After the first set of mistakes (London), I started to prepare for the next marathon, Amsterdam 2011.
Full of energy, I swiftly decided to embrace the second set of mistakes. For eight marathons in a row, my line of thought with regards to food went as follows:
“I run a lot. I run often. I burn so many calories. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and as much as I want.”
Obviously, that was wrong.
We can classify this as wishful thinking. Or with the benefit of hindsight: plain stupidity. I enjoyed it very much though. I thought, “work hard, play hard”, and: “run a lot, eat a lot”.
As a result, I ran each of these of these marathons with at least 6 kg or 7 kg too much on my back. That may not sound like a lot, but if you have to carry 6 kg or 7 kg of additional luggage for more than 42 km, that’s not great fun. You suffer unnecessarily.
The additional weight slows you down, increases the burden on your system, and it increases the risk to get injured. Strange : over the years, I had read a lot about eating healthy food, but I never applied these nice theories to my own lifestyle.
Only when I got help, things improved. So a big Thank You ! goes to Louise Vandenbroucke: she asked the right questions, she figured out the right answers, and she got me on the right track. I adhered to a schedule that was not too strict, that worked well for me, with focus on optimal recovery after training sessions, etc.
I also learned a lot from Renata Rehor’s book Food2Run: from specific recipes (healthy and delicious !) that I enjoy a lot, to the basic principles of which food you need in order to run & recover well.
Renata explains the framework carefully, and dives into the balance between macronutrients (carbs, protiens, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc). Renata offers a scientific approach, but I found it easy to understand. Highly recommended, so by all means check out Renata’s great blog, full of interesting insights, for example with regards to your optimal food plan before your marathon.
Your food plan doesn’t have to be perfect, neither. We are all human. In “Meb for Mortals”, Meb Keflezighi (winner of the Boston Marathon 2014) explains his disciplined mindset towards food & running, but he freely admits :
“I have a massive sweet tooth. Having lived in Italy as a child, I love ice cream and gelato. (…) Don’t even get me started on strawberry cheesecake ! As with most things in running – and life – the key is balance.(…) It’s better to occasionally eat a little bit of whatever your guilty pleasure is, than to deny yourself so much that you’re miserable and tempted to binge”.
Now, one of the things that keeps puzzling me is why we – all of us, rational human beings – feel the need & desire towards unhealthy food, more & more, even when we know it’s not good for us. With all our superior knowledge, expertise, and cutting-edge technology, we seem to have no decent answers to this challenge.
As the University of Leuven’s Obesitaskliniek concludes: “Almost 1 out of 2 adults in Belgium is overweight, 15% suffer from obesitas.”
If this challenge is of any interest to you, I recommend “Why we eat too much” by Deepak Chopra. His take on this: people eat unhealthy when (& because) they feel depressed, lonely, not attractive, scared, when they need love & comfort, etc., in other words : when emotional and/or spiritual needs remain uncatered for. The solution is mindfulness, creative a positive story for yourself, and aligning your body, mind, and emotions.
Back to running, an important question has been and remains if marathon running can be combined with plant-based diets ? The answer is very simple: of course.
On this topic, I recommend the following great reading : “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek, a fantastic runner, thriving on vegan food, before, during and after his ultraruns of hundreds of kilometers.
( Next to the fine food-story – his book is full of vegan recipes – this is a very inspiring life & running story … )
I mention this because the future is vegan. Says Tobias Leenaert, Vegan Strategist, explaining why we won’t eat meat in the future : https://youtu.be/TqoHZYFt3ao. Tobias is Founder of EVA (back in 2000), an organization promoting plant-based diets : visie EVA.
With regards to the question why on earth most people eat meat, the answer is :
“Because most people eat meat”.
Back to Amsterdam Marathon 2011. 3 hrs 52 min was 12 minutes better than London, with no major problems after 30 km this time, I was more than happy.
I remember the impressive views.
And arriving at the Amstel, we could watch the first 7 runners ( all from Kenya … ) across the river, many, many kilometers ahead of us, mortals …
Let’s guess what Wilson Chebet ( 2 hrs 05 min ) & co had been eating during their preparation … ?
Food for thought.
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