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9 International Dishes From Top Runners

Before May 3, 2015, in the 35 Wings for Life World Run locations, the top runners had their eyes on the 80, 90, even 100km goal before the Catcher Car ended their race, so what did they eat in the days before the big day?

How did they make sure their bodies would be ready to take on this incredible challenge? And what tips can the rest of us take from their international recipe books?


1. Brazil’s Juan Salazar ran for 52.61km on his pre-race vegetarian meal, a meal that rings true for a great many runners worldwide: “My carbs and protein is rice and black beans with fried eggs.”


2. Reinaldo Vergara covered 50.89km in Brazil: “We have two traditional foods that can really help runners: cuscuz and tapioca. Cuscuz is a corn flour that looks like a cake and is steam cooked. And tapioca is a flour cooked in a pan and stuffed with any sort of filling (could be meat, cheese, egg or something else).  Both are great because they're low fat food and load you with energy.”


3. In the scorching heat of Dubai, Chris Khouri from the Netherlands went 29.85km and fueled his day with a Lebanese dish, mujadra, which he vamped up by “adding chia seeds and meat”. 

If you fancy trying it, here’s a basic recipe:

1 cup brown or green lentils

¾ cup basmati rice

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 cinnamon stick

  1. Cover the lentils with cold water then bring to a boil. Leave them to simmer until they’re cooked. Drain and leave.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan, then sauté the ground cumin, cayenne pepper and cinnamon stick for a minute – until it’s aromatic.
  3. Add the rice, moving it around until all the grains are covered in the spices (about a minute), then add the drained lentils, 3 cups of water and 1tsp of salt. Boil the rice and lentil mix then reduce the heat and cover the pan at a low simmer until the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked (about 30 minutes).


4. Marko Sorsak of Slovenia, Ljublijana, loves a high-energy treat: "Prekmurska gibanica...or, in English, overmura moving cake :)" 

Prekmurska gibanica is a layer cake made of flour, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins and ricotta which has achieved icon status in Slovenia, and was one of 50 cakes chosen to celebrate Europe’s 50th birthday in 2007.    


The South Africans love their food, and ambassador running couple Ryan Sandes and Victoria Haywood-Sandes couldn’t agree on their favourite recipes.



5. Vanessa Haywood-Sandes went 17.04km on May 3, 2015.

“Bobotie is a South African dish consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping. It's high in protein and very tasty!” 

Why not give bobotie a go before (or after) your next run? Everyone has their own version – it’s been around since the 17th century so there are generations of varieties, but this is a starting point.

 2 slices of bread, soaked in water

2 onions

2 tbsp butter

2 cloves of garlic

2lb beef mince

2tbsp madras paste

1tsp mixed herbs

3 cloves

5 allspice berries

2tbsp fruit chutney (mango or peach work well)

3 tbsp sultanas

6 bay leaves

1 ¼ cups full-cream milk

2 large eggs

  1. Soak the bread in cold water.
  2. Fry the onions in butter until they’re soft then add the garlic and beef and cook until the beef changes colour.
  3. Throw in the madras paste, herbs, spices, chutney, sultanas and a couple of bay leaves. Season to taste then cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Squeeze out the bread and blend it into the meat.
  5. Pour it all into a oven dish and press it all down.
  6. Beat the eggs and milk with some salt and pepper and pour it over the meat, then scatter with the remaining bay leaves and stick in the oven at 180C for 35 to 40 minutes until the top has set and golden.




6. Vanessa’s husband, ultrarunner Ryan Sandes goes with “Potjie Kos – it’s very nutritional as it is high in minerals, fats and protein. It is very filling and helps your body to recover.”

Potjie Kos is a stew cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot. The recipe is pretty much whatever there is going. First oil is heated, then the meat spiced with Dutch-Malay spices, like XXX, goes in, followed quickly by beer, sherry or old dessert wine for flavour. Potato, carrots, corn or other vegetables go in with any other spices and the lid goes on. Not to be touched for three to six hours’ steaming. The potjie isn’t stirred because the aim is to not let the different flavours mix.



 7. After 25.22km all Cristina Mitre could think of in Aranjuez-Madrid in Spain was … “Paella”

 Want to know how to make a killer paella? The Valencians agree that fish and shellfish shouldn’t go anywhere near a paella, but chicken and rabbit and maybe the odd snail; whereas coastal chefs use shellfish aplenty. What all Spaniards agree on, though, is that it’s the rice that’s important. Short-grain is the way to go and cooked only in a wide pan with a thin base – and NOT stirred. 



8. What was Aron Anderson's secret to becoming the first Wings for Life World Run’s national champion to race in a wheelchair and beat all the runners? Well, he stands by his nation dish as the perfect prep for a run: “Swedish meatballs and potatoes. Tastes great :)” 



9. And the Belgians couldn't be clearer what their top dish is! Kenny Belaey is a Wings for Life World Run ambassador and a Belgian mountain bike trials cyclist who pushes his body to the extreme and has some solid advice:

“My favourite is fries and stew, but that won't get anyone far. I think you have to go with a dish full of carbs (pasta, rice, buckwheat, potatoes) and proteins (fish, chicken, hemp, ...). It's important to eat and drink sufficiently before and during the run to avoid cramps.”

And professional triathlete and IronMan Frederik Van Lierde says:

“French fries without anything else. They're great carbohydrates and good dose of fat."

Check out which location you want to run in on May 8, 2016, or sign up for The Selfie Run using the Wings for Life World Run app. 

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