It might seem counterintuitive to eat a big plate of spaghetti before running 26.2 miles (or even 13.1), but science — and experience — prove otherwise.
Studies show that loading up on carbohydrates before a full or half marathon stashes energy in the form of glycogen in muscles and liver, providing that extra push needed for the long haul. Runners will tell you they wouldn't pin on their numbers without packing in plenty of pasta, potatoes or bread the night before.
"It helps build up your storage for the big run," confirms Robert Espinoza, seasoned marathoner and owner of Fleet Feet Sports. "You're going to need to those reserves."
Spaghetti dinners have become de rigeur before marathons, not only for the nourishment but for the comradery.
"It makes people feel comfortable because it's a tradition," explains Espinoza, who has helped coach hundreds — possibly thousands — of runners to the finish line.
That tradition gets the rock n' roll treatment next weekend: Runners and their cheering squads are invited to attend the Rock N' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon Official Pasta Party and Concert, to be held next Friday, Nov. 8 at the Charles H. Morris Center.
Sponsored by Connect Savannah, the party features music from rural rockers The Blue Dogs and swingin' Jeremy Davis & the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra. Tickets can be purchased for $25 in advance at the Marathon Expo on Thursday, Nov. 7 or on the Connect website. The price goes up to $30 at the door.
Plates begin spinning at 5 p.m., a time that perfectly aligns with Espinoza's advice to make sure runners do their pasta push early.
"You don't want to be carbo-loading at ten o'clock at night," warns Espinoza. "You've got to have time to let the food process."
It's going to take a whole lotta pasta: Executive Chef David Weikert estimates that he and the Pirates' House staff will be cooking up 400 pounds of spaghetti and rotini, to be served with a choice of red sauce or alfredo. Both sauces are meat-free, and a gluten-free option is available for $3 extra.
The buffet will also provide grilled chicken, five-bean salad, fresh fruit and cupcakes. Beer and wine available but are not included in the ticket price. (No official research has been done about the effect of a 2008 merlot on marathon performance.)
Though Chef Weikert and his staff plate up to 700 dinners every night at the Pirate's House, he's sweating a little at serving the 1500 expected to partake of pasta in the space of a couple of hours.
"It's the most people I've ever done in one sitting in this amount of time," says Chef Weikart. "But part of why I wanted to do this is because it's a challenge."
Does that make next Friday's feast the culinary version of a marathon?
"More like a sprint," grins the chef.