Monday, 30 April 2012

10 Ways To A Marathon - A French Perspective

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Fabien Lopez is French, 32 years old and a contract manager.  He is a sports machine spending a minimum of one hour each day on football, swimming, squash, tennis, running, roller blading, snow boarding, rock climbing, cycling or strength training at the gym.  He also loves salsa dancing!  The marathon was a new sporting challenge that he endeavoured to experience and complete with a tick in that box to say 'Yes I did it!'  

1 What inspires you?
‘Being the best I can be.  There was no doubt in my mind that I could finish the marathon.  It was simply a question of putting myself out there for a race and seeing how long it would take me to finish.  In general, sport is important to me to feel good in my body.  I also find exercise a useful medium for evacuating stress after work.  Running definitely offers that.’

2 Can food improve your performance?
‘To be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to my diet as I am naturally fit.  Sport comes very easily to me and I really love it.  However, I have now discovered that if you want to prepare for a marathon, then nutrition plays a big part in this.  My diet is not entirely healthy but I did try to take care of what I ate a few days before the race.  I eat a lot of pasta which I believe is important.  It’s a great energy source for meeting the high requirements that running demands.  Besides, I love pasta so perfect!’

3 Did you take any supplements before or during the marathon?
‘Yes, a google search on a few different sites promoted the use of carbohydrate gels called Isostar.  I found these easy to digest and I wanted to try the product, mainly because I wanted the extra boost in energy to improve my performance.  The gels offered me the solution I needed to overcome the wall that many runners hit after about 35K into the marathon.  The extra energy from carbohydrate and Powerade for fluids was what I needed to get to that finish line.  I also wanted to reach the end by only running for the entire race’.

4 Did you change your diet when you trained for the marathon?
‘Now that I think about it, I did not change my diet at all except to eat bigger portions.  A few days before the marathon, I started to eat a lot more pasta which I love. 

½ a large baguette with butter & jam, a glass of orange juice and a mug of hot chocolate

Pasta with bacon, cheese and crème fraiche

Meat with vegetables and a larger portion of pasta

I didn’t feel the need to change my diet as I’ve always been sporty.  The only difference was that I decreased other sports and focused my efforts on running and strengthening my lower body.  On reflection, I probably could have paid a lot more attention to my diet, who knows how it could have changed my performance on the day!’

 5 What’s your favourite meal?  Let me guess, is it pasta?
‘You guessed it, carbonara!’

100g dried penne pasta
250g diced bacon
3 heaped tablespoons crème fraiche
Yolk of 1 egg
Salt to taste

‘After boiling the pasta, mix all ingredients over a slow fire and finally add the yolk.  This a great quick recipe after a long run.’

6 What did you eat the night before the marathon?
‘The carbonara!’

7 What was for breakfast on the big day?
‘My usual breakfast of baguette, orange juice and hot chocolate.’

8 How did you mentally prepare yourself on the day?
'When I start a project, I see it through to completion and it’s exactly how I viewed the marathon.  I signed up with a friend which sealed the deal for me.  We did not train together but it was great to discuss training schedules with him.  Unfortunately, he could not run on the day as his partner was expecting a baby.  I didn’t really need to do any other preparation except for sticking to a training program and then showing up on the day!  

9 What advice would you like to share with other marathon runners?
‘Buy proper fitting shoes.  Build realistic goals and expectations.  Know what time you want to complete the marathon by.  Prepare a training plan and give yourself a minimum of 3 months to train.  I ran three times a week and completed at least 10-20km per run.  Importantly, challenge the distance that you run each week.  Finally, believe in yourself and then you can definitely do it!’   

10 What did you do after the marathon?
‘I went out for drinks with friends to celebrate of course!’

My Impressions
Fabien is a competitive sporty guy who loves exercise.  It’s clear that he invests a large proportion of his free time towards this.  He completed his marathon in 4 hours and I am really impressed with his drive and attitude towards sport.  He may not run another marathon, but he admits that he may have under-estimated the role of nutrition in sports.  Careful attention to his diet leading up to the marathon and again on the final day may have been useful.  I’ll be expecting his call when he embarks on his next sporting challenge!

Do comment below, I look forward to your thoughts and comments!


  1. good interviews but man those guys need fruit and veg in their diets I have always found when in France with local markets the produce to be awesome and folks eat it

    1. Thank you Rebecca. I agree, though I suspect that fruit + veg may have been under reported by Fabien. The fruit bowl has certainly been cleaned out this weekend and we polished off delicious strawberries for dessert last night which was also his suggestion :)

      It's possible Fabien concentrated on energy dense foods for the purpose of his marathon & for meeting his high requirements. I've suggested little tips such as adding onions & mushrooms to his pasta to increase veg intake. Let's hope they've returned back to France this morning with a renewed love for yummy fruit & veg!