How I Became a Vegan Ultramarathoner
Chances are you've heard in the past that the journey to health is mostly controlled by the food you eat. I can't really argue with that logic, but whether or not it has been proven by research is beyond me. From a purely anecdotal perspective, I've watched food transform my whole life.
One of the most amazing changes I've witnessed in my own body (aside from the fact that I literally hated raw bananas until after going vegan) is my sudden and shocking aptitude for running long distances.
You may have heard of those crazy people that run for fun. You may even know some crazy people that run marathons or ultra marathons for fun.
Just to take it back a step, I was one of those people who not only knew about runners, but laughed at and despised them.
Because prior to adopting a vegan lifestyle, I seriously hated the sport. I was convinced that runners had a secret method for tuning out pure misery, or worse-- loved it because they simply loved being miserable.
If I can convince you of anything, I would have you believe me when I say this: prior to adopting a vegan lifestyle, I could barely run 3/4 of a mile.
And yet, something about the food I started eating in 2013 began making an unexpected difference in my life. I felt like I had more energy. I started having a more open mind.
I realized that instead of being jealous and resentful of people who had achieved great things, I should ask them how they did it and start acting.
And as it turned out, I wasn't alone in this feeling. For those of you looking for a great book or virtual mentor, I recommend any of the numerous memoirs written by modern day vegan ultra runners:
I started with a "couch-to-half-marathon" training plan on January 1st, 2014. And on February 11, 2017, I completed my first 50-mile ultra marathon trail race.
Here's a list of what I did to become a vegan ultra marathon runner. It's my advice, and nothing more. Take what you like and come up with a system to fit your needs.
1) Stick to a schedule
Don't just go out and start running every day. This may actually harm you in the end. You need rest days and cross-training to grow new muscles and prevent injury. Be patient and trust the calendar. I read runlikekale.com and followed her training programs. There are also great training programs for almost any distance provided for free on the Hal Higdon website.
2) Hold Yourself Accountable to a Goal
For me, I hated the idea of wasting money (especially since we've been pretending like we don't have any in order to destroy my student loans). So I made myself sign up for a race and pay for it in full before I even started the training process. No refunds!
3) Get Some Good Shoes
If you're going to spend money on anything, this is probably your most important purchase. They're most likely going to cost $100 or more in a running store. If you're super cheap, you can get fitted in-store and then buy the exact same model (or last year's version on Amazon or Run Warehouse) for cheaper. But sometimes I like supporting local stores, especially since most of them build in a free pair of shoes with frequent visits.
My favorites so far have been Newtons. The ones below are in my closet right now. I also love Lace Locks, which not only prevent untied shoelaces but also distribute the weight of laces across the entire top of your foot.
4) Find a Mentor or Group
Since I like to train alone, I talk to my cousin over at RunLikeKale.com or friends in the running community when I need advice. That being said, I also know so many people that benefit from a local running club. Not only do they encourage friendships, but they build accountability. You're also more likely to improve your speed in a group setting.
5) Make it an Adventure
I use my time spent running to (ironically) relax and unwind from the stress of events in the operating room. Now, I've transitioned into longer distances and use that time to explore trails and parks near my home. When I first started my running journey, I would explore urban areas in favor of sidewalks and pavement with headphones blaring and GPS watch in tow. Over the past 3 years I've found myself using music and my GPS watch less and less, preferring to just run on dirt trails and listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees. The New York Times published a blog post about the calming effect of hiking in the woods, and it seems to be entirely accurate.
6) Prevent Blisters and Chafing
I would be remiss if I didn't offer advice for blister and chafing prevention! Body glide and synthetic fiber running socks are simply amazing. Also for the men, watch out for nipple chafing.
Like anything else in life, the process wasn't rocket science. There was hard work, commitment, dedication, and suffering through the suffering.
Whether it be paying off mountains of debt, changing your eating habits, getting in shape, or building a business, know this sad (yet comfortingly simple) truth: you aren't going to get what you want without making yourself uncomfortable.
Embrace the discomfort. Embrace the pain. Because on the other side of the misery is one of the sweetest rewards you can find: the kind you can only give to yourself.
*This post contains affiliate links as part of the Amazon Associates program. I only recommend products that I have used in my own home and life.