McDonald’s and Marathons

French Fries

Every now and then, it’s necessary to check the fast-food front and see what the big boys have been up to. For instance, McDonald’s got some publicity when a man made news by restricting his diet to McDonald’s fare during his monthlong training period for the Los Angeles Marathon. Joe D’Amico, known as the “McRunner,” outlined his plans online:

1. Attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Dairy Product
2. Drink a Shamrock Shake a day, up until the marathon
3. Eat only McDonald’s. Non-McDonald’s water, PowerGel, multivitamin and ibuprofen will be allowed

The rules came with a footnote revealed later in the story, that D’Amico avoided both Big Macs and large-size orders of fried potatoes. The sixth rule involved not preparation for the run, but his intentions regarding the funds he hoped to raise for Ronald McDonald House Charities. D’Amico told a WGN Radio reporter “he is not being paid by McDonald’s, and not trying to make a political statement.” The press told a waiting public:

An average McDonald’s meal day for D’Amico includes an Egg McMuffin without Canadian bacon, a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayo, a hamburger and some cookies.

A followup Huffington Post story went into more detail about the menu chosen by the runner, his lab tests, and the result of his efforts:

For 30 days, he logged everything he ate, which includes 91 hotcakes, 24 orders of oatmeal, 23 hamburgers, 24 chicken ‘Snack Wraps’ and lots of McDonald’s cookies… Blood work taken before the challenge showed his cholesterol at 186, by day 25 of all-McDonald’s, he was at 158 (he also runs about 100 miles per week)… [H]e ended up raising more than $26,000 for Ronald McDonald’s charities.

A few short months later, for LA Weekly, Simone Wilson chronicled the story of another runner, going so far as to label her a fast-food addict. Emily Strunk-Heim’s own self-chosen nickname was “McRunnerette.” Does this sound familiar? Wilson writes:

Strunk-Heim has promised to eat nothing but McDonald’s during her month of training for the Long Beach Marathon.

The reporter included some quotations from Strunk-Heim, regarding her diet of fried chicken, fried beef, and fried potatoes:

To me, this is like a well-rounded meal… I’ve got carbs, I got protein… I don’t eat three meals a day. I kind of eat all day long.

Strangely, and perhaps ominously, there is no “after” news item reporting on how this young woman actually performed in the race, or whether she in fact even made it to the starting line.

Bad precedent

Unfortunately, the association between McDonald’s and athletics was never confined to the occasional random marathon contestant. Last summer, the London Olympics gave journalist Tim Carman the opportunity to remind readers that the corporation represented by a clown has been an official sponsor of the Olympic games for more than 30 years. Should we be alarmed by this cozy relationship?

Many of the 800 other food vendors with event contracts were alarmed. So great and all-encompassing was the power wielded by McDonald’s, no other companies were allowed to sell french fries (or chips, as they are called in Britain.) Exceptions were made only if the entrepreneur swore to only sell the chips with fried fish, because that combination is so sacred to the English palate, even Mickey D can’t tear them apart.

In this connection, Carman had occasion to study recent history and inform his readers of a fascinating attempt at government intervention. The British bureaucracy in charge of such things actually, at one point, asked restaurants and fast-food stands to make their chips (french fries) more substantial. The theory behind the request was that with less total surface area (i.e., fewer total sides), each individual fry would absorb less oil and thus be less fattening to the consumer.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Joe D’Amico The ‘McRunner’: Man Training For Marathon Eats Only McDonald’s For 30 Days,” The Huffington Post, 03/10/11
Source: “McRunner Sets Personal Record At L.A. Marathon: Joseph D’Amico Ate Only McDonald’s For 30 Days,” The Huffington Post, 03/21/11
Source: “Emily Strunk-Heim, Long Beach Marathoner, Will Eat Only McDonald’s…,LA Weekly, 09/15/11
Source: “McDonald’s Olympian achievement in London,” The Washington Post, 07/18/12
Image by Kate Haskell.

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