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Natural, healthy food is the fuel of life

Thank you for visiting my new website! This is my very first blog since launching my website…I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be writing about running (of course!) but also about everything that goes with running – food, training, injury-prevention, goal-setting, motivation, racing, and so on - and about leading a healthy, balanced and fulfilling life. Please come back regularly and see what I’ve been up to.

So, onto the topic for my first blog – food! Naturally this is a subject that is close to every runner’s heart. We burn up so many calories that hunger is never far away. But food is so fundamental to leading a healthy life, whether you run or not, so putting energy and effort into eating good food is always worth it.

Now let me take you back to the evening of 5 August 2012. I had just competed for Team GB in the historic London Olympics, in the women’s marathon. Running for your country, at a home Games, is every athlete’s dream, and looking back it was a real privilege to have done it. But at the time things felt very different. I had a heel bruise on my right foot which forced me to drop out of the women’s marathon, and on returning to the athletes’ village, the pain in my foot was unbearable. I couldn’t put my foot down so I was hobbling around on crutches. The relief that it was over, despite the massive disappointment, was intense. I sat in the outdoor street food area behind the Team GB lodgings, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. The mixture of emotions was bewildering.

But as I sat there, something caught my eye – a fellow athlete walked past holding a small edible something-or-other that looked like a mini Cornish pastie, but round. I looked around, and spotted the food stall nearby that was cooking them. I could barely face the effort of trying to move with the pain in my foot, but driven by curiosity, I dragged myself over to the stall. “The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company”, the sign above it read….mmm, intriguing, I thought. Sure enough, there being cooked on a hot plate were rows and rows of the little round pasties I’d just seen. They reminded me of “o-yaki”, a snack I’d got to know and love in Nagano, Japan, when I was training there a few years back. Coincidentally, the woman cooking them was Japanese, so we got talking. The divine-smelling “pasties” turned out to be “SeaShore Wraps” – pancakes stuffed with the Welsh seaweed laverbread and a variety of other foods – salmon, cheese or lamb. After trying one and falling in love with them there and then, I discovered that they are the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company’s most famous snack. The Japanese lady cooking them told me that their resemblance to o-yaki and inclusion of seaweed had made them a hit with the Japanese athletes, and she could barely keep up with the demand for them!

The wraps were so delicious, that I decided I had to visit their home – the mobile street food stall, Café Mor, on Pembrokeshire’s wild Atlantic-facing beach, Freshwater West. So in May 2014, I set off westwards on a mission to find out more about their ingredients, how they are made, and the genius behind them, Café Mor’s owner, Jonathan. I signed up for one of Jonathan’s “seashore foraging” outings – a fascinating tour of Freshwater West’s tidal zone and its abundance of edible seaweeds. The star of the show was “laverbread”, a nutritious seaweed which, unbeknown to me, I had been eating for years in Japan under the name “nori”. Jonathan uses laverbread as the main ingredient in his fabulous seashore wraps, making them rich in minerals and very nutritious. But he also introduced us to other edible seaweeds including dulse and samphire, and explained the history of laverbread as a source of food for Welsh people living nearby.

Jonathan’s fabulous food has deservedly been recognised by many awards, including first place in the 2014 BBC Food and Farming Awards’ Best Street Food/Take Away category. His use of traditional, local Welsh laverbread in an innovative and absolutely delicious way in his seashore wraps, really is something to celebrate. His wraps are a simple, tasty and healthy food – just the way food should be.

Twitter: @Beach_Food

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