Gotta Run!

VEGANS HAVE NO ENDURANCE?  SAY, WHAT…?

by Andrea Medalie

As an endurance athlete (VeGAL!), I am proud to say that a whole foods (with the exception of French fries), plant-based diet has contributed greatly to my success over the years. Not loving to toot my own horn, I feel it necessary to make my point. As a ranked runner in my division in the state of Florida, I have recently completed my 31st full marathon. In addition, I have done 2 ultra marathons (another in 2 weeks) and countless shorter distances like half marathons, 10k and 5k races. I ran the both the Boston and the NYC Marathons twice! I also earned a black belt in Northern Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu. All utilizing plant fuel! Not too shabby, huh?!!! So, for anyone to even question my endurance would be absurd.  Yet, surprisingly, I still encounter skeptics from time to time. My hope is that through my accomplishments, I am able to touch the lives of fellow athletes, or even just one, perhaps even enough to inspire them to make the leap to a plant-based lifestyle as well.

 

Gotta Run: Miami Marathon3

Just this last weekend, right before the Miami Marathon, I began to feel very achy and tired, with a scratchy throat, not to mention I was under a lot of stress. Normally, I would consider dropping out of the event, especially since the weather forecast called for almost record heat.  But, I made a commitment to my company, Marathon Pacing, Inc., where I am a marathon pacer.  As pacers, our job is to lead race participants along the course at a certain pace in order for them to reach their goal finishing time. We are required to hold a sign the entire way, through wind and rain, setting a strong example of how to complete a marathon efficiently without injury or illness. Hopefully.

 

Pace Team

Gotta Run Pace Team

 

Runners put their trust in us and look to us for guidance. Thus, there’s a certain pressure bestowed upon us to be at our best in order to represent our company, as well as the race event! So last Saturday, the day before the race, I was working at the pace group sign-up table at the health and fitness expo when my health started to deteriorate rapidly. I began to have fever and chills. I was a wreck trying to figure out what to do.

My running partner, Pacer Mark, and I decided to go for lunch to fuel up for the big day, at Books and Books on Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, where they offer a vegan section on their menu. I ordered the quinoa with fried chick peas, kidney beans and kale. My appetite was gone but I knew I had to force down this bountiful bowl as it would be my major fuel source for the grueling day ahead. A typical pre-race meal would include complex carbohydrates like whole wheat pasta, potatoes, rice or quinoa with some plant protein like seitan, tofu, tempeh, beans, seeds or nuts in the late afternoon/early evening, with maybe a light bite later on, like a small bowl of rice, pretzels or fresh fruit.

 

Gotta Run: Miami Marathon

 

Race morning, at precisely 3:45 am, I eagerly sprang out of bed.  I had hoped for a miraculous cure, to no avail, yet I knew I was strong enough to tackle this huge hurdle. Not uncommon for runners, I grabbed some coffee to get the juices flowing. According to Runner’s World magazine, the caffeine found in our morning java keeps us alert and helps to increase circulation and sustain energy as well as speed up recovery to taxed muscles. A vegan sports drink, half a banana and a few salt pills (strongly advised for all athletes enduring extreme heat conditions) rounded out my breakfast.

At the start corral, I could feel the humidity, thick as hummus, already beginning to drain me of my much-needed electrolytes. With only a few runners specific to my pace ready to guide, off we went, navigating the enormous field of runners, a daunting task! As much as I wrestled with the idea of quitting throughout practically the entire race, I managed to dig deep, both spiritually and physically, and tap those reserves I have worked so hard to build up.

 

Gotta Run: Miami Marathon2

 

I made sure to hydrate at every water/Gatorade stop, continue with my salt pills, ingest vegan friendly carb gels intermittently, and to grab fresh fruit offered on the course. That consistent regimen before and during every race is what allowed me to finish at my goal time, which was under 4 hours and 20 minutes! My running team seemed to have dropped like flies, succumbing to the extreme heat and humidity, with a few stray finishers nearby. I have to believe that this VeGAL was successful, as challenging as it was, due to my strict adherence to a whole-foods paradigm, necessary for sustained endurance. Naturally, I was extremely exhausted right after the race and for the week to follow. True, we vegans are an elite group, but let’s not forget we are still human and can get sick from time to time.

To that end, Pacer Mark (non-veg but vegan friendly), of the 4:30 pace team, encountered a fella who was running with him for a short while with an interesting perspective…  As they were running side by side, this guy’s friend came running by them with ease. The guy explained to Mark that his friend had recently become vegan in an attempt to shave several pounds off. Having lost a significant amount of weight, the friend seemed to have been so light on his feet that he disappeared ahead of them in no time. So, the runner with Mark turns to him and says his friend will never make it as he always hits a wall.  Even though he has lost weight, there’s no way he could possibly get enough protein to sustain him efficiently! This misguided runner concluded that vegans have NO endurance!!!

I immediately came to Mark’s mind and he couldn’t help but chuckle under his breath. He realized there’s no sense in trying to school a person who is so set in his ways and so quick to judge! Meanwhile, not long after his rant, the runner faded back, never to be seen by Pacer Mark again!!! Hmmm…perhaps his “beef as fuel” approach had failed him!!! Hopefully, his fit and fast vegan running friend was there to greet him at the finish, with a fresh glow on his face, an unspoken lesson in hand. That is, if this runner even made it to the finish line at all!!!

Gotta run…

Andrea (VeGAL) Medalie

 

 

Andrea earned an MS degree from The University of Florida and is a mom to 3 incredible sons. She works as an independent Speech and Language Pathologist within a diverse population in the Northwest Broward County, FL area. She LOVES to plan destination marathons (when budget allows) where she get to visit new cities and discover fab vegan/veg friendly restaurants/cafes/markets. Andrea has been a vegetarian for over 20 years, vegan for about 10. “It’s very exciting to see how society is beginning to truly embrace veganism for improved health, animal welfare and a greener environment!” she exalts. Andrea has developed a blog (book in the making) for vegan female endurance/hard core fitness athletes a.k.a.VeGAL (Vegan Girl AthLetes). Andrea’s territory is all of South Florida!  Contact Andrea to review your favorite veg-friendly restaurants within her territory.

 

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