Spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, heck, even lasagna—these likely spring to mind when you think about pre-race noshing. And for good reason: Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, and glycogen is an easy energy source for the body to tap when trotting out a herculean 26.2 miles. It’s a sound-enough rationale, one that likely gave rise to the pre-race “pasta party” tradition so many races continue today. But according to local running expert Gary Taylor (he’s the co-owner of Little Rock’s Go! Running and a former University of Arkansas track star), that line of thinking is a bit past its prime.
His advice? Skip the out-the-door line at Olive Garden the evening before the race and, instead, make a lunch reservation at a local restaurant more apt to cater to a runner’s needs. The marathon starts early, so you’re going to have to get up, like, really early, and a heavy dinner could affect your sleep. (Not to mention the “bathroom issues” that could begin to plague you midrace.) At lunch, it’s OK to lean heavy on the carbs—get that glycogen!—but make sure you’re also getting the other nutrients that Gary says round out the runner’s Fab 4: protein, healthy fats and sodium. And be sure to stay away from spicy or high-fiber foods (see “bathroom issues,” above). Wondering about that glass of wine or a local brew? “Relax, go ahead and have one,” says Gary. “It won’t hurt and might even help to digest food.” (We knew we liked this guy.)
Based on Gary’s recommendations, here are seven local-restaurant meals—all available at lunch on Saturdays—that make ideal race-eve fuel. Follow one of these healthy dishes with a light dinner (a sandwich, say), and you’ll be primed to PR.
Blackened tuna bowl with carrots, avocado, cucumber, ponzu and sticky rice (2601 Kavanaugh Blvd.; kemurirestaurant.com)
Lost Forty Brewing
Smoky chicken salad with spent-grain molasses bread (501 Byrd St.; facebook.com/lost40beer)
Samantha’s Tap Room
Sockeye salmon with mustard-tarragon sauce, served with rice and green beans (322 Main St.; samstap.com)
Lulu’s Latin Rotisserie
Pollo a la brasa with plantain and yucca fries (315 N. Bowman Road; luluslatin.com)
Chargrilled lamb with basmati rice and Greek salad (multiple area locations; tazikiscafe.com)
Three Fold Noodles And Dumpling Co.
Noodle bowl (215 Center St.; eat3fold.com)