What Fuels Boston Marathon Champion Meb Keflezighi?
We take a closer look at what the 38-year-old used for fuel before, during, and after his Boston victory.
We take a closer look at what the 38-year-old used for fuel before, during and after his Boston victory.
Meb Keflezighi’s victory in the 2014 Boston Marathon was inspiring on so many levels, and left Americans with a flurry of emotions.
It was a win fueled by hard work, perseverance, and in tribute to those lives lost in the bombings at the 2013 race. Keflezighi was the epitome of running “Boston Strong.”
“It was a magical and meaningful day for Americans, and I’m so honored and thrilled to have had that opportunity to come in first,” Keflezighi said. “I tried to take that metaphor and extrapolate, and I gave [Boston] Meb Strong.”
In the days after that race, he earned his right to extra helpings of dessert, “I’ve been eating a lot of sweets,” Keflezighi said about a week after the race. “I indulge myself with dessert and I have a very, very sweet tooth. I’ll probably keep this up for one more week and then I’ll be back to my strict diet.”
That strict diet. Marathon training demands an incredible amount of energy from the body, but at the same time racing weight is a key issue. Fuel is a matter of balance: a runner needs enough to perform at an optimum level without adding any extra weight to tow around for 26.2 miles. For Keflezighi, food is fuel.
Fueling For Boston
Waking up early to ensure enough time to digest his breakfast, Keflezighi ate a couple slices of wheat bread topped with honey and almond butter, a couple bananas, and his Generation UCAN drink. For the 2 hours, 8 minutes during which he was running the race, Keflezighi relied on the same brand of drink for electrolytes and energy. Finding the right fueling strategy for a marathon is an integral part of training. Come race day, Keflezighi knows exactly what works.
A typical day of training for Keflezighi requires a drive to where he’ll be running. The length of transit and intensity of the workout will dictate how much he will eat for breakfast. He will, “start with toast or bagel, preferably wheat, and almond butter.” If he needs a little more he’ll add one egg.
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Immediately following the main workout for the day, Keflezighi has his sports drink to start the recovery process, as hitting that 30-minute recovery window is crucial. This holds him over until his next meal, which takes place after driving back home and running through his series of drills, stretches, and core work. Being that some of his workouts require a drive of 40 miles, this post-workout meal, most often eggs prepared by his wife, can be 2-3 hours later.
Keflezighi acknowledges he’s quite lucky in being able to rely on his wife to cook up the family’s main meals. On harder days, his diet is more protein-heavy, with dinner centered around chicken, fish, or steak with fruits and vegetables. For easy days, he’ll opt for a sandwich and a salad. “I don’t change too much of my diet,” he said.
No reason to mess with what works.
Dinner time is also an important time for Keflezighi to be with his family. “We try to eat as much as a family as we can for meals,” he said.
While the family doesn’t eat out often, consistency is the key. Once a week the Keflezighis usually join their church for breakfast or brunch at a favorite spot. Keflezighi is a professional runner but he’s a husband and father, too.
Keflezighi isn’t able to eat like his younger self. Laughing, he describes that he can no longer get away with inhaling whatever he wants and there is some deflation in coming back from a 10-mile run and seeing he’s only burned 657 calories.
“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not fair!’” he said. “It is what is is, you gotta know your body.”
Keflezighi is mindful of everything he puts into his mouth and checks his weight on a daily basis. He maintains that marathon leanness by relying on smaller meals throughout the day and healthy snacks timed around his workouts. He keeps his go-to snacks like fruit, jerky, PowerBars, and UCAN shakes packed with him wherever he goes. “Don’t wait until [you’re] too hungry and eat anything,” he advises.
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Keflezighi is strategic with which macronutrients compose his diet; having reduced his carbohydrate percentage over the years, he’s replaced it with more protein and a bit more healthy fat. He makes sure the carbohydrates he does take in are timed correctly in accordance with what his training demands. He knows the select times when he’ll need the immediate energy of quickly digested glucose, as they are the rare exceptions, and makes the majority of his carbohydrates the slower released variety for sustained energy.
Keflezighi enjoyed those extra helpings of dessert and huge steaks for a couple of weeks, but he quickly got back to training mode.
“I’m a hard worker, I like to push myself,” Keflezighi said. “I like to run for fun, even when I retire. I’m not saying that I’m done, but at the same time I like to get back into a routine … I feel good after a workout.”
These are the nutrients fueling the man, but it’s his resilient spirit and tenacity that’s setting our hearts ablaze and further igniting a passion for American distance running.
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About The Author:
Caitlin Chock set the then national high school 5K record (15:52.88) in 2004. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts. You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.