My story begins at the corner of Bedford Ave. and Lorimer St., watching the 2011 New York City marathon. I started running again that summer and was up to running maybe 5 miles at a time by that point. And for the first time in my life as I watched the parade of diverse people of all ages, races, nationalities, shapes and sizes parade by me doing what just seemed incomprehensible a thought popped in my head that would change my life for many days to follow. The thought was simple and not profound at all, it was basically if I trained I think I could run a marathon, and you know what I think I’ll try!
What followed was much research and eventually I signed up for the Philadelphia marathon and ran it in November of 2012. Training for that first marathon was really tough and there was a very steep learning curve. As the Sunday long runs got longer and longer and each week I was running longer than I had ever run in my life, my body was really struggling to keep up. I was often very tired and I seemed to always be hungry. So what did I do? I ate and ate and ate and by the time I ran the marathon I was five pounds heavier than I was before I started training which was really annoying (I went from 185 to 190). Not to take anything away from the experience it was still amazing and I was super proud of my efforts.
I remember going out and running 20 miles for the first time. My plan was to run from my house in Inwood down to Central Park, loop the park and run home for a total of exactly 20 miles. About halfway through my loop of Central Park I broke into tears of joy. A song came on that I had heard many times building up to that point and I just realized that I was going to make it, that I was going to finish that 20 mile run, that I was probably going to finish my marathon, and all of it was because of the hard work and dedication I was putting in everyday towards this singular goal. Life is rarely this simple.
I would go on to finish my first marathon in 4:28:31, my goal was 3:30 though I had no idea what to really expect. I made the typical rookie mistake of getting super pumped up by the crowd and going out way too fast, blowing up at mile 18, and dragging my super stiff legs in for the last 8.2 miles. I also went to the bathroom like 5 times, I drank so much water and Gatorade out of pure fear that I would get dehydrated and cramp up later in the day. I finished that race proud of myself, but bummed that I didn’t break 4 hours. This became my new goal and motivation to run another marathon. My next marathon was the Buffalo marathon in May, which I finished in 3:49:56.
As I trained for that race my buddy Kol handed me the first of many books to crack my head open “Born to Run.” Like many people I was enthralled by Chris MacDougall’s writing, and the crazy stories and characters he described; people running these crazy 50 mile races through the mountains in sandals and barefoot, eating weird chia seed mixtures and just doing things that seemed possible. But there was one character that really intrigued me, Scott Jurek. He seemed like an amazing character and also a really nice guy. So next I read his book “Eat and Run” and this is where I was first introduced to the benefits of eating a vegan diet (a diet that does not include animals or animal products like milk and eggs) and how this might better fuel my body and help me recover after workouts. I began experimenting with the recipes inside like his vegan chili recipe and the homemade lentil mushroom veggie burgers. It’s funny when I read this book I never thought I would go vegan or run one of those crazy ultramarathons. It wasn’t until I read the third book, Rich Roll’s “Finding Ultra” that these things started to seem not only possible but also something I wanted for myself.
I have been reading for years thinking that one day a book would change my life and this one turned out to be the one. Well I think many books have changed my life over the years, but this one most recently and most profoundly. I never thought I would read a story that paralleled my own life story in so many ways and in such detail, from my days as a walk-on to the track team at Wake Forest University, to giving that up in pursuit of drunken debauchery, to having that blow up in my face and then returning to athletics as an adult and having it bring so much meaning to my life. So when he talked about his life transformation at age 40, going vegan, starting to exercise and then becoming an ultra distance triathlete, somehow it made sense to me. Somehow the points he was making about how eating healthy was not only fueling his body for training but leading him to live a more fulfilled thoughtful life I found myself inspired to follow suit. I had my own experience over the last year of training for marathons to see how much difference diet was making in how I felt during and after my runs as proof positive of what he was talking about. I guess everybody needs there own messenger and Rich Roll was mine.
I have been vegan since June 26, 2013 and my commitment has only grown as time has gone forward. What started as purely a health choice very quickly transformed into an ethical imperative, I now say I am vegan because of both health and ethical reasons. There is just no reason to eat animal products at this point; there are plenty of healthy delicious alternatives that don’t involve the killing of animals or the stripping of our land for this very expensive luxury that this planet can no longer sustain.
In this year and a half I have run 6 ultramarathons (races that are longer than 26.2 miles in length) the longest being a 50 mile race at Bear Mountain in May of 2014 and I am currently training for my first 100 mile race this summer.
I started this blog, Uptown Vegan, because as I run through the neighborhoods of Inwood, Washington Heights and Harlem I see my people suffering from the effects of poor diet choices. As I run by fried chicken restaurants, bars, and bodegas full of candy, beer and greasy processed fried, dead food, I know that this stuff is killing us slowly and we are doing it to ourselves. So as someone who has broken my addiction to food I say: Wake up before it’s too late and join me on the Plant Power Revolution! It is not just for skinny white hippy types, it’s for everyone regardless of race, class or religion, everyone deserves the right to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.