Fuel Your Marathon; Recipes From 2 Time Olympic Marathon Runner & Commonwealth Medallist



Christmas is over and January often sees many of us dusting off the trainers and preparing for various fitness challenges that we set ourselves in an effort to get fit and stay fit into the New Year and beyond.

One of the biggest fitness challenges in existence is the marathon; a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards) through one of the many, many cities hosting them. Wikipedia claims that there are more than 500 marathons held throughout the world each year!

One of the biggest factors that will determine how you fare within your marathon of choice will come down to nutrition and how you fuel your body.

Even if your marathon challenge is a good few months away, it's important to highlight that nutrition for marathon training is absolutely not limited to just a few days here and there or just for the week in the run up to the race.

We caught up with 2 time Olympic marathon runner and Commonwealth medallist, Liz Yelling to ask her for her top nutritious and easy recipes to feed your body and satisfy your taste buds after a long, hard run.

As you’ll see below, the three recipes below contain one recurring ingredient; watercress. Why? A recent study by Edinburgh Napier University found that eating watercress can prevent some of the damage to DNA cells caused by high intensity exercise and help maximise the benefits of a tough workout. Following this revelation, 2 time Olympic marathon runner and Commonwealth medallist, Liz Yelling, says that she regularly eats watercress and has developed three nutritious watercress dishes, perfect for all levels of runners in training.

“It’s great news that watercress is so good for us athletes!” says Liz, “We all know that regular activity is good for you, yet at the same time, exercise does stress your body. Watercress is a great superfood to help keep my body in tip top shape when I’m running a lot, and to keep me healthy when I’m training at lower levels.”

Consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies during exercise. Grown in mineral rich spring water, drawn from deep under the chalk downs of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire, watercress packs a powerful nutritional punch, gram for gram containing more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than milk. It is brimming with Vitamin A (converted from beta carotene) with 80g providing a whopping 42% of the recommended daily allowance.

Liz is one of the top female runners in British history and, even though retired from top flight running in 2012, considers nutritious food choices to be of utmost importance when training regularly, “The food I eat supports the training that I do and enables me to recover, train regularly and perform. I eat as much natural and non-processed foods as possible to support my exercise but also the broader needs of me and my family.”

Watercress, Lemon and Feta Risotto with flaked roasted salmon

Watercress recipe for when runners are in hard training or high mileage, with added benefits of salmon, which contains omegas and fish oils for anti-inflammatory properties.

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 35mins

Serves 4

4 skin on salmon fillets
100g watercress, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
15g butter
30ml olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
60ml a splash of white wine (this is 4 tbsp)
400g arborio rice
250 ml boiling water
350 ml good quality vegetable stock
100g feta cheese, crumbled
15ml double cream
To finish: truffle oil (optional)

1 Prepare the salmon: Preheat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/Gas Mark 4. Place the salmon fillets skin down in a piece of foil, season with salt and pepper and pour over the lemon juice. Fold over the foil to make a parcel, then bake on a tray for 15 mins or until the salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork. Reserve the cooking juices, flake the salmon and discard the skin.

2 To cook the risotto, heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy pan. Add the onion and sauté for 3 mins, until translucent – then add garlic and lemon zest. Cook for 2 mins, stirring frequently.

3 Add the wine to the pan, then add the rice and stir around to let the rice absorb all the contents of the pan. Mix the hot water and stock together, then add a ladleful to the pan., stirring occasionally until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until all the liquid has been added and the rice is glossy and just tender - it should still have a bit of a bite to it.

4 Add the feta and continue stirring until it is well mixed. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream, watercress and fish juices and stir to combine. Gently fold in the flaked salmon and taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide between four warm plates and drizzle over the truffle oil if using.

Watercress, Quinoa, Feta and Broccoli Salad - Lower carb meal for tapering week before a race 

Preparation: 10 mins Cooking: 10-15mins Serves 4 Cost per portion: £1.36

Per serving: 334 calories, 18g fat, 3.9g saturates, 0.74g salt. Counts as 2 of your 5-a-day and contains over 1/3 of the RDA for iron and magnesium, 28% of the RDA for calcium, over 90% of the RDA for folic acid and more than 100% of the RDA for vitamin C

100g watercress
175g/6oz quinoa
1 medium head broccoli, broken into florets
2 tbsp hazelnut oil
zest and juice 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g/1oz hazelnuts
250g/9oz cherry tomatoes halved
100g/4oz feta cheese, drained and crumbled

1. Cook the quinoa in boiling water for 10mins or until just tender. In a separate pan of boiling water, cook the broccoli florets for 2 mins. Drain the quinoa and broccoli in a large sieve and rinse in cold water until cold. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

2. Add the oil, lemon zest and juice and seasoning to taste. Toast the hazelnuts under a medium grill, then roughly chop.

3. Roughly chop the watercress and add to the quinoa along with the hazelnuts, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Serve with more watercress leaves.

Gnocchi with Pancetta and Watercress - High carb, pre-race dinner

Serves 4

Prep: 5 mins Cooking: 10-15 mins

Per serving: Calories 297 Fat 8.5g Saturated fat 2.5g Carbohydrate 45.6g Protein 10.1g Fibre 3.0g Salt 2.27g

1 (85g) bag watercress
15ml/1 tbsp olive oil
75g/3oz cubed pancetta or streaky bacon
1 clove garlic chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2.5ml/1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
60ml/4 tbsp dry white wine
pinch of sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (500g) bag fresh potato gnocchi
watercress and parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan add the pancetta and sauté for 5 mins or until golden and the fat has run out. Add the garlic and tomatoes, sauté for 2 mins, then add the chilli, wine and sugar. Cover and simmer for 5 mins.

2. Place the watercress on a board and use a knife to very roughly chop it; place the watercress in a colander.

3. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain the gnocchi in the colander pouring it on top of the watercress. Leave to drain for 1 minute before tossing into the hot sauce. Serve topped with a little more watercress and parmesan shavings.


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