What's it like to be an elite runner at the Twin Cities Marathon? A pro competitor answers our 26 questions.

We talked with professional runner Brittany Charboneau.

Elite runners took off from the start line of the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 2, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Elite runners took off from the start line of the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 2, 2022, in Minneapolis.

— Alex Kormann, Star Tribune file

Thousands of Minnesotans know what it's like to run a marathon. Several thousand more are going to find out when they hit the streets between Minneapolis and St. Paul for the 42nd Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon being held Sunday.

But only a select few know what it's like to run fast enough to be an elite runner with a shot at winning the race. Is their experience different from that of the rest of us plodders? To find out, we talked with Brittany Charboneau, a 35-year-old professional runner from Denver.

Charboneau, who is sponsored by North Face, has a remarkably varied running resume that ranges from road marathons, ultramarathons, trail races and a fastest known time up a Colorado 14'er mountain peak. In her free time, when she's not logging more than 3,000 running miles a year, she likes to do improv and sketch comedy, according to her website, thefunnyrunner.com.

She'll be racing her first Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday before competing in the 50-kilometer World Championship in Hyderabad, India, on Nov. 5.

Brittany Charboneau trail running in Spain.
Brittany Charboneau trail running in Spain.

Jonas Hill

Here's how she answered our 26 questions on what it's like to be at the front of the pack:

1. What do you eat the night before a race?

I'm pretty traditional with pasta. I eat a ton, a lot of pasta, a lot of bread. I always have dessert.

2. Before a big event, do you have trouble sleeping?

No, I don't, especially if I'm in a good mental space. I just pretend like it's another training run, and that helps calm me down.

3. What do you have for breakfast on race day?

I typically eat a ton of pancakes with either chocolate chips or blueberries and a banana. I love coffee, too!

4. Where does an elite runner pee on race day?

We always get special porta potties or indoor places. That's one perk to being an elite runner: porta potties without lines, which is a special privilege.

5. Do you have any good luck race rituals?

I like to match my nails to my race outfits, so I always get my nails done. A lot of trail runners don't have their nails done.

6. In the lead pack, do the runners talk to each other while running?

We do it more on trail running, which I'd like to bring to the road running scene a little bit more. I think it helps calm us down. Maybe I'm gonna try just being a little chatterbox at the start of Twin Cities.

7. No trash talking?

Oh, no, not for me. I feel like it's bad juju and bad karma. Because we're all in it together.

8. When you're racing, do you ever high-five kids?

Yes. I love it. When kids are out there, it's the best. You just get a boost of energy from kids. If they happen to be in a spot where I can high-five them, heck yeah.

9. Even though you're concentrating on winning, you'll high-five a kid if you can?

I think there's a piece for me of taking the preciousness off of racing. I think when we get so serious, it takes the joy out of getting to do what we get to do. It means a lot that they're out there supporting us. If I lose a couple seconds because I high-five a kid, it's 100% worth it.

10. Do you read the funny signs spectators hold up?

Oh, my gosh, yes. They're so funny. That just makes me smile, brings me joy.

11. What's the most encouraging thing someone can shout at the runners?

I'm really excited to put my name on my race outfit. There's just something about someone saying your name, it feels like they know you. Even if they don't actually know who I am, just hearing my name really does give me a boost.

12. The cheering really helps an elite runner?

Big time. It's so special.

13. More cowbell?

Always. The more cowbell the better.

14. Has anyone ever shouted "Run, Forrest, run!" at you?

Oh, my gosh, all the time. It used to be really annoying. But now it's kind of novel. It's funny to hear it now. If people say it now, I like it.

15. What's the most discouraging thing someone can shout? "You're almost there" at the 20-mile point?

Yeah, you're like, "No, I'm not." You still have like 10K to go. That's like 45 minutes of running left.

16. Do you have a mantra you say to yourself while racing?

Every single race, I have a different theme. I haven't figured out what my theme is yet for Twin Cities. I coach a middle school team, and our team mantra this year is "garbage can" not "garbage cannot." So I just kept telling myself, "Garbage can, garbage can." The more ridiculous the mantra, the more it reminds me this is supposed to be fun.

Brittany Charboneau after winning all the races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Dopey Challenge in 2022.
Brittany Charboneau after winning all the races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Dopey Challenge in 2022.

Brittany Charboneau

17. Do elite runners listen to music while you're racing?

If I am allowed to, I do. Typically, elites are not [allowed to] in a race.

18. If you can listen to music while racing or training, what do you listen to?

I listen to a lot of Disney music and Broadway. Taylor Swift, of course. Eminem is also good.

19. Any particular Disney or Broadway songs you like?

"I'll Make a Man Out of You" from "Mulan" is one of my favorites. "Go the Distance" from "Hercules," that's also a great one. I listen to a lot of the "Hamilton" soundtrack.

20. Super shoes. Are they worth it?

I just bought a new pair. They're definitely worth it. For not only the race, but also from the recovery standpoint. I don't feel I'm as beat up after a road marathon if I'm in the super shoes. Even if part of it is a placebo, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on that for sure.

21. What kind of shoes are you wearing?

On the trail, I'm in a North Face shoe. But since North Face doesn't do road shoes, my go-to are the Nike Alphafly for road racing.

22. And you have to buy those? How much did those cost?

They're so expensive, $275 for my last pair.

23. What will you have for dinner after the race?

I always have a beer. I'm looking forward to having a beer. And a burger. Sometimes it's a burrito. Or sometimes it's just something fried. I don't have anything I don't eat during training.

24. On your website, you say it brings you joy to find pennies on the ground while running. How often does this happen?

Almost every single day. I'm constantly just looking for change on my runs. It's this little simple act of joy every single time I find one. It's this little tiny treasure.

25. How much money do you find on the ground running?

Last year was my record for my running change. I think it was $53.35, or something like that. It was a lot of pennies. So I feel quite proud of that.

26. If a competitor wanted to slow you down in a race, couldn't they just scatter a bunch of pennies along the race course?

OK, so I have one rule: I pick up change on all my runs, except during racing. It's so tempting to pick up change on my races, but I leave it there because I know I've got a job to do.