Could You Run 152 Miles…on a Vegan Diet?
If there’s anything more badass than winning the 135-mile Blackwater Ultramarathon twice, Greece’s 152-mile Spartathlon three times, and the Western States 100 seven years in a row, it’s doing all that while eating an entirely plant-based diet. In his new book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness (written with Steve Friedman and on sale today) vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek chronicles the experiences that helped him grow from a meat-and-potatoes-eating kid living in rural Minnesota into one of the most celebrated endurance athletes (and healthiest eaters) in the world.
The book does what you’d expect in terms of illustrating Jurek’s jaw-dropping race victories and the treacherous conditions under which he trained. But what’s equally awe-inspiring is the crazy sense of perseverance and self-determination that has fueled Jurek’s success since childhood. He grew up in a poor family with a mother who had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and a father who had to work two jobs to make ends meet. Throughout his early adult life, Jurek dealt with debt, divorce, his mother’s death, and injuries. Pushing through difficult times toughened him up and inspired him to spend countless hours researching how nutrition and philosophy could make him a better runner—and a healthier human being. It’s Jurek’s moments of enlightenment— like when he discovers the ancient Japanese warrior technique of bushido, which requires focusing on being in the moment instead of thinking about the past or future—that are most surprising to read.
The book is a memoir sprinkled with vegan recipes and practical running and eating advice, a bit of which we’ve previewed below. Try these tips whether you’re training for a 5-K, marathon, or your first 100-mile road race.
1. Sneak protein in at every meal. One of Jurek’s biggest concerns about going vegan was whether he could get enough protein from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. But the more research he did, the more hippies he befriended, and the more experimenting in the kitchen that he did, the more he realized that a vegan diet made him faster, stronger, healthier, and decreased recovery times between runs. A few of Jurek’s tricks for packing in protein: Add nuts and a hint of plant-based protein powder (brown rice, hemp, pea, or fermented soy protein) to breakfast smoothies. Top lunchtime salads with soy (tempeh, tofu, or edamame), a scoop of hummus, or a serving of quinoa. At dinner, combine beans with whole grains.
2. Check your stride. One of the most common mistakes runners make is overstriding, taking big, slow steps and creating extra impact on the joints when their feet hit the ground. To calculate your stride, count the number of times your right foot strikes the ground in 20 seconds. Multiply that number by three and you’ll have your stride rate per minute. Speed up until you’re running at 85 to 90 strides per minute. To keep your feet on track, find music that’s either 90 or 180 BPM.
3. Concentrate on your core. Your back and ab muscles do a lot to power your running—and keep you on your feet for an ungodly number of miles—so don’t neglect ‘em. Do exercises like pulldowns, rows, and backbends to build strength in your back. Planks, side planks, or any yoga or Pilates move that requires you to engage your core will give your abs more oomph.
4. Fight your way through a funk. Feel like quitting? Get back to the basics. “I find that the best way to get your running mojo back is to lose the technology, forget results, and run free,” writes Jurek. “Take your watch off. Run in your jeans. Run with a dog (does he seem worried?). Run with someone older or younger, and you’ll see running, and the world, differently.”
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