From the annals of food as fuel: The News Tribune solicited eating habits of runners — pre-race, mid-race and post-race — who are participating in Grandma’s Marathon and adjacent races this weekend.
We found green smoothies, homemade chicken, and at least one runner who will opt for the mid-race bacon. There are supplements, gummies, and a finish line donut from Johnson’s Bakery.
One runner has an emphatic food no: It’s unlikely she will ever (again) eat jambalaya that has been in the freezer for an indeterminate amount of time.
Here’s what they’re eating.
Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon
Tricia Hobbs is a group runner. She started running with friends a few years ago before her wedding, and these days, she is part of Badass Lady Gang, a local chapter of a global running and fitness movement.
“I like the sense of accomplishment when you finish 13 miles,” she said. “Grandma’s, especially. It’s really awesome to see our community come together to make a special day for runners.”
She describes herself as a mindful eater, who is extra mindful during race week. Out: sugary foods, alcohol, things without strong nutritional value. In: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruits.
On Friday morning, she will have a green smoothie and oatmeal, and snack on yogurt and granola. She will have the spaghetti meal offered at Pioneer Hall for lunch, followed by a salad or sandwich for dinner.
“Then go to bed at 7 p.m. — or try to,” she said.
Race-day starts with another green smoothie and oatmeal about 2 hours before the starting line. She plans to incorporate gummy snacks at miles 5 and 10.
Her sister will be at the finish like with a donut from Johnson’s Bakery, she said, and then she will have a beer — whatever craft beer is available at the tent.
Brittany Berrens Markgren
Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon
Markgren started running on a treadmill about five years ago, she said, and then signed up for a 10K and realized “I guess I’m not terrible at it.” She has run six marathons — Grandma’s Marathon twice — in addition to races in Milwaukee, Marquette, St. Cloud.
She is competing in the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon on Saturday with a goal of bettering her personal best — 1 hour, 36 minutes — by a minute or two.
When she’s training for a race, Markgren jokingly described her eating style as “human garbage disposal.” The truth: she tries to eat healthy foods, but she doesn’t count calories or pay close attention.
But about 10 days out from the starting line, she will limit sugar and salt and adds more water. She won’t introduce new foods into her diet.
“I’m not going to start a new probiotic regimen,” she said.
This is funny, because before her last big race, Boston Marathon, she broke her own rules and ate homemade jambalaya that had been in the freezer for about a year, she estimated. It knocked her out in the week before the race.
“I was puking my brains out,” she recalled.
For this event, she will stay on task. Friday’s lunch will be her filling meal: a light pasta without much cheese and a half a beer to calm her nerves. For dinner, her go-to is homemade mashed sweet potatoes and chicken breast.
Two hours before the race, Markgren has dark coffee, water, a plain bagel and jam — which she calls a quick and easily digestible sugar.
During the race, she is a minimalist — especially at this (for her) truncated distance: a little water, one for drinking, one for her head, maybe some gummy squares.
Afterward, “The hunger doesn’t hit right away,” she said. But when it hits, she indulges the crave that seems to follow every race: Culver’s chicken strips.
“They’re just really good,” she said. “That’s what I begin craving after races. I need the sugar and the sodium.”
And, of course, a beer. Markgren’s husband works at Earth Rider, and he will be there with a can waiting for her at the finish line.
“I have a good beer hookup,” she said.
As for the Boston Marathon following jambalaya incident of 2019:
“It was my second-worst marathon,” she said. “But it was super fun.”
Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon
For Packingham, Grandma’s Marathon weekend has always been second to only Christmas. The Duluth native who now lives in Hopkins, Minn., was a sidelines participant until 2013 — she has been a spectator, a volunteer, she even wrote about it as an intern at the News Tribune — when the self-described casual runner ran the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon for the first time.
“It was incredible to be on the other side,” she said. That race remains her personal best.
These days, Packingham favors CrossFit over running.
“I don’t like it like I used to,” she said. “I’ve never gotten the runner’s high. I’ve never had that feeling everyone talks about, even when I was in peak running shape.”
She keeps doing it, though, because she loves the day.
Packingham said she has learned what she needs to eat through trial and error. She tends to always eat cleanly, she said, but she’s extra clean during race week — steadily increasing her carbs every day.
When she gets to town on Friday, her mother will prepare a dinner that matches the one at Pioneer Hall: pasta, salad, ice cream. On Saturday morning, she will eat whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana, and “the smallest cup of coffee in the world.”
“Without it, I’ll have a headache,” she said. “With too much coffee — well, you know how that goes.”
Packingham is a social runner, she said. She will chat with people, eat the snacks offered by civilians along the way — especially the bacon.
“Last year I had a shot of whiskey on London Road,” she said. “I’m not in it to win it. I’m not a world-class athlete. I like the experience.”
Afterward: A bag of chips at the finish line. Then, when she’s hungry, she plans to hit Fitger’s Brewhouse for El Nino beer and a wild rice burger — followed by a nap.
Blake Peters, who is training for his first 26.2-mile race, always keeps track of his food consumption with the help of My Fitness Pal, which breaks down his proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
“I’m currently on a 165-day streak of logging,” he said last week. “It helps me to eat moderately.”
Peters, a personal trainer at the YMCA, graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology. He started racing in 2017 as a way to add cardio to his weights routine. Since that first Tunnel 10K, he has competed in races ranging from 5Ks to half-marathons. After Grandma’s Marathon, his next competition is the Island Lake Triathlon.
Three weeks out from a race, he starts increasing his carbohydrates, he said, to 50-60 percent of his diet: stir fry, pasta, yogurt with granola and fruit, oatmeal.
“And burritos,” he said. “I have a burrito addiction. I’ll stop everything and go and get a burrito.”
Twenty-four hours before the race, Peters adds starchy carbs and protein, he said, and dinner is always a ton of homemade spaghetti and meatballs with a side salad.
Peters eats the same breakfast every race day: oatmeal with protein powder, almond milk, honey and either strawberries or blueberries. He has Optimum Energy, a supplement with amino acids and caffeine, and mixes it with Creatine.
“My body knows it’s game time when I’m eating that,” he said.
From there, it’s more packets, powders. He will have some sort of belt with him during the race, and he will eat goo or gummies. Maybe a packet of Applesauce. And at the finish line, his parents will have with them Post JYM — a recovery formula. He won’t be able to eat until a while after his race, he said, and then he doesn’t require anything specific.