When I decided to run my first marathon ten weeks ago, I knew that I would have to fully commit in every aspect of my life in order to ensure I was doing this right. It has been, to date, one of the most thrilling, exhausting and trying times of my life. The body is under high stress during a marathon and preparing for 26.2 miles completely takes over all of your time, especially as a student. 

You need to focus on all aspects of your life, and start to think of yourself as an athlete, like keeping your body constantly hydrated for starters. Nobody wants to get passed the start line and not passed the finish. I wanted to finish strong, run a solid time and feel great during it—I heard horror stories of training mishaps and not completing the race, and after weeks of hard work, that would feel anticlimactic. I learned rather quickly that when training for a marathon, there's actually one factor that fares almost more important than the rest: what you eat. Marathon-training meals are a huge part of the process.

I had sworn off alcohol and most dairy in the weeks leading up to the race, but I did not realize that what I was eating would affect my running abilities and how I felt before, during, and after workouts as much as it does. I found the right times for me to eat, and what to eat, to have the best results when training. This was true especially in the week of the race when carbohydrates have to increase by 75%. For someone with gluten allergies, this is sort of a feat considering the "normal" carb-loading foods, bread and pasta, are out of the question.

I had to not only get creative with my marathon training meals but also needed to make sure I was fueling my body successfully by giving it the nutrients it needed, the carbohydrates it requires, and the energy to succeed. If you're planning on running a marathon soon, or the idea of meal prepping during your training has turned you off from the idea completely, check out this simple what-to-eat guide. 


Eli Rallo

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals and also one of the more important ones when you are involved with high-intensity cardio training. For breakfast, I used to grab an apple or a power bar, but in being cognizant of the nutrients my body needs for long runs and tough workouts, I switched it up a bit. Above is my favorite pancake mix (Birch Benders Paleo Mix) with Purely Elizabeth pumpkin granola, Trader Joe's Mixed Nut Butter and pumpkin seeds with a side of egg and sweet potato scramble. This is the type of breakfast that sets me up to have a fueled, energy filled run.

Eli Rallo

I always try to make sure my early meals have carbs and protein—as those are undoubtedly the most important food groups for runners before a major workout or race. Sometimes, when I don't have much time to cook, I'll make toast on my favorite Coconut Paleo Bread from Julian's Bakery (avail. at Whole Foods!) These toasts are topped with pecan butter, egg whites and Trader Joe's everything bagel seasoning. It's super easy to make something quick before class that is still perfect fuel for your day. 


Eli Rallo

While breakfasts were important for pre-workout fuel, dinner was equally as important when preparing for this race. I was always making sure I was eating a well-sized dinner, especially because this was generally my refuel meal after a really difficult workout! 

Above is a butternut squash pizza crust topped with basil marinara sauce, chicken, feta cheese, salad mix, and green goddess dressing! This meal is an example of a perfectly balanced dinner, with carbohydrates, veggies, healthy fats, and protein. I always went to Trader Joe's if I could, because I could rely on their gluten-free products to be both well priced and healthy. 

Eli Rallo

Pictured above is cauliflower gnocchi (also from Trader Joe's) with zucchini noodles, basil marinara sauce, and feta cheese. This is super easy to make—the gnocchi is best made when using avocado oil and a pan over high heat (I don't recommend boiling it) it literally only takes ten minutes and is a perfectly balanced dinner! 

Takeaways, Pointers, and Reminders

Eli Rallo

One major thing I've had to remind myself throughout the process of training for a marathon is that there is no "right way" to eat for a marathon. Obviously, there is professional advice and tips you can follow, but at the end of the day, you have to listen to YOUR body. If you are hungry after a long day of training, then you should eat something, even if you did not plan for the extra snack. If you are feeling low on sugar, opt for a piece of fruit, a Gatorade, or a piece of chocolate. There is no way to truly plan out every single meal and have a preconceived idea of what your body will need that day. Instead, you have to remember that every one of us is different, and more importantly, that each day of training is different.

Eating intuitively has been my biggest takeaway from this experience. It is something that I will carry in the days long after the marathon—not restricting myself, counting calories or only eating the "healthiest" options—but instead, listening to what my body wants, and more importantly, what my body needs. And sometimes, that means french fries, and you should always go for the french fries.