Alison Wade has compiled a great cookbook of recipes by some of the greatest runners in history including Joan Benoit Samuelson, Sebastian Coe and more. The book features 100 recipes from 90 contributors.
All of the profits from the book go to two special causes; the Ryan Shay Memorial Fund and the Jenny Crain “Make It Happen” Fund.
Alison was kind enough to take the time for an email interview with me this week.
-How did you get involved in running?
I started running at age 15, when I realized I wasn’t going to make it as a gymnast. I wasn’t a natural runner—I was the kind of person who dreaded running the mile in gym class each year, because it was so hard. The thing I really liked about running, though, was that I could see my hard work paying off. When you train hard (and smart), you get better.
Once I started training, I became a convert right away. In addition to improving my physical and mental health, running has enabled me to meet so many amazing people. I’ve stayed involved with the sport as a participant and coach because I want other people to experience as many of the benefits of the sport as possible.
-Can you give a bit of background on Ryan Shay and Jenny Crain?
Ryan Shay was one of the top distance runners in the U.S. In my work as a photographer, I watched him win many Big East titles, as well as the 2001 NCAA 10,000 meter title for the University of Notre Dame. After college, he had a successful professional running career, which included winning five national titles at distances from the 15k to the marathon. He was always a courageous racer, often taking the lead from the start and trying to run away from his competitors.
At the Olympic Marathon Trials last November, Ryan seemed ready to make a good showing. He was one of the fastest marathoners in the country, and extremely fit. There was no reason to suspect that his heart would give out, but just over five miles into the race, it did. He was 28. The autopsy revealed that he died of an irregular heartbeat due to an enlarged heart. His death was a complete shock to everyone. When I saw an ambulance go by just before the race leaders completed their second lap of Central Park, I assumed that it was something unrelated to the race. At worst, I figured one of the competitors had fallen and injured himself. It wasn’t until after the race that I learned what had really happened. The death of one of these very fit runners wasn’t even within the realm of possibility, in my mind. Even though I never actually met Ryan, I could think of little else for the next several weeks. He had been married for less than four months, and from all reports, he was just about the happiest man alive when he was with his new wife, Alicia Shay (formerly Alicia Craig, a two-time NCAA 10,000 meter champion for Stanford). Alicia will try to make the Olympic team in the 10,000 meters later this summer, and you can be certain that just about everyone in the stadium will be pulling for her. The Ryan Shay Memorial Fund will allow Alicia to undertake projects which honor Ryan’s passion for helping disadvantaged individuals and groups, as well as funding American distance runners who are in need
Jenny Crain is someone who would have been trying for a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in the marathon, had she not been hit by a car while out on a training run in Milwaukee in August of 2007. She, too, was a top U.S. distance runner. She had represented the U.S. in the marathon at the 2005 World Track & Field Championships, and was a perennial contender at all of the national road race championships she contested. Jenny barely survived the accident, suffering serious head and neck injuries, among other things. She has made tremendous progress since the accident, but she is still being cared for at the Mt. Carmel Brain Injury Rehab Center, with goal of moving to supported/assisted apartment living by the end of the year. Her medical expenses are considerable, and the Jenny Crain “Make It Happen” Fund will help defray some of those costs.
I have never met Jenny, but by all reports, she is an extremely positive and caring person who made many friends throughout the distance running community.
-What is your favorite recipe in the cookbook?
I admit that I haven’t yet tried all of the recipes in the cookbook, but my favorite so far is Kara and Adam Goucher’s Veggie and Chicken Stir Fry. It’s both healthy and delicious. And though I did include a disclaimer in there saying that we can’t promise that eating any of the foods in the book will make you faster, I do feel like I’m doing something to help my running when I eat a good meal like that.
-How did you get all of the runners to contribute?
Simply by asking them. My experience has generally been that runners—both fast and slow—are great people who are willing to help out for a good cause. Many of the cookbook contributors trained with, raced against, and/or were friends with Ryan Shay and Jenny Crain. These causes are important to them as well.
Thanks to Alison for taking the time to answer all of the questions.