Sunday, April 01, 2012

Eat to run, run to eat

We run a lot, and it requires a lot of energy. And we eat a fair amount, and it needs to be burned off. I was thinking about how us runners reconcile that push-pull. For me, they are two particular passions that work well together.

For most, it's a simple declarative statement: "We run to eat."
My own bookshelf reflects that sentiment -- a few dozen running books, a few dozen cookbooks.

For years and years, I've gone between running and cooking. Before I really did long distance training, I was taking cooking classes on nights and weekends, with no other ambition than to enjoy the process. I loved the feel of cooking, the preciseness of baking, or the improvisation of creating something from scratch from a cutting board to a stove or grill. When serious marathon training entered my life, the time I focus on the roads has put cooking into the slight backburner -- like cooking, running has me spending at lot of time on the road, with no ambition these days other than to enjoy the process.

I try to fit both of them in. Both passions connects me to myself in a way the modern desk job distances me from human movement. While typing away at a computer may be the norm of modern 'work', I take solace that a 6 mile run or kneading a bread dough to be more a more natural, tactile experience.

Eating and running are instinctively tied: a runner needs fuel, and we go through the motions to consume it: We hungrily seek carbs, protein, vitamins, hydration. So much more easier to crave bread, chicken, a salad or a glass of water.

Before a race a few weeks ago, R. and I sat at her local D.C. pasta joint, and I smiled when the marathoner and his wife at the next table looked with glee at the menu with noodles and marinara, with variations piled on with different types of protein. "This is the perfect place!" the guys said as if we had sat down at a David Chang restaurant in New York or some other hipster joint that sold hyped up comfort food. I couldn't agree more.

Because like most runners, I have a love affair with pasta, a food that I only indulge in mass quantities right before big long distance races. My best pre-race pasta comes from a local market that sells 'fresh' pasta that people (including me) pay a fair dough for.

Today, after a 26 kilometre run, I contemplated laying on the couch to rest my legs, but my hands wanted to work. Pasta it was.

So I busted out the four ingredients I needed: '00' flour,  eggs, water, olive oil and I set out for my afternoon project. Hours later, I was having my bowl of pasta -- celebrate the pasta, the Italian chefs would say. Sure, then garlic, olive oil and chili flakes (and that cloudy pasta water) will do.

Sunday morning, burn it off. Sunday afternoon, fuel back up.

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