Fueling Up for Spring Marathons
By Natalie Bickford, MS
It’s officially April and tens of thousands of runners are getting ready for the iconic Boston Marathon. This race is near and dear to Shalane, who grew up in Marblehead, MA and celebrates Boston as her hometown race. Shalane won't be lacing up this year, but she’ll be there signing books, cheering on everyone racing, and will be joining WBZ-TV as an expert analyst for the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15th.
To celebrate, we wanted to give a little meal inspiration for those of you training for the Boston Marathon or any spring race. Many runners just think of food simply as fuel, but it’s so much more than that. What you put into your body is just as important as the miles and hours you spend training.
Instead of counting macros or following a trendy diet, we encourage you to do something a lot simpler: eat real food! Swap out plain bagels with low-fat cream cheese for nourishing Sweet Potato Waffles (p. 82) or Spinach and Sausage Frittata (p. 79). Cooking more meals at home is the best way to nourish your body so you can perform your best.
Shalane’s Favorite Marathon Week Meals
During race week, Shalane focuses on listening to her cravings and topping off her reserves. It just so happens that the foods she loves are high in important nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, complex carbs, quality protein, and healthy fats. No wonder Shalane craves grass-fed beef, salmon and molasses-sweetened treats! It’s her body telling her it needs more iron and vitamin B12 to build up energy and lots of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats to prevent inflammation and injury.
Learn more about why you need more iron in your diet.
Shalane's favorite snacks and meals to devour the week before a big race:
RFES = Run Fast. Eat Slow.
RFCFES = Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
Beet Blueberry Molasses Superhero Muffins (RFCFES, p.63)
These are Shalane’s favorite Superhero Muffin flavor for race week (recipe here!). They are only sweetened with blackstrap molasses, making them a great source of iron and electrolytes. Check out all the different Superhero Muffin variations in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
Spinach and Sausage Frittata (RFCFES, p. 79)
This easy frittata recipe is a fridge staple for Shalane because it can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a protein-packed snack. The spinach adds a good dose of calcium and egg yolks are high in vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron.
Power Bowls (RFCFES, p. 122)
This is the most versatile recipe in the entire cookbook and perfect for that pre-race dinner. We also love it because it's so customizable and let's you get creative in the kitchen. Shalane loves mixing and matching grains, veggies, proteins and sauces for a delicious, nourishing dinner or lunch. Her favorite combo is the Burger Salad Bowl (p. 123).
Thai Quinoa Salad (RFCFES, p. 90)
This is definitely Shalane’s favorite salad in the entire book. We love that it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory herbs and olive oil. Top it with sliced chicken or steak for a more substantial, higher protein option.
Turkey Trot Meatballs (RFCFES, p. 147)
One of Shalane's favorite meals during marathon week is spaghetti and meatballs. After baking the meatballs to crispy, golden perfection, Shalane likes to simmer them in our Basic Marinara Sauce (RFCFES, p. 182) and serve over spaghetti. The ultimate carb-load!
Bonk Burgers (RFCFES, p. 144)
Shalane craves beef during and after training at altitude, probably because it’s one of the best sources of iron and B vitamins, which are crucial for boosting energy stores. It’s worth paying a little extra for grass-fed ground beef for better flavor and nutrition.
Miso Butter Salmon with Coconut Rice with Nori (RFCFES, p. 155 + p. 164)
Shalane also craves fatty fish, like salmon, when she’s in training mode. It’s a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and energizing vitamin B12. The combination of rice, salmon and seaweed in this meal makes it very reminiscent of sushi!
Race Day Oatmeal II: Can't Beet Chocolate (RFCFES, p. 59)
Oatmeal is Shalane's go-to breakfast before all of her hard workouts and races. Elyse developed this oatmeal recipe for Picky Bars, who agreed to share the recipe in our second book. This performance oatmeal is packed with healthy fats, protein and nitrate-rich beet powder.
Buy it in our shop for the ultimate race day breakfast!
Ginger Molasses Granola (RFES, p. 54)
This crunchy, clustery granola was love at first bite for Shalane. She loves it as a snack with plain whole milk yogurt. The pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium, an electrolyte essential for muscle function, sleep and bone health. Blackstrap molasses gives it a good iron boost!
Maple Turmeric Nuts (RFCFES, p. 200)
This sweet, spicy, salty nut mix is the perfect packable plane snack if your flying in for race day. Nuts are packed with magnesium, an important nutrient for muscle function and cramp prevention! The cinnamon and turmeric combo will help fight off inflammation.
Anti-Inflammatory Chocolate “Milk” (RFCFES, p. 236)
Shalane turns to this drink and Shalane’s Natural Sports Drink (p. 233) after a workout to replenish electrolytes and glycogen. She also loves to sip on it when she wants a refreshing, sweet but nourishing pick me up. The ginger and turmeric are powerhouses for fending off inflammation.
For more meal inspiration, check out our post for our Best Weeknight Dinners.
Cheers to Boston!
Good luck to all the Boston Marathon runners!
We hope this post inspires you to get in the kitchen and make some delicious, nourishing meals to fuel you up for Marathon Monday! But don't make any major changes to your diet or try new foods right before a major race. If you aren't already eating a whole foods diet, we recommend gradual changes.
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Portland, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Find Natalie at nataliecooks.com.