Is food enough to motivate you through pain and suffering?

By Christopher Cudworth

The Pumpkin Pie ride anticipated our cravings. We're not always that lucky.

The Pumpkin Pie ride anticipated our cravings. We’re not always that lucky.

Having recently finished the Pumpkin Pie ride in Ottawa, Illinois it occurs to me the absurdity of riding 63 miles for the “right” to eat some pumpkin pies is a little silly. But we do it for that very reason. Silliness and food sort of go together in the worlds of those who run and ride.

Marathon du Medoc

Some of our cravings are calculated, like our ride for pumpkin pie. There are a whole spectrum of food-oriented runs where the rewards are chili and chocolate cake and beer and pizza.

There’s a marathon in France called the Marathon du Medoc that describes itself this way, “Few marathons are in a class of their own. Le Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc on September 7, 2013 is one. Routed through 59 vineyards in the fabled villages of the Medoc region, this event appeals to the true connoisseur of fine runs. Where else do they ask you at the aid stations, “red or white Madame?” Thankfully there is plain water if you so choose.” Watch a video.

Impromptu food cravings

Sure, it would be great to travel to France next September and see if you can handle running a marathon tanked on wine. But the real test of spirit(s) is when you’ve gone out for a long run or ride on a weekend only to find you’re about a pint short on water and a PowerBar short on food.

Then you have to limp or bonk your way home, somehow managing to make it to your own, precious front door.

What do you crave then? 

At the end of one 12-miler in which the cold air and wind combined to suck the energy out of my very soul, it was cheese that I craved when I walked in the door. Heading straight to the refrigerator, I could almost taste the sharp cheese that awaited my palate. A knife was unnecessary. I opened the wrapper, took several hungry bites and felt the minerals or calcium or whatever it was in that cheese that I needed go straight to my system. Like a drug.

Chocolate has elicited the same craving in me during a long ride. You pedal those last 20 miles quietly promising yourself that when you’ve finished and managed some small talk and put the bike away, you will drive straight to 7-11 or some other venue and buy the richest chocolate you can find. Preferably dark and thick, if you please.

Or maybe you need meat, or is chocolate milk your After? Pickles? Nachos? Beer? Cravings are almost unlimited and indiscriminate.

Cravings are weird

True cravings for food while you’re working out are probably chemically based. Wikipedia’s half-assed explanation at least partly satisfies our craving for understanding about food cravings. “A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food, stronger than simply normal hunger.[1] According to Marcia Levin Pelchat “It may be the way in which foods are consumed (e.g. alternating access and restriction) rather than their sensory properties that leads to an addictive eating pattern.”

There’s a hint in there about the psychology of food cravings in those who run and ride. It would appear that the act of deprivation is a strong motivator behind food cravings. Which means your desire for a particular food may be felt in direct proportion to the distance you still have to cover.

It’s all well and good if you take food with you, of course. Today’s distance runners look more like pack mules than athletes. The belts around their waists and water carriers slung to their backs carry enough nutritional fortification to last an astronaut a week in space.

So food cravings may seem a little Old School, but not really. It’s one of the principal laws of the universe that we will always crave what we cannot have. You could strap and entire grocery store to your back for a run or a ride and still you’ll want the one item your portable store does not have. You can guarantee it.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience with cravings that has turned out rather interesting. So tell us, runners and riders: To what cravings have you succumbed over the years?  Hit reply and share you story with more than 500 other people who run and ride and subscribe to this blog.








About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at, and at Online portfolio:
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2 Responses to Is food enough to motivate you through pain and suffering?

  1. The craving that powers me through even the most abysmal run/ride is The Peanut Buster Parfait. (And yes…I capitalized “The” intentionally.) It’s a miracle worker. We’ll often plan a run at a location where we know a DQ is waiting at the finish (e.g., the Prairie Path in downtown Wheaton).

    You may say “Empty calorie bomb,” but I say…”Protein source!” I mean…there must be protein in peanuts, right? Right?!!!

  2. Barb says:

    In the summer months I crave watermelon juice. I can feel it give into every pore. Quenches thirst like nothing else does for me.

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