My Fruit Fueled Marathon

Running in the recent Chicago Marathon taught me a whole lot of things, most importantly it taught me how to listen to my body and give it proper fuel & rest when needed. I've been registered for three marathons in the past - all which were never run due to injury during training. So, in my case, fourth times the charm! And what a charm it was. I literally had one of the best runs of my life (in all 12+ years of running). I owe much of my success to proper fuel & hydration but I can't deny Chicago lucked out with perfect running weather that day. Cool & dry makes for ahh-mazing runs.

 ^^ View from a sunset 20 miler along the lakefront ^^

I feel compelled to write about my experience because I surprised myself. Part of that surprise had something to do with the fact that I was pain free nearly the entire race, only the last few miles did my legs begin to feel tired. Such a difference from years past. And part of that surprise was how energetic I was. I admit the last few miles were tough but it was easy enough to pull through with positive mental reinforcement. Post-race I was energetic & alert and just.kept.going! I didn't get home until after 8:30 PM, iced my knee for a bit, and rolled out my IT band before going to bed. The next day I was sorta achey but honestly I've felt way worse after long runs before. It kind of felt like I didn't even run the marathon. Seriously?!

Given my lack of injury, virtually pain-free race, and surprising energy & alertness, I figure my keen attention to proper fuel was on my side. Here is a look at what I did for my entire marathon experience from training to my post-race meal.

TRAINING (4 months): I ate {mostly} very clean & loaded up on carbs for all long runs with tons of fruit. Thankfully watermelon was in season most the time - my perfect post-run fuel & rehydration! There were times I'd eat half a watermelon in one sitting. And there were days I'd consume over 10 bananas, whether eating and/or blending. I had tons of energy from filling up on fruit. I could work a full 8-9 hour day and head to the gym or lakefront in the evening and knock out 13-15 miles runs, no problem. I focused on carbs over protein and that seemed to work really well.

 

PRE-RACE: A couple days before the race when most people are carb loading on pasta, pizzas, and breads, I was eating the following:

• bananas
• apples
• sun-dried banana chunks <-- best.snack.ever!
• kale salads full of sprouts & seasoned with black sesame seeds, garlic, lemon juice & sunflower oil
• plain baked delicata squash
• green juices & fresh concord grape juice
• few raw nuts (equivalent of less than 1/4 cup)
• coconut water

That pretty much entails what I ate in the two days before the race (I'm sure I'm missing a few random things). Granted, I ate a LOT of bananas. I didn't want to overdue it on protein in the form of nuts, as it always leaves me feeling heavier and I knew the last thing I wanted to feel early Sunday morning was heavy and slow. I also drank lots of fresh water and coconut water. Right before my friend and I headed for the start line, I pounded three bananas. Bananas are one of the only foods I will eat within a few minutes of working out as they provide a lot of energy and never give me digestive issues.

DURING: I took along 12 ounces of coconut water in my water bottle for electrolytes - I refuse to drink the Gatorade that is provided.  I also took down two Vega gel packs, at mile 16 and 19 or 20. The regular gels I refuse to eat too, too much processed sugar! Vega however is plant-based and the base of these gels are dates. I didn't even finish my coconut water because by the end of the race it was too sweet. I hit up about 7 water stops along the way as well.

 

POST RACE: Within 20 minutes of finishing, I had a banana & three cups of fresh cut fruit (mostly pineapple & melon). A couple hours later I had a salad with quinoa & before bed I had a few more bananas with tahini. So delicious!

And that's it...  the ticket to feeling like a million bucks before, during & after a marathon! :) Of course, everyone is different, every race is different, but I truly believe fueling my body the way I did, kept me healthy during the entire process.

It was such an incredible experience and I cannot wait to run again next year! I highly recommend challenging yourself if you never have before - we're all capable of much more than we believe we are :)

^^ Post-race smiles ^^