What to Eat Before a Marathon: 5 Pros Share Their Favorite Meals

Elite marathoners share their favorite pre-race foods

Fall marathon season is approaching. As you log your final miles, long runs and workouts, your marathon will be here before you know it! You have put thought into your race day outfit, your race shoes and probably even how you will celebrate after, but what about nutrition the night before and morning of?

Sometimes the little details can carry a lot of weight when it comes down to a PR or running your best marathon yet. Read below for some dinner ideas and breakfast tips to be fueled and ready to run fast on marathon day!

Cooking with purpose.
Becky Wade, ASICS athlete, ran her debut marathon last fall at the California International Marathon, running 2:30.41 for the win. Wade takes nutrition seriously. After spending some time with her training this summer, I realized she, like most professional marathoners, really loves food.

Preparing a good meal, especially the night before your big race is one of the keys to running well. When asked her favorite meal to cook before a big race, she advises: “A simple meal like a baked sweet potato, small salad and piece of chicken would be great. For the sweet potato, I’d scrub it, poke holes in it with a fork, cover it in olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin, and bake it for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. For the salad, I’d throw together a hodgepodge of produce on greens, such as chopped kale with diced carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, green onions, as well as sunflower seeds, mango pieces, and a spicy peanut vinaigrette. And, for the chicken, I’d bake it with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven. Then, I would top it with pesto. Nothing fancy, but all things that I like and believe in… and both filling and nutritious!”

Fueling the fire.
Wendy Thomas, who holds a 2:32.49 marathon PR, eats a pretty tasty meal before her marathon. She says, “My favorite pre-race meal is a large bowl of penne with very basic marinara sauce, a large grilled chicken breast and a few slices of homemade bread and butter. Then, I have a large piece of chocolate cake, hot tea and water. Lots of fuel for the fire!” Remember, it’s ok to top off your glycogen stores with something sweet the night before like a piece of chocolate, some frozen yogurt or maybe some fruit!

Carbs all day.
Gabe Proctor, ASICS Mammoth Track Club athlete with a personal best in the half-marathon of 61:40, loves simple carbs the night before and the morning of a big race. Oatmeal is his first choice before a long run. He also chomps on bananas and bagels with peanut butter. He noted drinking lots of water through the day because carbs and water hold together well! He also states, “I’m not shy to have dessert with my meals, but after I’m finished running for the day.”

Protein paradise.
Personally, as an ASICS Mammoth Track Club athlete, I love to make sure I have some good protein in my system the night before. My pre-race dinner is usually ahi, a kale salad, and some potatoes. I’m one to gobble up sweet potato fries too. And, if there is a frozen yogurt shop around, I top off the night with some frozen yogurt, or Greek yogurt. I don’t want to run on fumes, so I make sure to get in some extra protein at the end of the night, and with my breakfast in the morning; steel cut oats with some blueberries are my pre-marathon breakfast favorites.

Simplicity is best.
Renee Metivier Baillie, a Mizuno athlete who holds a marathon PR of 2:27.17, says that simplicity is the way to go. She states, “Marathons are run early in the morning, and your nutrition choices are very important to how successfully your body will handle this distance. Since you want to make sure you have fully digested your evening dinner, as well as topped your glycogen stores, you want to avoid high fiber foods and focus on easily-digested carbs. Sorry to disappoint you, but no salad tonight! A little protein and fat with lots of carbs makes a perfect pre-marathon meal. One of my favorite pre-race meals is tropical chicken and rice which is grilled chicken rubbed with Caribbean jerk seasoning, sliced bananas and pineapple, flaked coconut, sautéed onions and with spinach in coconut oil, white rice, and sea salt."

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