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A1A Marathon and Half Marathon: Taste Testing The Swag Bag

The A1A Marathon and Half Marathon is this Sunday, February 19.  A marathon is much more than an endurance run. There's an entire weekend of activity surrounding the race, including the pre-race carbo-load pasta dinner, the post-race brunch with beer (must replenish carbs), race strategies (which include picking out proper attire, putting Vaseline on spots prone to rubbing, and drinking copious amounts of liquids), and the expo. 

A marathon expo is the place to pick up your race number and swag bag.  Usually these bags are filled with brochures for other races, a few coupons, and maybe a sample-sized box of raisins.  If we get a promotional key chain we're usually excited.

The A1A Marathon swag bag this year was a dream for eaters. Unloading it was almost like unpacking from a trip to the market (albeit a teeny-tiny market).  Among the brochures and coupons, we counted ten different food samples.  So we decided to rate the samples on a scale of one to five:

RiceSelect Texmati Rice 
This little box of 100% Texmati rice was a welcome addition. With no additives or preservatives, it's a welcome addition to an athlete's pantry.  We didn't cook up this particular box yet, but we've bought this rice before and liked it's fluffy, buttery texture and flavor.  It's the patriotic version of basmati.  The only problem with this sample is that if we were traveling for this marathon, we would like samples that we could eat or use on race day.
Score: 4 out of 5

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps (original flavor)
Crispy little treat. With zero grams of fat and 160 mg of sodium in this half ounce size, it's a good snacking alternative to traditional pretzels (think of these as only the dark, crunchy outsides without that white inside of the pretzel).
Score: 4 out of 5

Corn Thins by Real Foods
These little round discs are basically rice cakes made from corn.  Made in Australia, these are being test marketed in the United States.  At 44 calories and minimal fat and sodium content, they weigh in like rice cakes. A little more taste than rice cakes makes these corn thins tastier as a solo snack.
Score: 3 out of 5

Jack Link's Teriyaki Beef Jerky
Interesting choice for a marathon.  We suppose Jack Links is trying to market their jerky as an endurance snack.  Yes, it's got a lot of protein (eight grams in a sample sized 18 gram pouch). But it's got 380 mg of sodium and tastes like a salt lick.  Also, the little shards of dried meat look unappealing, and we're not sure if we want to taste and smell meat when we run.
Score: 1 out of 5

Planters Creamy Peanut Butter
A little ketchup-sized packet of Planter's new peanut butter was a great idea. It's a little shot of protein great for spreading on a banana or just eating instead of a sugary gel.  Although we know this is a promotional sample, we'd buy these little packets to keep around for a quick and portable energy boost.
Score: 5 out of 5

Sunsweet Plum Amazing Diced Plums
Sunsweet is trying to re-market the prune by calling them dried plums.  It's true - prunes have a bad reputation of being the snack of the elderly, but they're really sweet, moist, and delicious.  These little guys are diced up and good for snacking, or tossing in yogurt or granola. 
Score: 4 out of 5

Sunsweet Apricots
Dried fruit is always a welcome snack. These little dried apricots were sweet and moist.
Score 4 out of 5

Sunsweet Ones Super Fruit Snack
It's a pitted prune individually wrapped to look like candy. There is nothing on the packaging that says it's a prune, or that it used to be a plum.  This poor fruit has got to be in the throes of a full-on identity crisis.
Score: 2 out of 5 (just call it a freaking prune, will ya?)

Marathon Protein Bar by Snickers

At 280 calories and 80 grams of fat, this is just a candy bar wearing a track suit.
Score: 2 out of 5

Silk Vanilla Almond Milk
We're a fan of Blue Diamond almond milk. Served ice cold, the sweet, nutty flavor is a great afternoon alternative to a Frappuccino or (worse) milk shake.  At 90 calories and 18 grams of carbs for an eight ounce glass, it does have its sins, but it is a slightly leaner alternative. Plus, people with soy and lactose intolerance can enjoy it, too.
Score: 4 out of 5

Bonus: Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Flavored Beer
Michelob Ultra is a sponsor of the A1A Marathon and gives away beer to runners at the finish line.  Not a bad treat after running 13.1 or 26.2 miles and certainly better than yet another cupful of diluted Gatorade.  But this pomegranate flavored beer is an abomination.  Even free, it's not worth drinking.  Think of watered-down red Kool-Aid with a slight wheat undertaste and you'll know what we're talking about. 
Score 2 out of 5

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss

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