13 Oct 2015
On June 28, 2015, I stopped eating meat. Nothing special happened that day to trigger the change, I just did it. I was sitting at a restaurant, having lunch with a couple of friends, chatting and having a good time. There was a vegan and a vegetarian present at the table, along with the archetypal cluster of death-mongering meat eaters (tongue-in-cheek, myself included). The conversation moved towards plant-based diets and the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industries. I said my bit about, “how it’s so cruel but I could never stop eating meat”, and the table nodded politely. The conversation continued but my attention did not, and I was left with my own thoughts. An internal diatribe followed, and I’ll save you from the self-loathing that ensued, but the word hypocrite was used a few times. Because I was a hypocrite. I claimed to care about the welfare of animals while chowing down on a KFC big bucket. It didn’t make me a bad person, but it did make me a hypocrite. As I drifted back to the conversation at the table I knew I had two options; either I stopped caring about animals (Troy McClure’s “Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!” quote comes to mind), or I had to stop eating meat. Foolishly I announced at the start of this post that I no longer eat meat, so any potential drum-roll or dramatic crescendo about what happened next is ruined. But it went something like this: Waitress: Can I take your order please? Me: Yes, I’ll have the veggie burger thanks. (Props to Southern Cross for having a damn good veggie burger option, things might be different now if we had been at McDonalds). Look, if I am being completely honest, I was also dating the vegan at the table, so the change can partly be put down to desire and malleability. I was hoping to avoid mentioning a failed romance, but honesty is important. The stupid thing about changing to a plant-based diet on June 28 was that I had to run the Wellington half marathon on July 5. Any runner will tell you that you should never change your diet leading up to a race, but I am a man and I am flawed. My main flaw is that I do not take advice until I have made a mistake, then I look back and go, “oh yeah, I remember reading that article that said you are a total moron if you change your diet a week out from a race.” Guess what? I faded at about the 16km mark. I was heartbroken for more than one reason. First, I was aiming to run my first sub 100 minute half marathon but I had failed by three minutes. More importantly, I was anxious about my ability to run long distances. Running was my new hobby and I had fallen in love with it. Part of that love was the ability to set goals and try to beat them. So, did I fade because I changed my diet? Or did I fade because I changed my diet to vegetarian? If the latter was true then running was finished for me, because if I couldn’t improve on my previous times, then motivation was going to be difficult. This has been written three-and-a-half months in the future (from when I went vegetarian, I mean, this isn’t a kick-ass sci-fi blog with time travel). Those months were spent training and researching. I am fortunate to live at a time where an abundance of information is easily accessible on any topic. I searched information on vegetarian and vegan runners and learnt so much of what I needed to know. I learnt about nutrition, smarter training, pre and post-run recovery, and appropriate responses to ill-informed questions like, “where do you get your protein from?” A few weeks ago, I ran the Sydney half marathon, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering it. I ran a new personal best time of 98 minutes and 47 seconds, shaving four minutes off my previous best. I am pretty happy about this! It is not where I want to be, but it is a huge step in the right direction. I am also starting to realise that a plant-based diet is not detrimental to middle and long distance running. In fact, it could be a massive asset.