March 21, 2011
Written by Mark Remy.
Thank you to McRunner for all of the support he has given to RMHC-CNI. Currently at over $27,000 raised, he has helped provide a ‘home away from home’ for so many families with children in the hospital
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about a fellow named Joe D’Amico, an Illinois man preparing to run the L.A. Marathon on a strict McDonald’s-only diet.
The idea was that Joe would eat nothing but food from McDonald’s — with a handful of minor exceptions, such as multivitamins and the odd energy gel — for the final 30 days leading up to today’s race. The whole thing was a bit of a stunt, geared toward raising money for the Ronald McDonald House. (Joe did not and does not have ties to McDonald’s; he is, in his words, just “a regular guy” who likes running. And fries.)
Joe’s story went viral, as did the link to his blog, McRunner.com, caroming from one end of the web to the other. Wherever the story appeared, folks seemed to have two basic questions:
1. Is this guy nuts? And
2. How can you possibly run a marathon after a month of burgers and hotcakes and Cokes?
Well, I had the privilege of speaking with Joe by phone today, after his race, and I can answer both of those questions:
1. No, he’s not nuts. Or at least no nuttier than any other marathoner. (In fact, he sounds like an exceedingly nice and thoughtful guy.) And
2. Very quickly, as it turns out.
Here are highlights of our chat:
RW Daily: You ran a 2:36:14 today. [ED: !!!] You were going for sub-2:36, right?
Joe D’Amico: Yeah. My personal best before this was 2:36:54.
So you ran a PR.
Yeah, a PR. I don’t know how someone ran a 2:06 today. [ED: Markos Geneti of Ethiopia won the race in a course-record 2:06:35.] That’s amazing.
At least you beat the sumo guy, right?
I did! I think I nipped him at the wire.
Your splits looked really even. Did you feel good the whole time?
You ran to raise money for Ronald McDonald House.
Yeah, I think we’re at around $27,000 right now. In just two weeks!
And the folks at McDonald’s had nothing to do with this?
Yeah, it’s just something I came up with. I looked at the domain name [McRunner.com], and it was open, so I thought, “Yeah, this would be fun.” I certainly had no intentions of it turning into this. I thought it’d be something I would share with my running club, my friends and family.
Did you have a single favorite McDonald’s meal?
It was and still is truly the hotcakes. That was something that had become sort of a staple. We’d do a morning run and I’d jet on over to McDonald’s and have hotcakes. That still is my favorite.
After the race, what was your first non-McDonald’s meal?
We found an Italian place. We had salad, pasta, and some pizza. Pizza was something I’d been looking forward to, especially, being from Chicago. I’d often have deep-dish pizza the night before a long run.
Did you feel any different training on this diet? Better, worse? More energy, less?
I feel as good as I’ve ever felt. I actually ended up losing a bit of body fat during all of this.
And your cholesterol levels actually improved.
Yeah! My doctor was very happy. My blood sugar was in line. Everything else was really good.
You spoke with your doctor before embarking on this 30-day diet?
Yeah. We agreed to do some blood tests to establish a baseline. My doctor said, you know, there’s not going to be any long-term effect. He was a bit surprised with the latest results. I was surprised.
Did you ever “cheat”? And if not, can you recall a time you were particularly tempted?
I’m shocked that people have not asked me that! I absolutely did not cheat. In fact, I didn’t even have gum. I had nothing outside of what was on that list. [ED: The vitamin, ibuprofen, etc.] Tempted? No. I thought it would be more difficult than it was. But once I made the commitment – and especially after more than, like, 42 people knew about it – it came very easy.
In fact, I originally wanted to do 60 or 90 days [of McDonald's-only food]. I thought, “Thirty days? That’s not a challenge.” But for the sake of my wife’s sanity, I chose 30 days.
Do you think you’ll replicate this experiment again in another race? Or was this a “one and done” kind of thing?
This was definitely “one and done,” in terms of the food. What I would like to do is see if we can take this idea of giving back and having fun at the same time to another level. We’ve had so much fun with this.
After the last [marathon], I took two weeks off. This one, I owe it to my family and to my body – I’m taking three weeks of complete downtime.
I train with a group that reinforces this idea that “miles make champions.” And I do put a lot into running. My log says it. You don’t hit 100-mile weeks without putting a lot in. But I started out running a few days a week, I’ve gone through my series of injuries and just plugged along to get to this point. Hopefully people see that as part of this story too. They don’t just focus entirely on these 30 days but on the bigger story, which is somebody who’s really put a lot in and has been able to get some results.
And given a lot back.
Yeah. And that’s what I’m most proud of. We’ve raised so much money and touched so many people. I’m certainly more proud of that than I am of a time. People beat me today, people will beat me tomorrow. The time is just that. But the good we’ve done will continue on.