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Meet the competitive eater who also conquers the Philly Marathon

How could a marathon runner, who studied nutrition, transition into a competitive eater, willing to gorge himself for entertainment?
Competitive eater and marathon runner Breandan Lyman, a 28-year-old resident of Point Breeze. (Hayden Mitman)

Breandan Lyman, a 28-year-old resident of Point Breeze, is something of a living contradiction.

The mustachioed, mohawked Lyman is an accomplished marathon runner, who trains six days a week, running 60 miles per week. He said that he can max out a single day’s workout by running as many as 22 miles in a day.

But, he’s also a competitive eater who has competed in Wing Bowl since he turned 21.

“I’ve always had this mentality that it’s all or nothing,” said Layman. “I do everything at full capacity.”

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Lyman, who works at Center City’s Philadelphia Runner, is currently training for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon, to be held on Sunday, Nov. 19. Last year, Lyman came in 41st place, with a time of 2:36.

This year, he hopes to beat the time, and to do it, his training is rigorous, as Lyman said. He trains five to six days a week, allowing only a few days, which he calls “maintenance days,” when he trains less extensively.

Running is something, Lyman said, that he’s enjoyed since he was a child. In fact, as a boy, he loved Allen Iverson and collected his Answer sneakers, “the way other kids were collecting Jordans.”

His love of sneakers eventually grew to the point where he started collecting running shoes.

Born in Philly, Lyman’s family moved to Texas when he was young, but he moved back to go to LaSalle University. While he was always a runner growing up – both he and his brother excelled at the sport, said Lyman – it wasn’t until college that Lyman learned he had a talent for competitive eating.

“Running always came first, but I have the ability to eat a lot,” he said.

In college, Lyman said he was relatively reserved, until, as a freshman, he entered a wing-eating competition at the school. He said that he was surprised when he easily defeated larger individuals, like school seniors and football players in the contest.

“I guess, my outlet for socializing was eating,” he said.

Four years in a row, Lyman said he won wing-eating competitions in college and, after he graduated, he decided to try his hand in Wing Bowl. Calling himself “Skin-N-Bones,” Lyman said he got sixth place in his first time attending Wing Bowl. And he’s always put up a good showing, eating at least 180 wings each year he’s competed in the eating contest.

His best showing, Lyman said, was a fourth-place finish, in which he devoured 209 wings in one sitting.

To get into the competition, Lyman said, he went on Angelo Cataldi’s radio show and ate two whole tomato pie pizzas in less than seven minutes.

“That was fun. Angelo went nuts,” said Lyman.

Yet, in college, Lyman studied nutrition. So, how then, could a marathon runner, who studied nutrition, transition into a competitive eater, willing to gorge himself for entertainment?

“They are both the kind of sports where you gain respect for mental toughness,” he said. “And, I do [competitive eating] in small quantities, so I think I’m okay.”

Lyman said that, like running a marathon, you need to train hard for competitive eating. In the days before an eating contest, Lyman said that he drinks a lot of water to help stretch out his stomach lining. And, as in running or during an eating competition, Lyman said, you can hit a wall, but you just have to endure.

“They are similar. You can pick up a chicken bone and hold it an inch from your mouth, but there will be this gravitational force that won’t let you put it in your mouth. The same thing with running. You get to a point where you just can’t take another step,” said Lyman. “But, you know you’re not going to die if you do it, so, you get it done.”

On Sunday, Lyman will participate in the Philadelphia Marathon and, afterwards, he plans to hit up a bar in the city for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Lyman said he’s looking forward to spending the day with the friends that he has spent so much time training with.

“The day of, it is so much fun seeing everyone you know from the Philly running community. It’s so cool,” said Lyman.

This will be his fifth year running in the Philadelphia Marathon. And, although it has yet to be officially announced, Lyman said he fully intends to compete in the next Wing Bowl. 

 
 
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