After two years at a COVID-standstill, the New York Road Runner’s (NYRR) Half Marathon is officially back. And it promises to be a star-studded event. Celebs such as former NFL player Tiki Barber, MTV Catfish host Nev Schulman, Good Morning America co-anchors Amy Robach and TJ Holmes and ESPN Sportscaster, Nicole Briscoe will be taking part, as will former Miss Universe Andrea Meza, in her debut appearance at the event. Olympic and Paralympic medalists, Ben True and Susannah Scaroni will also be there, joining the largest group of professional athletes in the event’s history, including 23 Olympians, eight Paralympians, and six open division athletes with half marathon national records.
The event takes place on March 20th and will begin in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park, before heading across the East River via the Manhattan Bridge. Once in Manhattan, runners will race along the Lower East Side, up to Midtown, and through Times Square before finishing in Central Park.
With this being such a special year for the Half Marathon, the field of celebrities and professional athletes will surely be in the spotlight.
What will it take for these public figures to ensure optimal performance in the 13.1 mile race?
I recently caught up with ESPN Sportscaster, Nicole Briscoe; Paralympian and Dietitian/Nutritionist for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Susannah Scaroni; Nev Schulman, host of MTV’s Catfish, and Ben True, American track and field and cross-country athlete, and winner of the 2018 Half Marathon, to find out what they have been eating— and avoiding— in the countdown to the event.
Nicole Briscoe, ESPN Sportscaster
Nicole Briscoe has been with ESPN since 2008 when she joined as a NASCAR pre-race host, after which she transitioned to SportsCenter in 2015. When she isn’t working, Briscoe is spending time with her family or running with her husband, race car driver, Ryan Briscoe. The husband and wife are both marathon enthusiasts.
“I love the challenge of a half marathon,” says Briscoe. “The distance isn’t as overwhelming as a full, but it’s still hard, requires a plan and keeps me focused. I find working out is so much easier when there’s a goal. Race day is a reward for all the hard work.”
Daphne Ewing-Chow: As a mother with an active life, how hard is it to stick to a diet?
Nicole Briscoe: My diet is the hardest thing for me to dial in and balance, but it does make a big difference. When I’m eating right, my legs feel lighter, my breathing is better and overall, training just feels easier. That said, I’m a mom. I work odd hours. I travel. I’m not always the best at being strict about my diet.
Daphne Ewing-Chow: What diet works for you and what’s your advice on making the right diet choices for optimal performance?
Nicole Briscoe: I find I’m at my best when I stick to whole foods and avoid sugar, wheat, and dairy. It also means cutting out alcohol and wine. Finding what’s right is a bit of trial and error. It’s also not one size fits all. I think it’s most important to do what’s right for you.
Susannah Scaroni, American Paralympic athlete
“I am choosing to compete at the United Airlines NYC Half this year to celebrate my love of this sport,” says three time Paralympian and Dietitian/Nutritionist for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Susannah Scaroni.
In her third Paralympics in Tokyo last summer, Scaroni won her first gold medal in in the 5,000 meters and also won bronze in the 800 meters. That concluded a fantastic summer on both road and track, which began with her third consecutive Mini 10K title in Central Park.
But in September 2021, less than a month after the Paralympics, Scaroni was hit by a car while training in Illinois, resulting in a fractured vertebrae and causing her to be sidelined from competition, and missing all the fall marathons. New York Road Runner’s (NYRR) Half Marathon will be her first race back since the accident.
“It’s been an eventful year for me, and one thought that has surfaced is that I am grateful to be alive and to be a wheelchair racer,” she says. “So, I am choosing to come to New York as my first race back after my injury to experience the joy of racing and to celebrate being alive.”
Daphne Ewing-Chow: As a nutritionist/ dietitian and a professional athlete, how would you say your diet impacts performance?
Susannah Scaroni: The amount, and type of food, I put into my body directly affects the amount of energy I have available for exercising as well as how energized I feel in terms of my perceived effort at various exercise intensities. Together, these provide me with the ability to press as much as I can when I need to, which is a very important piece of my performance. More than that, I love food because my diet provides me with the essential components that allow me to focus and to avoid injuries and illnesses.
Daphne Ewing-Chow: How did you choose your specific diet?
Susannah Scaroni: I choose to use a food-first approach to my dietary eating pattern for several reasons. The main reason is that, with food, the sum is often greater than its parts. For example, drinking a glass of milk has been shown to impact skeletal muscle more so than having the same amount of protein from isolated whey powder. There is likely a lot to a food’s matrix that can benefit our fueling and recovery, so I avoid dietary supplements and try to get my nutrition from whole food sources as much as possible.
Nev Schulman, host of MTV’s Catfish
“I love running! I’d sign up for a half marathon every weekend if I could,” says Nev Schulman, host of MTV’s hit show, Catfish.
Schulman is a a 2:58 marathoner (faster than any other celebrity) who grew up in New York City on 66th and Central Park West, very close to the finish line of the New York City Marathon, and is literally running in the footsteps of his father, who is also an avid runner.
Daphne Ewing-Chow: What type of diet works best for you when preparing for a race?
Nev Schulman: To be honest, I haven’t spent a ton of time focusing on my diet as a runner. I try to eat well year-round, but most importantly, for a couple of days before the race, I stay away from anything that could upset my stomach— things like seafood (for obvious reasons) and anything too cheesy or greasy.
Daphne Ewing-Chow: Why haven’t you been focusing on your diet?
Nev Schulman: I know a lot of people who do change their diet leading up to a race, but I find that keeping it consistent with what I’ve been eating during all my training and not changing anything up is the safest way for me to be sure I’ll have the nutrition and energy I need.
Ben True, American track and field and cross-country athlete
“Running any of the New York Road Runner events is always a treat,” says American track and field and cross-country athlete, Ben True who was the first American man to win the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, covering the course in 1:02:39. It was his first time running the event.
“One of my favorite running memories is turning onto 7th Ave during the 2018 NYC Half and having the Times Square Kids Run start right next to the pro field, racing us towards Central Park,” he says. “The atmosphere and the people surrounding the NYC Half is what keeps me coming back.”
Daphne Ewing-Chow: How does your diet impact your performance as a professional athlete?
Ben True: Diet has a huge impact on performance for anyone. You need to fuel the body to allow yourself to train, recover, and compete at the highest levels. If you don’t fuel your body with enough food, you won’t have the energy to train at a high level. If your diet doesn’t contain the necessary macro and micro nutrients, you won’t be able to adequately recover between sessions. Without balancing high levels of training and recovery, you can’t be a professional athlete. Thus, diet has a massive impact on performance.
Daphne Ewing-Chow: Tell me about your diet.
Ben True: My diet is pretty simple: eat real food, eat what tastes good to you, and eat when you are hungry. There isn’t anything that is completely off limits. There is no such thing as “bad” food (with the obvious exception of personal taste preferences). Instead, there are foods that have better nutritional value than others, foods that are less processed than others, and foods that are better for your body in how they are converted to fuel. It is these “higher quality” foods that I strive to comprise the majority of my daily diet.
Beyond that, I just eat what tastes good.