Food & dining

Last winter Marathon runners fueled themselves on comfort foods

Colleen Phelps’s homemade soup fueled her training.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Colleen Phelps’s homemade soup fueled her training.

During a winter cold enough to freeze the water and energy gels in their waist packs, Boston Marathon runners training on streets lined with snowbanks and ice slicks fueled themselves on warm soups more than chilled sports drinks.

“Runners were not eating a lot of ice cream this winter,” says Newton sports nutrition counselor Nancy Clark, author of “Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook” and “Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners.” “When they come back from a long run, they’re chilled. They want something warm and hearty.”

Clark, who has finished eight marathons, including one in Boston, counseled runners this year to make hot cocoa, “which hugs you and refuels you.” She also recommended soups, or oatmeal with warm milk and peanut butter stirred in, topped with raisins or almonds. “You want a foundation of carbs with protein as an accompaniment to build and repair muscles.”


Individual runners found comfort food in a variety of forms, from basic pasta to simmering pots. “This winter, coming back from a long run, the first thing I’d do was shower. The second thing was to eat something warm. That’s where mac and cheese comes in,” says Dave Fortier of Newburyport, a Boston Marathon runner injured last year when shrapnel hit his foot and the bomb blast damaged his hearing. He has healed enough to run his second Boston Marathon this year with 415.STRONG, a team of other bombing survivors, as well as the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

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Fortier’s favorite recipe mixes pasta with whatever cheese his family has on hand, crumbled bacon, and breadcrumbs. Sometimes he adds cooked chicken breast for additional protein. He eats this dish the night before a run or after he’s done. “Maybe I could shave a couple of seconds off my time if I ate something else,” he says, “but I’m a happy camper.”

Long runs in sub-freezing temperatures encouraged Colleen Phelps of Natick, who is running her fifth Boston Marathon and coaches 70 girls in the Strivers Running Club, to develop her own nourishing soup. The recipe combines chicken stock, leeks, greens, orzo, and chickpeas, seasoned with crushed red pepper. She sometimes adds pieces of cooked chicken to create a dish more like a stew, or tops individual servings with grated Parmesan. “The red pepper flakes give it a kick that wakes you up after a run, especially when you’re so cold,” she says.

For comfort food, Carol and Amin Chaoui, of Wellesley, found themselves returning to rice pudding, a favorite dish from Amin’s childhood in Morocco. He is a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, and treated some of the bombing victims last year. Carol, a breast cancer survivor, is running her sixth Boston Marathon for the Susan G. Komen Massachusetts affiliate. Amin, running Boston for the fourth time, is fund-raising for A Better Chance.

The Chaouis’ recipe, inspired by Claudia Roden’s “Arabesque” cookbook, begins with short-grain white rice (the kind used for risotto), simmered in water and milk, flavored with vanilla extract, orange flower water, and cinnamon. Topped with warm milk and fresh fruit, it makes a good breakfast. The Chaouis and their four children also eat it for dessert.


Bob Catinazzo of Saugus is ready to run his sixth Marathon with the Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team. Over the years, he has learned how to depend more on what he calls “old school” grilled chicken with pasta or rice instead of heavy foods, such as pizza or french fries. “The perception out there is that if you train all year, you can eat what you want. The first two years that I ran the Marathon, I gained weight during training because I wasn’t eating right.” This winter, he craved mac and cheese as well as chicken soup after his long runs. “It warms you up and makes you feel better,” he says.

Most runners stick to peanut butter, bananas, bagels, or yogurt with granola on the morning of the Marathon. Afterward, some want to go straight to their favorite foods as a reward. Phelps plans to grill hamburgers at home with her family. Catinazzo says he’s going to eat the “biggest roast beef sandwich I can put in my mouth,” and go to the Border Cafe for a margarita.

“Nothing tastes better than that when you’re done,” he says.

Clara Silverstein can be reached at