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How to carry gels on your runs | Nutrition race day strategy

How to carry gels on your runs | Nutrition race day strategy


By Floris Gierman, 2:44 marathoner, Extramilest Podcast host and co-founder of Path Projects.

In this post I will discuss my strategies to carry gels on race day. Over the past 15 years I’ve run many different distances, from half marathons and marathons to ultras up to 100 miles.

Floris Gierman trail running path projects

I have experimented with many ways to carry my nutrition, depending on: 

  • the race distance (how many calories do I want to take in)
  • available support (aid station support, crew, drop bags or solo adventure)
  • route (point to point vs multiple loops)
  • terrain (flat road, hills, trails, altitude, etc) 
  • weather (cold vs hot / humid)

From my personal experience, I don’t like to rely fully on aid station support for calories. For example, at my first 50-mile race, I arrived at an aid station to fill up water and gels, to find out the aid station was not set up yet. Also, at one of my earlier marathons, some aid stations ran out of gels and sports drinks when I arrived. 

Types of nutrition to carry on your run

There are many different ways to intake calories on race day and adventure runs.

For runs up to 6 hours, taking in only energy gels has worked well for me. They are easy to carry, quick to open and consume while running, they are not messy and you can keep breathing well while running. Test which brand & flavor works well for you. I use Precision Fuel & Hydration gels, without caffeine. In the later stages of a race, I add in PFH gels WITH caffeine to boost mental focus. 

For longer runs, I also bring some energy bars, fruits, nuts or other solid foods available at aid stations. 


Different ways to carry your gels on your runs: 

  • Pinning gels to your running shorts, tucking the gel into your shorts, folding the top opening over the shorts waistband. I’ve tried this at some races years ago and the gels didn’t feel secure, had slight bounce which caused friction and chafing. 
  • Carrying a running belt or waistpack didn’t feel right to me, due to bouncing and riding up. 
  • Pinning gels to your running shirt or hat. This extra bounce / friction didn’t feel right.  
  • Hand carrying your gels or attaching gels to your water bottle. I like running handsfree whenever possible, this feels most natural to me. 


My favorite way to carry gels for a marathon and half marathon:

I have found that carrying gels in my running short pockets is the most effective way to access my nutrition quickly. The YKK zippers keep the pockets secure, yet they are easy to open while running, even at faster paces. Separating shorts from your base liners also prevents chafing when your pockets are filled with items. 

Below are two photos of my favorite Path Projects running shorts with pockets to carry my gels, phone, key, credit card / ID, etc.  

Option 1: Sykes PX 5'' Short with Lynx PD 5'' Base Liner

The Sykes PX shorts work well when I race a marathon and want to carry 7 gels, my iPhone 13 PRO, credit card / ID & key.  running shorts with pockets to carry gels, phone, key

  • Left back pocket = 3 gels without caffeine
  • Middle back pocket = ID / credit card in the back + phone + 1 gel
  • Right back pocket = 3 gels with caffeine
  • Key pocket = my car or house key

Typically I take 1 gel 5 minutes before the start of the race, then every 25 to 30 minutes 1 gel. One extra gel just in case. 

On each gel I will tape a salt pill, so if I want to take additional electrolytes, I can take this pill at the same time as my gel. 


Option 2: Graves PX 7” Short with Lynx PD 5'' Base Liner

The Graves PX shorts work well when I race a marathon and also want to carry my GoPro & Extension pole + carry 7 gels, my iPhone 13 PRO, credit card / ID & key.  

marathon running shorts to carry gels and phone

  • Left side pocket = 6 gels 
  • Middle back pocket = phone + 1 gel
  • Right side pocket = GoPro & Extension pole
  • Right bottom pocket = credit card / ID
  • Key pocket = my car or house key


My favorite way to carry nutrition for an ultra run, 50k and beyond

For longer runs I carry my gear in a running vest AND in my running shorts.

There are many great options for vests / packs available on the market. I suggest trying on different types of vests to find which one fits best for you. 

For all Path Projects photo shoots, I use a Black Diamond Distance 8 Pack, so I can run / hike for hours with my heavy camera, with easy access to nutrition and hydration. 

My go to short for ultras is the Graves PX 7” Short with 8” Lynx PD Base Liner

ultra running shorts no liners

For ultras I divide my gear between my running pack and my shorts. In my running pack I carry my hydration, gels and energy bars. 

In my Graves PX 7'' running shorts I carry: 

  • Left side pocket = headlamp or sunglasses
  • Middle back pocket = phone 
  • Right side pocket = GoPro & Extension pole
  • Right bottom pocket = credit card / ID
  • Key pocket = my car or house key


Base liners to prevent chafing on your runs, when you carry items in your pockets

running shorts without liner

All Path Projects shorts are unlined. The separate shorts and base liner system is a game changer, here are the advantages I have experienced first hand:  


  • Even with all the items I carry on my runs, the base liner stays in place and wicks away moisture. 
  • The short rides on the base liner and can move during a run without rubbing against your skin. This virtually eliminates all chafing.


  • With these base liners you have a choice of different fabrics and lengths. For example in the regular running season I run in 5” or 8” base liners, however on cold winter runs, I use full length base liners
  • This allows you to dial in a base liner based on current weather conditions and personal preference. 

Hope this gives you a better understanding of my approach to carrying gels, my phone, keys and more on my runs. 

If you have any questions about this topic, just let me know in the comments below. Have fun out there on your runs! 

Floris Gierman running with Greg Sisengrath Zion

Learn more about Floris Gierman on his KREW bio page, Strava, YouTube, IG Extramilest Podcast or PB Program


Great article need to get my self some of these liners for sure