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What Marathon Runners Around the World Eat Before a Race

  • Claire Benoist

    Pre-Race Fuel

    Many of the U.S. marathon runners I know stick with a couple of popular pre-race breakfasts: a bagel with peanut butter and a banana or an easy-to-grab granola bar. They're simple enough to make in the hotel room before a destination race and portable enough to bring in the car on the way to the starting line. But talk to athletes from other countries and you'll find they have a different morning food routine. Here, you'll find top picks from runners around the world. While their choices certainly aren't representative of an entire nation, many of the foods they reach for before a marathon are influenced by local cuisine and traditions. From Nutella to fromage blanc and honey to extra-virgin olive oil, some of their habits might surprise you. Take inspiration and shake up your own marathon day breakfast with something foreign to you!

  • Amy Abrahams

    England: Porridge

    Amy Abrahams, a marathoner from London, has an almost superstitious ritual for her race-day breakfast. She prepares a bowl of porridge (that's oatmeal to us!) with almond milk, then throws in a heaping scoop of almond butter and drizzles some honey on top. If it's a marathon, she'll eat a banana an hour later. This gives her the reliable long-lasting fuel she needs to make it through several hours of running. If she's doing a long run instead of a race, she varies her bowl of porridge a bit by mixing in things like maca powder, cacao nibs, and shredded coconut.

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    Italy: Chocolate and Espresso

    Martina Di Marco from Rome is training for her first Boston Marathon and admits she doesn't have a very quintessential Italian breakfast on race day. She always eats a chocolate PowerBar (the flavor with the highest amount of electrolytes), but adds that she never leaves the house without having an espresso for a quick energy boost. While nut products don't agree with her stomach, Martina notes that many of her Italian running friends eat Nutella with bread or crackers before a race, claiming the sugar and protein help them run faster!

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    Germany: Pretzel Bread

    Myriel Frische, a track runner and graduate student living in Berlin, changes what she eats for breakfast depending on the distance she's racing. If she's fueling for a long race, she eats a Laugenstange, a pretzel bread stick with salt on top, and spreads butter and honey on it. The combination of carbohydrates, salt, and sugar is great long-lasting fuel for a big race. If she's getting ready for a shorter track run, she'll stick to just a banana and save the heavier foods for refueling after!

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    France: Fromage Blanc

    María Laura Ribadeneira, a Parisian runner training for her first half marathon, sticks to her tried-and-true race-day breakfast of plain cereal with yogurt or fromage blanc, a thick and creamy milk product that is very similar to yogurt but lacks its probiotic bacteria and tends to be gentler on the stomach. It's also an excellent source of protein and calcium. For extra sugar and carbohydrates, María Laura adds half a banana and a bit of honey, and she drinks a cup of black tea for caffeine.

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    Lorea Amatria, a marathon runner from Spain, says that a traditional breakfast in her country is all about bread. Many families buy fresh bread every day, then toast it and slather it with extra-virgin olive oil. This is exactly what Lorea says she eats on race day along with a cup of black coffee with sugar for an extra jolt. To really pump up the flavor, Spaniards often make pan tumaca by rubbing the toasted bread with fresh tomatoes and adding a slice or two of ham.