Breakfast of Champions: What I Eat Before a Marathon

I am running my first ultramarathon on Sunday. (!) I am channeling my pre-race nerves into making food. I’ve been researching the best foods to eat to get my body ready to run, and this blog post from Eat2Run convinced me to give carb-loading a try. Yippee! Carbs!

I have been mostly a lowish-carb eater for the past few years, so carb-loading has me both totally giddy with excitement and also freaking out a little. I have really demonized carbs it turns out. It feels a little wrong seeking these foods out. But I really don’t want to crash and burn during my race, so I’m building up my glycogen stores with some yummy carbs.

These last few days before the race, I’m trying to add in carbs like fruit and oatmeal and bread and potatoes!


We will be staying in a hotel room the night before the race, so it will be difficult to do my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal. I’ll need to eat at 4:30 am to be ready to run at 7 am. I’m doubting that the hotel restaurant will be open for business then. So, I tweaked this yummy baked oatmeal recipe that my friend Lori shared with me (originally from Back to the Cutting Board).

I decided to add tart cherries to the oatmeal because they are supposed to be a great food for runners. Tart cherries have tons of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that contain anti-inflammatory properties and soothe aching muscles. Plus the cherries in this baked oatmeal make it reminiscent of cherry pie, which is an added bonus!



Chia seeds were not a thing when I was growing up on oreos and diet cokes, but these days most people know that chia seeds are absolutely busting at the seams with fabulous things like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants and minerals. They especially help with hydration as they are able to absorb 9-10 times their weight in water.

So, I tossed a good amount of chia seeds into the baked oatmeal to make it super oatmeal. So good!


Tart Cherry and Chia Baked Oatmeal


My race-day plan is to eat the baked oatmeal with a boiled egg and pre-cooked bacon and coffee at around 4:30 am. Then at 6 am I’ll drink a serving of Generation UCAN, a slow-acting carbohydrate drink that gives me a nice slow-burn of energy without the blood sugar highs and lows of sugary gels. I tend towards being hypoglycemic, so the typical gels and goos that a lot of endurance athletes reach for during races can really mess me up. I get a burst of energy and then a huge crash and burn once I metabolize all that sugar.

I’ll carry another Generation UCAN drink and a few UCAN bars in my hydration pack and plan to drink/eat those every hour of the race. I’ll also bring another bottle with water and electrolytes to sip on throughout the race. This combo of slow, steady carbs and electrolytes is the key to a successful race. I have learned from experience that you cannot mess around and wing it with your fuel once you are running a marathon or longer. You have to plan ahead for what you’ll need and eat/drink when you are not necessarily hungry/thirsty. It is make or break.

I love geeking out on this stuff, so I find it super interesting to research and play around with what works best for me. It’s so interesting the stuff your body craves/needs when you run for a really long time.

I did a 20-mile training run recently and when I got home all I could think about were pickles, chips and mustard. I made a turkey sandwich and ate my weight in pickles. I made the perfect bite of a chip with mustard on it and a pickle on top. It was transcendent. I have more of a sweet tooth and don’t normally crave these foods, so I googled around to see why I had such an intense craving after my run.

It turns out all three of those foods contain stuff that helps with recovery. It is actually a thing for runners to carry mustard packets with them on long runs. I had already heard about pickle juice as a recovery drink, but never mustard. So crazy! And gross! It turns out the vinegar in mustard and pickles helps your muscles relax. The turmeric in mustard is also good for inflammation. And the salt in the chips and pickles replaces all the salt you lose when you exercise for an extended period of time.

So, I am also planning to carry a little ziplock bag of Doug’s Dills Sweet Hots (shout out to my father-in-law Doug who makes the best pickles you’ll ever taste!) and some salt and vinegar chips. I am hoping animals don’t start chasing me on this run! But maybe that would make me run faster?

Okay, enough with the food talk…Time to get some other race prep/packing done. I can’t wait to share how the race went. See you on the other side of 50k!

 Here’s my recipe for Tart Cherry and Chia Baked Oatmeal

Fruity Baked Oats

adapted from Back to the Cutting Board

Breakfast | Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 40 min


  • 1 package of frozen tart cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 in. square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of the melted butter into the bottom of the pan. Place all the fruit into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, chia seeds, and cinnamon.
  4. Make a well in center and add in milk, melted butter, honey and egg. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Pour into the pan over the fruit and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges start to darken and the top is golden brown. Let cool in pan for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


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