Plus, how I prepared for race (training?) day on a plant-based diet and the mental strategy I'm using to get me through 26.2.

By By Brooke Ely Danielson
April 12, 2019
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Photo: Instagram @brookeely/Fred Goris

Three years ago I ran my first full marathon. Since then, I've logged four more, and Monday will mark my sixth: The Boston Marathon. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Boston Marathon) It's all in preparation for my…drum roll…first-ever ultra-marathon.

What's an ultra? It's any distance longer than 26.2. The extra kicker: I've chosen to tackle a 50k (31.1 miles) on a mountain. So yeah, I'm running the Boston marathon as a "training" run. Crazy? Nah, some might call it brave, bold or determined but for me, this is simply ultra training.

As a "veteran" marathon runner I may have mastered most of the aspects of race day, but there's always room for improvement. I'm working on being a more sustainable, healthy and present runner-here's how I'm doing it-plus my tried-and-true tips for marathon training.

Gear Check: What You Wear Matters

Quality gear is key. Could you imagine running 26.2 miles in something uncomfortable? Um, no thank you! Here is how I gear up head to toe for race day and training (try nothing new day of race!):

I have my usual suspects: reliable sneakers from Nike, high-waist compression running tights, my favorite merino wool running socks (feet must be warm!), and media pack for my phone.My go-to for training and race day are these breathable, lightweight running tops from Tracksmith, gloves to keep my hands warm, and long-sleeved base layers for chilly training mornings. The final touch to my running ensemble is my new favorite running jacket that traps heat so well but breathes easily for those long miles. (Related: Your Guide to Cold-Weather Running)

In addition to my necessities,I'm focusing on gear that produces a low-carbon footprint. How am I doing this? Investing in running pieces made of Australian merino wool, which is the most reusable and recycled variation of major apparel fibers, and is 100% biodegradable. It also performs: It's naturally breathable and odor resistant. (Related: Fitness Gear Made with Natural Fabrics That Stand Up to Your Toughest Workouts)

Plant-Based Running Fuel

I look at food as fuel, mostly. The cleaner the fuel, the better the burn. I've been plant-based for nearly 10 years (minus a small hiatus in my late 20's. Long story...). Adhering to a strict, plant-based diet is the reason I've been able to continue to run healthfully over the last decade. Going strictly plant-based has relieved gut issues, reduced brain fog, and gives long-lasting energy. I don't count carbs or watch my fat intake because I fill my plate with rich whole plants, fruits, grains and nuts. (Related: Here's Why Carbs Are Actually So Important for Your Workouts)

Plant based can come in various forms, but I cook oil-free at home, instead opting for vinegar, tahini, and nut-based salad dressings and dips. A typical Sunday night for me is spent meal prepping for the week. I like to make twice baked sweet potatoes, cashew cheese, hummus, brown rice,. I chop kale, grate carrots, steam veggies and whip up fresh nut milks (think cashew and almond).

Here's a breakdown of how I fuel for short runs, long runs and race day:

Short run: Breakfast consists of a berry smoothie with almond milk, chopped dates and chia seeds. My post-run lunch/snack: hummus and carrots and a kale salad.

Long run (anything over 10 miles): Breakfast is a large bowl of oats with banana and almond butter. Post run, I'll have a chocolate almond milk (see: Exactly Why Chocolate Milk Has Been Called "The Best Post-Workout Drink") and a kale salad with a homemade black bean burger and tahini dressing or my homemade beet hummus with veggies and sweet potato chips.

Race day: Breakfast is always, always, always oatmeal! The day of the Boston marathon I plan to have my trusty oats I make before a long run. (If you're in a time cruch, see: Time-Saving Oatmeal Hacks That Will Completely Change Your Morning) I also make sure to drink a big glass of water-and the most important drink of the morning: Coffee with oat milk.

During the race, I bring along my own date paste, but I also love Honey Stinger energy gels and the original Honey Stinger waffle.

Pacing It Down a Notch

Mental strategy is everything. It's the achilles heel of my race technique. Slow and steady wins the race, right? That is precisely my plan for Boston (slow and steady-not to win, obviously!). There will be no racing against anyone, not even myself; I have zero intention of PR'ing this course. Instead, I'll be taking my pace down 90 seconds per mile is fully intentional in order for my body to adjust to "trail pace" ahead of the ultra. (Related: The Importance of *Mentally* Training for a Marathon)

When I take off with tens of thousands of runners pounding the pavement around me, I will take a deep breath and say to myself "one step at a time, slow and steady, trust your training". This mantra will be on loop the entire course until I cross the finish line and that shiny medal is draped over my neck.

Sure, my mind will wander and my body will hurt, but during those tough road blocks I'll charge forward. And when I cross the finish line, a deep sense of relief and accomplishment will overcome me. And then? It will be all about recovery for the ultra. Foam rolling, salt baths, stretching, good sleep, and healthy foods are all a part of my plan. My body has to stay strong for the impending 50K! One step at a time.


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