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Meatless Marathon Mastery

“But how do you get enough protein?” This was asked of me as I tackled the 15th mile of the Chicago Marathon. Seriously.

I’m in there…somewhere!

Gene, a 45-year-old recreational runner from Wichita, had become my best friend about nine miles ago. Ordinarily, I run solo and wouldn’t dream of engaging in small talk during such a challenging event, but circumstances were dire. As someone who depends on Beyoncé to get through the briefest of jogging sessions, I was devastated to discover my completely dead iPhone while shivering in the starting corral (If you like it, than you shoulda put a charger in it!). Without the phone, I had lost my primary source of pace tracking and auditory motivation. Enter Gene from Wichita. He was no replacement for the Rocky IV soundtrack, but he would have to do.

We’d been elbow-to-elbow for ten minutes when Gene asked about my goal time. I replied that I had planned on running the entire race with no walk breaks. His eyebrows creased and he glanced down at his watch. “You’re running a 4 hour-30 minute pace though. That’s my goal time. Want to partner up and see if we can make it happen together?” Over the next few hours, I learned a lot about Gene. I mean, a LOT about Gene. He talked about his career, his training routine, his 17-year-old son, his fascination with Elvis impersonators and his curious habit of consistently partnering with blonde racing partners in their 20’s. (His wife must be pleased.) In the festive streets of China Town, Gene openly gawked at a runner with a prominent “vegan” tattoo on his neck. “I can’t believe those vegan people can really run marathons,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Grinning, I held out my “vegan” necklace pendant and asked, “Who? People like me?” And, as usual, the barrage of dietary inquiries began.

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The myth touting animal products as necessary elements of a healthy diet for athletes (or anyone, for that matter) is downright redonkulous. In truth, protein is present in TONS of vegan foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, to be more specific. Americans are actually ingesting far too much protein for our bodies to handle, which is tied with our population’s ever-increasing rate of chronic diseases of excess. Unless you are severely anorexic, bulimic, or calorically malnourished, you’ve got plenty of protein to spare. Dr. Joel Furhman’s books are helpful when researching the incomplete protein myth, and Dr. Michael Greger has released super engaging videos explaining the medical dangers of animal protein intake.

When it comes to physical performance evidence, look no further than long-distance powerhouses like Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, and Scott Jurek. Each of these world-class athletes has left his mark on the sport, and each of them is 100% vegan. Hot, damn! In fact, my vegan-skeptical running pal is the same age as Rich Roll, and he needed to unceremoniously crash at the mile-17 aid station to rally and recoup. Perhaps if Gene had been powered by plants, this wouldn’t have been an issue! Ok, I admit to that comment being a somewhat unnecessary jab, as this middle-aged father did train for months in order to push his body through 26.2 miles of physical pain. I just couldn’t help myself. The time for society’s incredulity has passed.

Brendan Brazier

Rich Roll

Scott Jurek

 

 

 

 

 

Prospective vegan or not, Gene’s departure for the aid station was a significant blow. I’m not sure if it was the shock of losing my running buddy or if my legs were merely spent, but my splits steadily weakened as I battled through that last agonizing hour. At mile 19, I hit the wall. At mile 20, I broke through the wall. At mile 22, my feet went numb. At mile 24, my hands went numb. At mile 25, I started mumbling incoherent sentences. Without “The Eye of the Tiger” or Gene’s verbal musings, I could only hear the pounding of the pavement and the labored breathing of my fellow competitors.

I wanted to walk. Hell, I wanted to stop. But I had pushed myself harder than ever, and I was absolutely determined to reap those rewards. My previous marathon took nearly five hours. This time, as my tingling feet staggered across the finish line, the clock read 4 hours-20 minutes-20 seconds. Yep, I’m one of “those vegan people” who can really run marathons.

Risin’ up, back on the street.
Did my time, took my chances.
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet.
Just a man and his will to survive!

Lessons from October 7, 2012:

1.) Don’t go it alone. Running buddies can significantly increase performance through camaraderie and a shared objective. Connect with a training pal in person or even through phone calls and social networking to keep each other motivated and on track.

2.) We are stronger than we think. Many of us don’t give our bodies the credit they deserve. Humans were meant to be physically active, and with a little effort, we can achieve amazing results.  We should continue to set higher athletic standards for ourselves, whether that means clocking a faster marathon pace, registering for a 10K, or simply getting off of the couch.

3.) ANY TIME and ANY PLACE is appropriate for animal advocacy. Even mile 15 of a marathon.

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Adrianne Prettyman

Program Manager

The Seed: A Vegan Experience

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