written by Andes Hruby | photos by Rob Kerr
In high school, Elyse Kopecky took up the sport many of us dreaded. Cross country has no half time, no fouls and no substitutions. Kopecky is a former state champion in the 1- and 2-mile race as well as the 5K. Born and raised in the snowbelt of Rochester, N.Y., she moved to North Carolina in the late ’90s and shed her layers for a spot on a southern college cross-country team.
As a runner from 2000 to 2004 at the University of North Carolina, she met Shalane Flanagan, a four-time Olympian, American record holder, and world-class marathoner. The longtime friends co-wrote Run Fast Eat Slow: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes (Rodale Books). Their goal is to help athletes eat for the long run and learn to embrace what Kopecky calls “indulgent nourishment.”
Kopecky was always opposed to dieting, but her perception of health was askew. Teams and coaches at the time believed low fat was healthier. Skim-milk yogurt, skinless chicken breast, and lettuce does nothing to satiate the body or soul. Kopecky also now attributes her college injuries and athletic amenorrhea—the absence of menstruation—to not consuming enough healthy fats.
Despite a solid career at Nike, she was offered an intriguing job abroad to work in marketing for a video game company. It wound up being her life-changing gift.
“In Switzerland, the homes have tiny refrigerators,” she said. “I couldn’t resist the cheese, grass-fed beef, and markets filled with fresh baguettes and local produce. My husband and I took cooking classes across Europe.”
She did not pack on the pounds but felt stronger, healthier and happier than ever. Kopecky left marketing to study nutrition. After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, she reunited with Flanagan in Portland over a home-cooked meal and the idea for Run Fast Eat Slow was born. Kopecky’s newfound, eat-more-fat knowledge helped her give birth to a healthy baby girl and go on to write her first cookbook, which became a New York Times bestseller.