Food News

"McRunner" Joe D'Amico Finishes 29th at L.A. Marathon Eating Only McDonald's

On Sunday, Joe D'Amico, the self-proclaimed McRunner, finished 29th at the Los Angeles marathon with a time of 2:36:13 (which translates into just under 6 minute miles on average). What's so amazing about this feat is that D'Amico, a runner from Palatine, Indiana, has eaten only McDonald's for the past 30 days. For those of you under a rock, that's hardly a typical diet for runners training for a marathon, who usually consume a diet rich in carbs and protein.

D'Amico, who ran 14 previous marathons, claims he was not endorsed in any way by McDonald's. He simply likes the fast food giant and decided this was a good way to challenge himself while running. D'Amico started a blog to chronicle his adventures (and eating habits) and also raised over $27,000 for Ronald McDonald house in the process. We asked D'Amico how his training went and just what the hell was he thinking?

New Times: Let's cut to the chase. Just what the hell were you thinking?

McRunner: Originally it was just a personal challenge. If you look at my blog you can see the evolution. I started at 4:16 (marathon finish time)and worked my way down to 2:36 (marathon finish time). I thought this would be cool and something different. I started this as a tongue in cheek thing. Two weeks in, the response I was getting was super positive. Then we started to raise money for Ronald McDonald House charity.

You know, your website crashed this morning when I checked it.

We thought we had a lot of people two weeks before. We also crashed the website where we're taking donations.We've raised $28,000 dollars so far and we're trying to get our Facebook fans up to 40,000 friends.

OK - so again. I'm a marathon runner and I eat the traditional pastas mixed with proteins. I think I would just die of an angina attack if I did what you did. Why did you choose McDonald's and not, say, Subway?

It really stems from the fact that I really do like McDonald's and I would eat it a few times a week anyway, so I knew that was a source that would work for me.  And the other thing that I thought was kind of neat was that I had so many comments by people saying "you eat McDonald's", like it was a bad thing. Those same people also said "you run too much, you run 100 miles a week". So the reaction to running and McDonald's was the same.

I thought on that level true hardcore runners could appreciate my project. Here are two negative things you're doing and when you get two negatives you get a positive.The whole juxtaposition, the whole "opposites attract" was cool.

So you didn't stuff your face with fries and supersize everything. You tried to eat healthy at McDonald's, correct?

I knew there were some great choices that I could make that were healthy. Its easy to make snap judgments. I was able to find good food selections that worked well. Whether you're shopping at Whole Foods or McDonald's there are choices. If you make good choices more often that not you're going to get good results. I believe in portion control. You've got to moderate. Anything in excess is not good. Take water - take for example water. Too much water can kill you. I ate burgers, chicken, I'm not a Big Mac guy. Food selection and consistency is the key.

Didn't you go nuts, just eating McDonald's every day?

It wasn't the diet, it was the media attention. There was a few days there that the media attention was crazy. There were a few days where we lost sleep. Trying to get in a few runs, trying to drive people to fundraising events, balanced with the ups and downs of being on national TV. That was the most challenging part. It's not the eating, it's the logistics. We need to get in the car and we have to get food.

You've said on your blog that you're not sponsored by McDonald's, that they haven't given you a penny. Is that true?

That is totally correct. I am a totally non-sponsored athlete. I'm a regular working guy. I had the pleasure of talking to many people, but right now my plan for tomorrow is to go back to work and continue what I was doing. I fully expect everything to go on to back to before what happened 30 days ago.

Will you keep your blog going?

That's something that we want to discuss. The fact that we were able to inspire some people, certainly the fundraising reflected that. What should we do? Is this something that can grow and evolve or is that a one shot thing? I actually had proposed to do this for 60 or 90 days with my wife. We negotiated down to 30 days.

Any new marathon training books coming out? The McRunner diet book, possibly?

I would not recommend someone eating McDonald's for a week no more than I would recommend someone run 100 miles a week. I certainly wouldn't recommend they eat McDonald's for 30 days.

You have a little girl. Does she like McDonald's?

Claire will be three on April 25. She loves to go to McDonalds, she loves to order the food and she'll take one bite and walk away like most two-year-olds. Life's about choices. Same for running - if she wants to run I'll expose her to the sport, and if she doesn't that's fine with me too.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss