With a new year approaching, my mind begins to wonder back to the way things were at the beginning of 2012. Just 12 short months ago, I made a decision that would forever change my life. Heeding the advice of a good friend, I adopted a plant-based diet, hoping that it would propel my running career. I wasn’t worried about the welfare of animals, reducing my carbon footprint, or even minimizing my risk of heart-attack. My only concern was running – faster, farther, and more often. Looking back now, I know that I got WAY more than I bargained for.
A Plethora of Benefits
Not only do I feel great, look great, and perform better than ever, but I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Veganism has taught me about myself, the earth, and how the two of us connect. And this understanding has allowed me to delve deeper into a more spiritual way of life.
Another thing that I’ve gained from adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet is a sense of community. Not necessarily in everyday life, but with the wonderful people I’ve met online. With communities like No Meat Athlete and Meat Free Athlete, and using social media, friends are always just a click away. I even created a plant-based running community so that my running friends and I would have a regular place to meet up. We chat every Sunday night on Twitter at 9ET using the hashtag #vegrunchat. Having these online friends has been a great way to keep focused and continue growing. Actually, I don’t refer to these folks as “friends” anymore – they’re family.
The greatest part of life today is the ability to help others. Everyday, there are hundreds of people making the switch to a plant-based diet. And often they make their way to Forks to Feet, or VegRunChat, searching for answers. Even after a year, I still get excited when I see someone ask if running on a vegan diet is possible. Not because I get to help, but because that person’s life is getting ready to change drastically. Usually within weeks, I hear back from them telling me how much of a difference they’ve noticed – on the scales, and on the pavement. And the beautiful part? They become little messengers themselves, promoting healthy choices to even more people, making this world a much better place!
What Running Means Today
In the past, running was just another means of losing weight and reducing stress. But, over the last year, I’ve learned to love running. And today I use it to: stay healthy, reduce stress, meet friends, compete, solve problems, experience nature, meditate, find inner peace, etc. It has pretty much become a way of life. And I can’t imagine life without it.
I also achieved several running milestones in 2013. I ran a total of five races; a half marathon, a full marathon, and three 5Ks. I PR’d during the Dasani Half Marathon with a time of 1:35:07. It wasn’t blazing fast, but 4 minutes faster than my previous record. I also ran my fastest 5K with a time of 19:48. My total mileage covered in 2012? A whopping 1,175 miles, burning over 175,000 calories! Although these race times (and stats) are great, I achieved something else that was far more beneficial to my overall running career – I learned how to be injured.
In late summer, I developed a nerve injury which caused drop foot syndrome. It wasn’t due to running, but it did affect my ability to run. During my downtime, I learned how to take care of my body to ensure speedy recovery. I also developed a LOT of patience. The key thing I took away from this experience is that we must take care of ourselves today, to ensure our ability to run tomorrow. Don’t run a race just because you’re signed up for it. Take a look at the big picture, and don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay to be injured, even if you are a plant-powered athlete. 😉
Goals for 2014
So what’s in store for 2014? I have 6 running and nutritional goals already in place for the New Year:
- Run a 5K in under 19:30
- Run a total of 1,500 miles
- Tackle my first ultra marathon (50+ miles)
- Remove all added sugar from my diet
- Reduce my use of caffeine
- Begin cooking without oil
I feel that we always have room to grow, and that setting goals is a great way to make dreams come true. If I ever begin to think that I’m “perfect,” I will surely stop growing. And for me, growing is what life is all about. With the help of my new family, and my reliance on God, I know that everything I set out to do is within reach.
If you are interested in learning more about my transition into a plant-based (vegan) diet, and how I use it to boost my running, I invite you to pick up a copy of my eBook. It’s completely free, and could help you to have the best year of your life.