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RUNNING FOR BALANCE
Reno couple produces races while embracing the joys of healthy food.

WRITTEN BY CLAIRE MCARTHUR
PHOTOS BY CANDICE VIVIEN

Cooks at Home lerude2
Eric and Stephanie Lerude, organizers of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey and founders of Race 178, make chili together in their Reno home.

Back in 2000, lawyer Eric Lerude was stressed out about work. While his wife, Stephanie, was out tackling triathlons, he was “sitting on the sidelines with our two boys eating doughnuts.”

“She said, ‘You’d better start exercising,’” Eric recalls. “So I got into running as a lifestyle choice for stress relief. I really began to enjoy it, and I started running in races.”

A few years later, he went to Oregon to take on the 199-mile Hood to Coast Relay with a team of runners.

“I had so much fun with it that I realized I had to create an event like that for the Reno-Tahoe region,” he says.

He came home, told Stephanie he was tired of practicing law, and together the couple dreamed up the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, a 178-mile relay race, and founded their running event business, Race 178.

A delicious Odyssey

This summer the Odyssey (taking place May 31 – June 1 this year) enters its 15th year. Over the years, Race 178 has added other races to its portfolio, including the Journal Jog — Reno’s longest-running footrace, entering its 51st year — and the Leprechaun Race.

“We’re foodies, and we’re really proud of Reno’s food scene,” Stephanie says. “So we encourage racers to try out restaurants in the area.”

Last year, they resurrected the pasta feed before the Journal Jog — a previous tradition that brought runners together the night before the race for a big Italian meal.

Though the couple has kept busy raising two sons and managing races, home-cooked meals around the kitchen table have remained an important part of their family life.

“My mom taught me a healthy appreciation of food,” Stephanie says, pulling out a well-worn book titled Recipes for my Daughter, filled with recipes handwritten by her mother. “She gave this to me when we got married.”

Stephanie’s philosophy is cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients — some grown in their backyard garden and the rest from farmers’ markets.

And as luck would have it, Eric has a healthy appetite. Growing up in an Italian family, every Christmas was spent seeing which cousin could devour more of the hundred raviolis his grandmother made by hand for the occasion. It’s no surprise that the chili recipe he got from his mother and continues to make today for friends and fellow runners feeds 12 to 15 people.

“I’ve made it with my boys, I’ve got college friends that make the chili dish, and now we’re passing it along to Reno friends. My mom picked it up somewhere along the line when I was a kid, and when I went off to college I made it, and next thing you know it became ‘Lerude Chili.’ My mom was like, ‘Lerude Chili? What are you talking about?’” Eric says, laughing.

Though Stephanie has spent the majority of their marriage as the primary cook — she estimates she’s cooked more than 4,000 meals and admits to being a little burned out — she’s found an ally in Blue Apron, which delivers ingredients and instructions for healthy meals that Eric can follow in the kitchen.

Now she’s found inspiration in creating craft cocktails at home.

“We’re experimenting with different bitters, liqueurs, and types of alcohol,” Stephanie says. “We just discovered a cinnamon liqueur that you can put in a Manhattan that makes it absolutely delicious.”

For the Lerudes, life is about balance. Running the relay race, but enjoying a doughnut at the end. Putting extra thought into an artful cocktail, but saving time with a meal-delivery service.

“We appreciate food and we have fun with it,” Stephanie says. “It’s a big part of our life.”

Claire McArthur is a Zephyr Cove-based writer who enjoyed getting to know the Lerudes around the kitchen table where many bowls of famed Lerude Chili have been consumed. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lerude Chili

(courtesy of Eric and Stephanie Lerude, co-owners, Race178 in Reno. Serves 12 to 15)

Cooks at Home lerude 1

3 slices bacon, chopped

3½ pounds ground beef

2 onions, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small can diced green chiles

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1½ teaspoons oregano

3 tablespoons mustard

2 tablespoons vinegar

1½ teaspoons cumin

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cans pinto beans (undrained)

2 cans kidney beans (undrained)

1 can hominy

1 can corn

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

1 can black olives (optional)

Fry bacon pieces in large soup pot, then remove from pot. Sauté ground beef, onions, green pepper, garlic, and green chiles until done. Add spices, mustard, vinegar, sugar, and cooked bacon to pot and mix. Next, add beans, hominy, corn, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer covered for 1 hour, then uncovered 1 more hour. Add can of black olives, if desired. It freezes well!

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