How ultra runners refuel with watercress

How ultra runners refuel with watercress
 
 

Allie Bailey has run over 70 races, from half marathons to 185 mile ultras.   In 2018 she completed her second sub 24 hour 100 mile ultra, set a new course record for the BRC Thames Path 184 mile race as the only female finisher, and became the first female in the Ox Epic 85 mile multi day. In January 2018 she became the first woman to cross the largest body of freshwater in the world on foot, taking part in a 100 mile multi-stage event on Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia. In November 2018 her adventures took her to Namibia and Panama where she became the first woman to run 300km of the Namib Desert, and traverse 200km of Panama from Pacific to Atlantic coast, submerged self-sufficient in jungle, completely on foot. 

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Allie trains other people to run marathons and ultra-distance and has hosted talks and panels on endurance running and mental health for companies like Sony Music, Mind, Cancer Research, Dow Jones and IBM. She is also an Ambassador for Rat Race Adventures, White Star Running and The National Running Show and co-presents the Bad Boy Running Podcast.

Allie has recently become the newest recruit to The Watercress Company’s Watercress Ambassadors programme and actively includes more watercress in her diet, reporting back as to what she does with it, and how it makes her feel. 

Here’s what she says:

Running really far means that I have to eat a LOT. When I first started running ultras, I fuelled like a marathon runner, eating gels and sugar and all sorts of rubbish.  To be frank, it made me feel terrible. It was only when I started running longer trail races and came across aid stations with savoury snacks (sausage rolls, mini sausages, pretzels etc) that I started to rethink what I was doing fuelling wise. 

Nowadays I have a rule. No matter how long the race, I don’t touch fake sugar until at least half way - so if it’s a marathon no sugar until 13 miles if at all, if it’s a 100 miler, no sugar until after 50 miles if at all. Sugar messes with your body. It spikes your blood sugar and what goes up, must come down, so you end up feeling great for a few miles and then terrible again. If you keep stuffing yourself with it, you end up with what feels like a hangover at the end of the race. 

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As I started running longer and longer races, I began to eat things that I really liked. I don’t really care for meal plans or nutritionist advice - I reply on what my body wants. As many people know, my staple is cheese sandwiches. I love them. They fill me up, have carbs and protein in, and go down easily. The issue here is that a lot of the savoury stuff is very ‘beige’. There’s not a lot of green in there. And green is important. I am a massive fan of gherkins and pickles, spinach and, of course watercress. I hadn’t taken much notice of watercress until I met James from The Watercress Company at a race and had a chat with him. Turns out it has super powers and is yummy in cheese sandwiches. Watercress contains a good amount of iron which is mega important to long distance runners. It also helps prevent DNA damage caused by high intensity exercise and helps the body cope with the stresses of long distances. There is this myth that ultra-runners just eat cake, but if we did that, we would be all over the place blood sugar wise.

Try this Cheese & Watercress Sandwich from The Watercress Company to make the perfect one!

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Pre long run, I tend to make sure that I have at least 2 meals a day that contain some watercress. It goes amazingly well in smoothies (mango, pineapple and watercress is YUM) and it’s also brilliant in soup - watercress and broccoli is a favourite. Soup is also great for during races - it goes down very easily and provides a tonne of nutrients. I eat a lot of eggs and always serve them with raw watercress on the side or scramble them up with cooked watercress. I am vegetarian for environmental reasons and try to eat two or three completely plant based meals a week. I miss the iron that I used to get from a delicious steak, so whacking some watercress into a meal helps make up for that. When I can find properly responsibly sourced fish, I will put together simple fishcakes using potato and watercress as the base and it also goes into pretty much every sandwich and salad I make. I have a couple of recipes for protein balls that contain it too - basically mashed up dates, raw cocoa and watercress - ace for long runs. 

Try this recipe for Power Balls from The Watercress Company

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It’s easy for people to forget that having something green on your plate is just as important as “carb loading” pre-race. I totally understand how important that is but being a veggie, it can be hard to do fun pasta, so I make watercress pesto - watercress, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan blitzed in a blender - and put that with some linguine - and I am done! Watercress is one of the original superfoods. Just a couple of handfuls in one meal a day can make a difference to how your meals taste and how you feel. It’s a mental thing as well as a physical thing. If you think you’re doing your body good, you feel like you are. 

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It’s not just me in the house who has a thing for watercress. I have a rabbit called Hector - he loves it and so do the Tortoises - Slo and Mo! 

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