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Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Reasons to Run: McRunner fuels up at McDonalds

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 8:02 a.m. MDT

Before I run a race, I worry about what to eat. The fuel I put into my body is important for my endurance, hydration and muscle strength. I want good carbs, lean protein — and definitely nothing with high sodium or excess sugar.

Fast food seems like a no-brainer to avoid when you're training. Not for McRunner.

As his nickname implies, Joseph D'Amico is indeed a fan of the Golden Arches. He's a Chicago-area runner living off McDonalds. And, after the March Los Angeles Marathon, D'Amico proved the running phrase that a race is roughly 95 percent training and 5 percent fuel.

After eating only McDonalds for the 30 days leading up to the marathon, D'Amico finished at 2:36:14 (5:57 per mile), earning him 28th place overall.

I've been religiously following his blog — with the tagline "Confessions of a Drive-Thru Runner" — for the past few weeks. He began each day with a McMuffin, enjoyed a "bucket of coke" with his lunch and frequently snacked on chocolate chip cookies.

From his about-me section: "My diet is probably closer to the average American than the average marathoner. While I try to watch my portion size, my selections tend to be based more on convenience and taste, rather than nutritional value."

It sounds like an oxymoron, but his McDonalds meal choices were actually healthy. Oatmeal, fruit parfaits, grilled chicken and lots of salads. Occasionally, a small french fry or modest hamburger would creep into his food diary, but generally, D'Amico stuck to a diet.

Even more jaw-dropping was D'Amico's training log. Most days, he ran a.m. and p.m. runs, and he ran up to 100-mile weeks.

And here, I think, is the problem with the stereotypical McDonald's-loving American: they're inhaling too much food with little-to-no exercise. D'Amico still practiced portion control, nutrition and ran six days a week.

His story has made me rethink popular opinion on Mickey D's and my race training diet. I'm not about to run out and order a McDonald's meal — fruit- and oatmeal-loaded or otherwise — but I'll no longer cringe when a running buddy downs a caffeinated soda before a long run or I read an article about an elite marathoner enjoying a corn dog the night before Boston.

I'll pass on the McDonald's, but D'Amico has inspired me to change one aspect of my marathon training program — I'm going to up my miles.

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