Slow Running, Cheaper Fueling: London 2017 and Agricultural Commodities

marathon Boggy/Adobe Stock

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Nick Peksa, a director at Mintec. 

It’s 8 a.m. and I am waiting for a docklands light railway train, when it arrives a few moments later, with slight apprehension I step on board. The DLR train rapidly fills up with a Lycra clad army, the air is heavy with the scent of wintergreen, menthol and eucalyptus, and there is palpable excitement and nervous tension in the air, as people chatter away. Yes, that’s right, Regain, a fantastic charity that supports tetraplegics in sport, persuaded me to run the London Marathon for them this year.

Travelling back in time — the month is December, I return home from work after a conference call with Regain and told my fiancé proudly, “I am running the London Marathon in April.” Her first response was, “I am pleased for you, see you in four months,” followed by, “Oh, and how much will this cost?”

I simply responded, “It’s only 26.2 miles and I am running it for charity. How hard can it be?”

If you have met me, you know that I am certainly not going to win, let alone even finish under five hours. However, the whole event did present an interesting problem: How can I consume enough calories to ensure that I can complete the course?

On average, 1 gram of carbohydrate creates 4 calories of energy. Given my weight, I calculated that during my marathon attempt I would expend something in the region of 4,800 calories in energy.

So assuming I start with nothing, I would require approximately 1.2 kilogram of sugar to get me around. A typical energy gel contains 26 grams of carbohydrates, so if I carry 46 energy gels I will break even!

However, in the real world starting on empty is never actually the case. Initial energy requirement comes from a combination of glycogen (stored in the muscles) and burning fat. Glycogen can be derived from carbohydrate sources like pasta and rice, which needs to be consumed a couple of days before the start of any endurance feat like a marathon, to ensure your muscles are fully charged. Once the glycogen is depleted runners normally need to supplement this with additional sources such as the energy gels I mentioned. On planning and researching for my attempt, I found most experts recommend consuming between 30grams–60 grams of carbohydrate an hour (two energy gels) — this will get you around.

As we skip forward to May 2017, and I’m pleased to say a successful Marathon run, I can try and answer those questions from my now wife. “How much will it cost?” Let’s explore the price trends of primary carbohydrates.

The price changes since December 2016

  • Canadian pasta wheat has dropped 20%
  • World sugar prices have dropped on average by 15%
  • Almonds have decreased by some 5%
  • Rice has increased by 7%

Given the quantities I consumed, I can happily say that the cost (food wise), was around 15% less than it could have been.

That is, if you don’t count the two pairs of running shoes, GPS watch, running kit, water bottles, sports tablets, race entries, running club membership, hotels and train fares. The marathon reached its cheapest point at the start line (where the energy gels and sports drinks were free)!

Thank you to all those from the procurement world who sponsored my London Marathon challenge. Now that I know the true cost of it, you never know maybe I will run again next year — after all, I still have six months left on my running club membership.

First Voice

  1. Shauna Baillie:

    Thanks again Nick for being one of Regain-The Trust for Sports Tetraplegics best supporters! Absolutely fabulous! I look forward to meeting you again at The Snowdonia Challenge on 10th June, to raise funds with your 3 triathalon friends for Regain. It makes such a difference to our sports tetraplegics, who have had a sporting accident, and whose lives have changed in a second, with some of them needing 24 x 7 care. It helps us to provide them with much needed specialist wheelchairs, including Rugby, hand bikes, computer aided software, and e-motion wheels, to help get them into sport again! Thanks from all at Regain and see you soon!

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