There’s one night when marathoners will eat like Luciano Pavarotti.
They do it so they can run like Stephen Kiprotich.
And they do it for the carbs.
All around town Friday evening, runners hit the pasta bars in anticipation of today’s 11th running of the Akron Marathon.
It’s part tradition, part nutrition, for the runners to load up on carbohydrate-rich food like pasta the night before the 26.2-mile run.
The largest gathering for Italian fare was at the John S. Knight Center, where executive chef Tom Miller spent his day preparing enough pasta to feed about 300.
His grocery list included 100 pounds of pasta, 40 gallons of puttanesca and marinara sauce, and dozens of meatballs and mushrooms.
Cooks also prepared 600 fresh dinner rolls and salads made from five cases of romaine lettuce, four cases of cucumbers, gobs of cheese, 30 dozen eggs and a few gallons of dressing on the side.
Miller has lost track but he estimates that Friday’s dinner was the seventh or eighth pasta meal he’s put on for the marathon. He’s led the convention center’s kitchen for 15 years.
As every good chef knows, carbs equal energy. They are also metabolized slower in the body than proteins. Long-lasting energy is imperative when someone is about to go on a four-hour run through a challenging race course like the one in Akron.
“They do eat, I mean they eat pretty good,” Miller said. “They load up on the carbs and salads, that’s for sure.”
For $15, runners and their families had access to an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet befitting a marathon eater.
Downtown streets were busy and restaurants all around downtown were offering their own pasta specials to draw in some of the record number of 15,000 runners registered for some form of the marathon.
Fairlawn runner Brian Prifti was at the convention center dining hall. He said he made three runs to the pasta in anticipation of finishing his first full marathon today. He planned a fourth plate before settling down for the night.
“I feel like I’m at prom again with this amazing meal they put on here today,” the Copley High School graduate gushed. “You can’t, like eat sugary, low-energy things that are just going to go away in an hour and a half. This is great, better than Olive Garden.”
A few tables away, Kevin and Leanne Orlosky of suburban Pittsburgh, were knocking off their pasta dinner and salad. They ran the half-marathon in Akron last year, and are making their first full run in Akron today.
“It’s a lot of fun to come to the pasta parties the day before [running], but we usually have the pasta dish two days before,” said Leanne, 26.
“It sticks with you,” said Kevin, 31. “I’d also say it’s partly beyond tradition, eating pasta is psychological, mental. I feel if I didn’t eat this tonight, then tomorrow it would probably play with my head during the race.”
Friday’s meal, while serving up the proper nutrition, also served as a traditional way for runners to socialize with other runners and allow the excitement and adrenaline to build.
“It’s more of a tradition with some nutrition mixed in there,” race director Brian Polan said. “For most runners, it’s a big deal to get that last great meal that’s carb rich, because [today] they’re going to wake up, they’re going to be nervous, they’re not going to want to eat very much. So, it’s nice to have that last really big meal.”