A Powerful Pre-Marathon Breakfast

The real power behind that Power Bar—or whatever else—you chomp down before taking on 26.2? How strongly you believe in its mojo

Jane Morley // Photo by Zoey Sless-Kitain

There are so many uncertainties about race day—the weather, how my body feels, whether I’ll be able to keep my pace slow early and turn on the jets in the second half, when and how badly I’ll hit the wall—but my pre-run food routine is one thing that’s set in stone. I don’t want anything too heavy (since I have a slow-poke digestive system) or too acidic (so as not to disturb the Evil Acid Reflux Monster living in my chest), but I want enough to avoid feeling hungry or sapped during the early miles. Come race morning, I’ll give myself about two hours to digest my breakfast which is, and probably always will be, some of my favorite cereal (Trader Joe’s Oat n’ Wheat Bran Swirls), a cup of coffee with soy milk, and my very, very  trusty Peanut Toffee Buzz Clif Bars.

When I was little, I read a story about a young ballet dancer who was rehearsing for her very first recital. She was nervous beyond belief, and as the performance grew nearer, she became less and less confident—until one day, her instructor gave her a pair of magic ballet slippers, which the instructor promised would make the ballerina glide gracefully through her entire routine without a single misstep. The recital went off without a hitch, and afterward, the instructor confessed to the young girl that in fact the “magic” shoes were completely ordinary and that it was her talent and confidence that allowed her to nail the performance.

Peanut Toffee Buzz Clif Bars are my magic ballet slippers.

Back in June, when I began building mileage in preparation for this year’s Philadelphia marathon, I tried a Peanut Toffee Buzz Clif Bar one Saturday morning before a long run. Although I hadn’t been in the habit of eating before running—unless I give myself hours to digest, my stomach becomes my worst enemy—I wanted to experiment with consuming a little food before heading out, to see whether I’d feel better and run better. When nothing drastically wrong happened, I considered the run a success.

To be honest, I don’t remember that run or whether the Clif Bar made a measurable difference in how I felt or how I ran that morning. The important thing is that I began to believe that it made a difference—and the next week, and the week after, I ate the same thing before my Saturday long run. At some point between the summer and now, this practice has taken on major, almost mythical importance to me: Like baseball players who won’t let their feet touch the foul line as they trot back to the dugout between innings, I have a strong, wholly irrational belief that this superstitious habit makes a difference in my athletic performance and success.

I know it doesn’t make sense, and I know it can’t possibly make a difference, but it’s something that gives me a little boost of confidence, just like the “magic” slippers did for the little ballerina. Plus, at this point, with six days until the marathon, why mess with my routine?

Do you have a superstitious pre-race routine?  Share it with the the rest of us in the comments below!