There is no one more qualified to create meals for marathon runners than a chef who runs. So we recruited three famous chefs who have run the Flora London Marathon: Gordon Ramsey, Brian Turner and Michel Roux Jr, to develop recipes for meals leading up to, and following a 26.2-miler. Their task: to create a dish with the right balance of carbs, protein and fat to propel runners to the finish line and help them recover from their effort. Bon appetit!
Pre-race dinner - Powered-up pastaFrom marathon veteran Gordon Ramsay
"The night before a marathon is all about loading up on carbs, not making complicated dishes," says chef Gordon Ramsay. When training and racing, Ramsay keeps it simple with recipes like this pasta with pancetta. "It’s easy to make and has great flavour without using cream or butter," he says. "I avoid fatty foods before a race." Ramsay first started running 10 years ago when his weight became a problem. "My father-in-law was always was battering me at squash, and one day he told me to get on the scales – and there it was: 16 stone. "I agreed to do something about it, so we started running together. I still run with him now."
These days, Ramsay, 41, approaches his running with the same fiery energy he displays in his restaurants and on TV. A few nights a week he runs the 10 miles home from his London restaurant – complete with a weighted backpack. His approach appears to work: in the 10 years he’s been running, he has run the Flora London Marathon eight times (3:30:16 PB), as well as six ultra-marathons. Clearly having caught the running bug, what is it that Ramsay likes about it so much? "For me, running is one of the best ways to unwind. It’s a cliché but it really does clear your head. Sunday mornings are usually the best chance I get to do a long run, either on the common where I live or in Richmond Park. My wife, Tana, often comes with me."
As for the future, Britain’s favourite sweary chef has his marathon target firmly fixed in his sights: "My dream is to break 3:30 – even if it’s 3:29:59. I can definitely do it."
Pancetta spaghetti - (Serves two)
To make garlic oil, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the garlic. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for one hour, then discard the garlic. Cook the pasta according to the packet directions. In a separate pan, fry the pancetta in 2 tbsp of the garlic oil for three to four mins. Drain the pasta and add to the pancetta. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Calories: 600 Fat: 22g Protein: 10g Carbs: 80g
Race-morning breakfast - Perfect porridgeFrom one-time London Marathon runner Brian Turner
"This dish is perfect pre-race fuel," says celebrity chef Brian Turner, 61. "It has both slow- and quick-release carbohydrates for instant and measured energy."
When he ran the Flora London Marathon in 2000, not only was Turner a first-timer, but he had no previous experience of running whatsoever. "I was approached by an AIDS charity to run the marathon for them, but I had never done any running before. I had asthma as a kid, and never did much exercise. Taking on the marathon was a big challenge for me."
For Turner, the long and irregular hours of a chef made it tough to follow a proper training schedule. "I was only able to train two or three times a week for four months prior to the race." Moderating his eating habits also proved tricky. "It was impossible to radically change my diet while training, because I’m eating and tasting all day as part of my job," he says. "But I did cut out crisps and chips, and stopped eating a full post-service meal with my team at midnight every night!"
After the stress of his preparation, did Turner experience the magic of the London Marathon? "Definitely. I actually really enjoyed it on the day. You have thousands of people shouting for you, no matter who you are. And I was able to make a little dash for the line at the end so the feeling when I crossed it was fantastic." So, could he be tempted into a repeat performance? "With my age and my job, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. It’s one of those things to cross off your list, and now I can say: "I’ve done that."
Porridge with honeyed bananas - (Serves two)
Bring water and milk to the boil. Stir in the oatmeal. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cut bananas into chunky slices, put into a hot frying pan and sprinkle with sugar to caramelise. When coloured, take off the heat and add honey. Put porridge into bowl and spoon bananas on top. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve.
Calories: 260 Fat: 3g Protein: 5.5g Carbs: 57g
Post-race recovery - Protein-rich broth
From 3:13 marathon runner Michel Roux Jr
"This delicious and easy recipe is ideal for after a race," says Michel Roux, 47, chef at Le Gavroche and author of The Marathon Chef (£8.99, www.amazon.co.uk). "It’s quick and easy to make, and is not only tasty and nutritious but also very satisfying. The secret is good-quality chicken and fresh herbs."
Roux is almost as passionate about running as he is about food: "I’ve run 16 marathons including London, Paris, New York, Bordeaux and Tromso. I’ve also run an ultra in France called the 100km de Belves – I found it easy physically but very tough mentally."
Like most chefs, Roux has to fit his personal life around an über-frantic schedule. "I’m at work by 8am and never back before midnight. I take a break in the afternoon and that’s when I train. It’s a tough balancing act and my biggest problem is not getting enough sleep to recuperate."
But the Frenchman is a dedicated runner, and is convinced it helps him deal with the rigours of his demanding day job. "To run a busy kitchen and restaurant you must be fit in mind and body. We all know how stressful the kitchen environment can be, and running is a great stress-buster for me."
So, what is Roux’s ultimate marathon goal? "I want to run under three hours but it is getting harder – time and age being two main factors." Then there is the challenge of fending off the charge from the next generation of Roux. "I have started doing sprint and speed sessions with my daughter – and she really knows how to put her old man in his place!"
Chicken supreme with pearl barley broth - (Serves two)
Cook the celery, garlic and leeks in olive oil in a large covered saucepan on a low heat. When they are soft, add the chicken stock and pearl barley, season lightly and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the barley is tender – you may need to top up the liquid. Submerge the chicken breasts. Poach for 16 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Pour into deep plates and sprinkle with chopped herbs and truffle oil.
Calories: 224 Fat: 29g Protein: 24g Carbs: 32g