure that you are taking in enough calories to make up for what training has taking out of you so that you can recover and are ready for the next day’s training,” he says.

“The second is to make sure you have enough fuel stored up for the race itself. The marathon is a long way, so the fuller the fuel tank is before the race, the better. And the third reason is making sure your nutrition is right during the race.

“The human body is not designed to have enough glycogen stores to go the full distance. That is why nutrition during the race is key.”

For Callum, being sponsored by HIGH5 has enabled him to use a range of sports nutrition, which each perform their own specific role.

“I use Protein Recovery drink and Protein Recovery Bar as I find it is a great and easy way for me to get carbs and protein in after training. I use the Sports Bar as an extra snack in the lead up to a marathon as I find it is an easy and tasty way to up my carb intake before a race. During a race I use both Energy Source drink and Energy Gel to make sure I have enough fuel in my body to make it to the end without blowing up.”

Callum Hawkins
NYC Half Marathon, March 19,2017
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

Intrigued to know more about his fuelling strategy, we ask for his insight on what he takes on board in the days before to help  prepare for a 26.2 mile onslaught, given that the intensity he runs at is considerably more than your average runner.

“I don’t really do anything fancy in the few days before a marathon. I just try to eat a little bit more than I normally would. I do this by having slightly bigger meals but I’ve found that snacking regularly is the easiest way. For hydration I just try to make sure I have a bottle of water on me. It encourages me to sip on it which in turn keeps me hydrated and I sometimes throw a HIGH5 Zero tablet in.”

Come race day itself, a pot of porridge and some bananas throughout the morning of the race are his favoured meal, and of course, the additions of HIGH5 Energy Source which contains added carbohydrate.

“I start drinking it two hours before and make sure I finish it before an hour to go,” says Callum. “Around 10 minutes before the race, I have an Energy Gel.”

Being an elite runner, Callum has the benefit of being able to access his own water bottles every 5km, but there are still added preparations to consider, requiring some forethought and a good understanding of the race route and conditions.

For Callum, each water bottle contains 150ml of Energy Source, each with a gel strapped to them in case he misses one. Even still, extra bottles are taken, positioned and strapped just in case. You can never be too sure.

A typical race situation requires 120ml of the drink every 5km, and a gel at 15km, 25km and 35kms, so making sure there are enough should one go astray, is key.

In warmer weather, he will adjust his fuelling strategy to include more fluids.

“Fortunately for me, my marathons haven’t been in extreme heat so I haven’t changed my fuelling strategy, but when I go warm weather training I do drink a lot more during runs and sessions as you just need to. I also use a HIGH5 Zero tablet in a drink after every run when away somewhere warm, so that I can replace what is lost through sweat.”

Being an elite athlete obviously brings its benefits, but we’re keen to know what best piece of racing advice Callum might be compelled to lend someone hoping to rack up a PB in their marathon this Autumn.

“Pacing is key. It’s so easy to get excited in a marathon and go too deep too early. In all four of the marathons I have run I have negative split. I have found that having a conservative but still quick halfway split goal the best way for me. This allows me to get to halfway in good shape then from there I determine if I should push on or just maintain. Halfway is the point in a marathon when I know exactly what I have in the legs.”

So, where should we expect to see Callum next?

“My next big goal will be the Commonwealth Games marathon in April of next year and after that I will most certainly be looking forward to Tokyo 2020. I will have a few marathons in between the Commonwealth’s and the Olympics but I haven’t decide on what they will be yet – all my focus is on the Gold Coast.”

Need advice on your marathon nutrition strategy? See our easy-to-read nutrition guide or download our free 12-week HIGH5 marathon training plan.



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The Major Do’s and Don’ts of Running a Marathon

It’s nearly here – you’re just weeks away from your marathon day, and it’s time to put the finishing touches to your training.

But there are still a few essential things you need to do if you’re going to ensure you’re in the best possible form.

Follow these tips from our friends at Running With Us to make sure you get the most from your marathon performance.




The Do’s:


Motivation and positivity: It can be common to find yourself getting bored on the longer runs in the final few weeks, especially with temperatures dipping. Do stay positive – it happens! Surround yourself with people in training that will help you along the way. Plan to meet up with other runners to help motivate you to get out the door, and get the miles in. If that’s not possible, log your miles on Strava and encourage friends to share comments and kudos when you complete your next milestone. Use your running to explore new routes and places every now and then to keep things varied.


Nutrition is key: Make sure to fuel yourself cleverly. You will be burning more than you realise. Getting your nutrition right during training will help set you up for the perfect race day and give you the best possible chance of achieving a PB. Nutritional products can contain varying quantities of carbohydrate, protein and caffeine, so it’s very important to trial your nutrition during your longer runs and find what works for you. Don’t leave it until race day to try a new gel or bar. A HIGH5 trial pack offers a wide selection of options for both training and recovery. This simple nutrition guide will help you to fuel yourself properly so that you get the best from your marathon experience and enjoy it more.


Taper: Allow yourself to rest in the final couple of weeks. You need to go into the race feeling fresh rather than over-trained and tired. It’s good to keep muscles active and moving, but don’t be tempted to try and log the last-minute miles.


Pacing: Make sure to stick to your pace. Come the big day, try to avoid getting caught up on those running around you at the start. Remember all the hard work you have put into it and run the race just like you have in training. Stay focused and keep to your plan. If you’re attempting to run to a pace maker but find the pace too high, be honest about how you’re feeling, and whether you can maintain it. If you need to tag back to maintain better form mid-race, you might help yourself in the later miles.



The Don’ts:


Gear:  Don’t wear anything on the day you haven’t done in training. This can cause chafing and might even give you a reason to stop. Try out potential race day kit ideas in training on your easy runs to see how you feel in them… never on the day.


Sleep: Don’t be tempted to stay up too late and stand on your feet for long periods in the week leading up to your event: recovery is vital.  Make sure in the final weeks leading up to the race you are getting early nights and allowing maximum recovery. You need to listen to your body and sleep when you feel tired. The day before the race you need to be lying down as much as you can. Let family and friends around you know that you need to do this. This is a key period in your preparation – you have one chance.


Hydration: Try to avoid drinking too much, or in excess, during the final few days. It is possible to over-hydrate yourself which can risk leaving you feeling more tired as your body attempts to manage the extra fluid. Little and often throughout the day, (around 3-4 litres daily) is plenty when training for a marathon, however make sure you’re spreading it out. If you need to become better at hydrating yourself, start practising good habits early in your training. Electrolyte drinks are the best way to hydrate without having to take on huge amounts of water. They are filled with key nutrients. Check out this advice on hydration for what to drink and why.



For advice on what to eat and drink for your marathon, click here to see the HIGH5 Marathon Nutrition Guide and How To Carbo Load.

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What it takes to fuel a continental pro cycling team

When it comes to fuelling world class cyclists, we know how to produce great-tasting performance nutrition, but how do the riders and teams actually make the most of it when it reaches the pro peloton?

We recently went behind the scenes at the UK’s biggest professional cycle race, The Tour of Britain, to catch up with Xenia, soigneur for An Post-Chain Reaction, the UCI Continental pro-cycling team founded by Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly, to ask what it takes to feed a team across eight days of competition.

Photos: courtesy of SweetSpot



Being a soigneur, or ‘swanny’ as they are colloquially known, isn’t for the faint-hearted.  Part housekeeper, part masseur, as well as driver, confidant and responsible for fuelling a team of six to perform at their very best against 114 other competitors, there’s a lot at stake.

Often on-call first thing in the morning to last thing at night, no set working hours and huge distances behind the wheel (sometimes up to 1,500k just to get to a race), it’s easy to question what could motivate someone to take on what is arguably one of the toughest jobs in sport.

For Xenia, there’s no doubt. “That’s simple. You have to be passionate about cycling,” she says.

“Right now, the thing I love the most are the races in the mountains, even if I have to be in a car day in day out. The views you have – and that combination with cycling.  You don’t become a “swanny” if you want to be in touch with “famous” riders. You do it because you love the sport. If you do it with passion, it’s the most beautiful job in the world.”



Xenia started out going along to races to support friends and became a swanny with the Lotto Ladies’ Team. It was a trip to Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April this year, the infamous one-day classic in Belgium, where she met team managers of An Post CRC and moved into the men’s peloton.

“The way I see it, I take care of the whole team – riders and staff – as if they are my kids,” she says.

“I feed them, take care of them, listen, be good to them but I’m firm when I need to be. I’m the “mummy” of the team.” We’re already sensing her warm and caring approach.

But what might at first sound a glamorous position of responsibility, beneath are endless lists of jobs to be done from driving, washing kit and cars, shopping, preparing bottles, massaging tired muscles, and repairing kit – basically, everything and anything the riders and staff ask for. Incredible amounts of passion and boundless energy are required to ensure her team has everything they need, on demand.

“It can be exhausting, but it never kills you and I just love it. We’re never alone, and most importantly, we’re like a family in this team.”



Despite a network of riders, mechanics and race staff to continually rely on for mutual support, it’s apparent that to be a good soigneur, you’ve got to be the family member with the sixth sense – the ability to anticipate five steps ahead of the game, even when you’ve no idea what the next day is going to throw your way.

What might first seem a simple task, can require meticulous attention to detail. Depending on the kind of race, be it a one-day classic or a multi-day stage race, Xenia’s main task is to prepare the race bottles for the riders.

Over the course of a stage race like the Tour of Britain, she can prepare a staggering 400 bottles or more, sometimes taking up to an hour to prepare the relentless number of bidons needed each day.

“You can never have enough of them,” she explains.

“Before the start, we give every rider two bottles with HIGH5 Energy Source or isotonic. These make sure the riders don’t get dehydrated and keeps their energy levels up. We also prepare the bottles to go in the team car; roughly four spare bottles for each rider. Then we prepare bottles to hand out in the feeding zone, and sometimes add HIGH5 Energy Gel to them.”

That’s on top of making sure there is additional water, HIGH5 Energy Source, and a raft of empty bottles in the team car, just in case.

With up to six riders on the team each day, a complete eight-stage Tour of Britain can require 84 bottles for race start, some 168 in the team car, and a whopping 210 for feeding.

“The main thing is, we need lots of HIGH5 to get the guys energised, hydrated and focused,” Xenia explains.


Even this in itself can be tricky when pro riders have a reputation for being rather demanding on times, albeit understandably when it’s your professional career at stake. What might seem absurd or peculiar to the everyday cycling enthusiast, a good swanny will always generally try to oblige, since it comes with the territory.

“We always try to keep that in mind,” Xenia tells us. “During the race it can be harder, but still, I try to manage!

“Some of them like their energy source to be sweeter and sugary; others just want water with the exact amount of energy that is necessary. I start to know their habits little by little.”

Demanding it may seem, when you’re pushing your body to its limits in racing, it’s important to have nutrition that you can work with.

“The important thing is to make sure it’s good and healthy, so they race well and don’t get sick. That’s why the team loves HIGH5. We always prepare start-bags for the riders, with two HIGH5 bars, two HIGH5 gels and a biscuit that they take with them to start the race.”

We were keen to learn what kind of selection makes it into the mystery musette – the infamous bag of energy-boosting goodies that teams are given permission to hand-up to riders in a dedicated ‘feed zone’ around mid-race.

“We always put in a HIGH5 Energy Bar, a Sports Bar, two gels, two bidons and a Coke. Sometimes extra, when they deserve it,” we’re told.



The feed zone is a precarious place for both riders and the swanny feeding them, usually due to the risk of riders crashing. Indeed, there are cases of relationships having been negatively affected by the failure of the swanny to connect with a rider on the feed in that defining ‘moment’ when the rider reaches for his musette hoping for a reliable exchange.

What’s the secret to getting it right, we ask?

“Is there a secret? I always blame the riders!” Xenia laughs.

It’s easy to tell how her easy sense of humour makes her the perfect fit for the job. Despite the pressure, the ability to laugh and have fun during the process is often essential.

She continues: “Jokes aside, it’s intense, but when they try to grab it too late or another rider is in the way, it’s hard.

“The only trick I think is not being afraid to put yourself out there, but at the same time, not being a dare-all and bringing the guys into danger. If they don’t grab it, try to get to another spot as fast as you can. And always try to say to them before the race where you’ll be standing, and make sure they see you. They will come to you when they need you.”

Despite the risk, she is still busy putting her riders first.

“As long as we can enjoy making riders happy and see them race and shine on the stages, that’s the best thing,” she adds.

What’s clear is that with Xenia’s incredible support onside  – and possibly a never-ending supply of bidons  – there’s little doubting that we’ll be seeing more of the HIGH5-fuelled An Post CRC team putting in some shining performances in future.

You have until midnight on Sunday 17 September, 2017 to WIN a full set of An Post-Chain Reaction pro cycling team kit in our competition. Enter online here:


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