for those who love the outdoors

11 March, 2024


Would you run for burritos?

Most adults know that food shouldn’t be used as a reward for our children’s achievements but for some reason we don’t think that this applies to ourselves. Especially among endurance runners because sometimes good food can be the best motivation to carry on.

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As a Registered Nutritionist I work with parents to help ensure their children can eat a healthy balanced diet that is full of variety. Needless to say, this can be extremely challenging and stressful if their child is going through a bit of a picky eating stage. But one thing that can work wonders and even motivate very fussy children to eat is to introduce an element of reward for trying new foods. 

However, the golden rule that should always be followed is that the reward for eating should never be food-related. In other words, using a more carrot than stick approach but not literally. The simple reason why is because awarding a liked food as a prize for doing something difficult doesn’t work effectively nor does it foster a healthy attitude towards eating. But oddly enough, as soon as you become an adult this rule is positively flouted. Especially amongst runners because favourite foods are regularly used as incentives and rewards for doing something challenging.

To start with, most people – if they’re honest – will admit to themselves that they have been guilty of overindulging on occasion after a particularly hard workout. Because even when you know the calorie maths aren’t breaking even it’s temptingly easy to believe that if you burned it, you earned it. It’s not the healthiest of attitudes and it reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a runner wearing printed with the words, ‘I run so that I can eat cake’. 

But the back of it was printed with, ‘Just kidding. I don’t run.’ However, this human tendency to be greedy and overeating as a misplaced reward for working out is small potatoes in the food-as-motivator stakes. Because in the context of a race, liked foods can work as a very powerful incentive to keep running, particularly during longer or difficult endurance events.


Two experiences I’ve had come to mind, where food has definitely played a role in my motivation to carry on running. The first is the Buckingham Half Marathon, one of the absolutely hilliest races I have ever run that almost prides itself on not being one for getting PBs. However, apart from the brutal undulating route the race is very well-known among runners for something more culinary. 

Every year, the runners who face up to this difficult race are rewarded at the finish by a massive tent heaving with local homemade cakes and scones. It really is something to see so many shattered runners stumble across the finish line who can then find just enough energy to queue up for a massive wedge of Victoria sponge. And some lemon drizzle…and maybe a millionaire’s shortbread. Believe me when I say that when you hit one of the (many) low points in this race and are starting to feel desperate, the thought of enjoying something nice at the finish can help to spur you on. I have run it 3 times.

The second time food definitely affected my motivation to keep running took place during an early ultramarathon. When ultra legend Ann Trason described an ultramarathon as an eating and drinking competition with a bit of running thrown in, she wasn’t wrong. Ultramarathons are so brutally hard that fuelling and hydrating is absolutely paramount to performance and makes the difference between finishing and getting a DNF. 

Which means pit stops and the provision of good food and drinks is incredibly important and always something you have consider before signing up to an event. When I ran the Race to the Stones 100km Ultramarathon, the promise of good food was a major driving force to help me keep on running.

Now I had heard good things about the RTTS and was encouraged to take part because they shared so many details about the support that they provided in advance. Which meant that I knew exactly what types of foods and drinks every pit stop would offer and like all participants, I used this information to help me plan and practise a nutrition strategy. 

By the day of the race I could run knowing what to expect and as I ticked off each stage everything was going to plan. That is until I got to the third pit stop and discovered that it did not offer anything nearly as substantial as advertised. It wasn’t as if they were simply out of better food but Pit stop 3 seemed to only offer cereal bars. I cannot describe how devastated and let down I felt, as if RTTS had broken their promise. 

Not only did I have a new problem of finding adequate food alongside other confused and hungry runners but I was completely demotivated by not getting my reward between two thick slices. I managed to carry on a bit low on energy and finished the day but there were some very bitter runners at the halfway basecamp. The fact that I can still remember this so clearly when it took place some years ago says it all!


Clearly there are many runners (including myself) who can be easily motivated by food to help them conquer great feats. Undoubtedly, these are true carrot-chasers because when the reward isn’t given it feels completely unjust. But what would happen to their motivation if they knew from the start of a race that this reward was not guaranteed? In other words, would carrot-chasers be motivated to keep running in a difficult competition if only the winner would actually receive the carrot? Well, if you replace the carrot with a year of free burritos from Chipotle, the answer is plenty!

During the month of January, the Mexican food chain, Chipotle, held a competition in six different cities in the US. Up for grabs was the prize of getting a year of free burritos but to win, you first had to do a little bit of running. Chipotle linked up with Strava for the competition and assigned 6 map segments of around 300m long that happened to be routed past selected Chipotles. Runners had the entire month to record on Strava every time they completed a segment running. Whoever ran the greatest number of segments over the month became Strava’s Local Legend and would be declared the winner.

As word got out and runners tried to climb the leaderboard the competition got fierce. Which meant that over the month several of the burrito-chasers clocked up more than an impressive 1000 segments, or around 300km! However, after reading the small print of the terms and conditions about what would happen in the case of a tie in the competition, 5 runners in Los Angeles decided to work as a team. By each member agreeing to complete the same number of segments and remain at pole position they ensured that they would all be awarded the same prize. Even though each of them ran the segment only 369 times it still equated to more than 110km.

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Fortunately, although many endurance runners can use food as an effective incentive or a reward for doing something difficult, for the most part it doesn’t cause a problem. Because as long as you do it in the context of a race rather than rewarding yourself with something unhealthy every time you train, enjoying some cake to celebrate the finish of an event after training for weeks and months isn’t going to do you any harm. 

Of course it’s too early to know whether the burrito-chasing winners will continue to stay fit and keep running during their year of free Chipotle. But I also wonder about the hundreds of other runners-up. Hopefully after a month of running intensely for an elusive prize they will have also caught the running bug. Because like many of the children I work with, the difficult things you have to face tend to get easier over time. Some of them can even become enjoyable and before long, running (and eating healthily) can become a reward in itself.

To finish here is a healthy recipe to make your own burritos at home (sorry Chipotle). Try these Beanie burritos and Chipotle carrots.

Suzanne Anderegg


I am originally from Canada but I settled in the UK after studying at university. Sports have always been a part of my life and I have participated and competed in several throughout my childhood. But today I would describe myself as mostly a runner, a mother of 3 grown-ups and a keen cook. As a teenager I was a sprinter and a slightly reluctant cross-country runner but while my children grew up I started to run further and further distances. I never thought that I could ever run anything longer than a half marathon but when my runner husband decided to do a marathon for his 50th in 2019 I found that I had a serious case of FOMO. My children encouraged me to sign up for my first marathon and I ran it just to see if I could finish. Somehow my time was good enough to qualify for the Boston 2020 Marathon. However, due to Covid it was postponed several times.

Like many other runners, I spent much of my time in the Covid lockdown keeping up my fitness by participating in virtual races while waiting for the real events to start up again. As time went on I found myself becoming fully immersed in the world of endurance running and ran the Threshold Trail Series ultra, Race to the Stones. Unfortunately, by the time the Boston Marathon was finally held in late 2021, I could not go because US travel restrictions were still in place. Although I missed my chance to run it and will now have to requalify again at least my time spent keeping in good shape wasn’t wasted. These days I participate in everything from half marathons up to ultras and have also run the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way in the Scottish Highlands.

I also work as a Registered Nutritionist with children and families and founded the consultancy Just add water® in 2019. I write a blog at to give free information and advice about nutrition and running whilst also sharing some of my favourite healthy recipes. The website is mainly aimed at busy families who want to make easy to prepare meals that are both healthy and really tasty, and for active families who want to know what they should be eating before, during and after playing sport.

I have always enjoyed cooking and previously cooked as a profession and I like to share my passion for good food. I have been involved in teaching cookery in schools, children's centres and for the NHS. I also enjoy entering the odd competition to push myself out of my comfort zone. I was awarded Highly Commended at the Teflon™ Diamond Standard Awards 2020 national culinary competition in the category of Keen Home Cook and was a National Finalist in 2022 & 2019. I have also had my recipes published in The Guardian's supplement, Cook; and featured in the 2012 Waitrose LOVE life calendar (July); and selected for inclusion in the 2020 #AnyWhichWayaBix Weetabix recipe book.

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