Running Ultra-Marathons on Raw Plant Food

Author: Grant Campbell
[Featured in "Release" Animal Liberation Magazine 2/2007 on pg 19.]

I'm one of those crazy folk who race alone through remote bushland for up to 24 hours on foot covering distances of 100km or more...and I do it fueled by 100% raw vegan food. No cooking, no heavy processing, no additives...I eat my food 100% raw as provided by animal cruelty required.

Where did my running start out? In high school I'd be hunched over with a stitch halfway through a 3km cross-country run. In my mid-20s, I went vegetarian and gave up dairy products which got rid of my morning congestion. Over the next 18 months I found myself eliminating consumption of every animal product from my life, one at a time until I found myself vegan. I didn't even know what a vegan was and it was to be 5 years before I met one.

My changes were motivated by the feeling of self-empowerment through consciously choosing healthier and more ethical options to fuel my body and feed my consumerism. I vividly remember the incredible feeling of freedom that came with the realisation that I was no longer dependent on the abuse of animals to meet my daily needs.

I spent the next 6 years as a cooked vegan learning about human health and nutrition. During this time I found myself taking on more and more activities including swimming, running, rock climbing, canyoning and surf lifesaving. A cooked vegan diet clearly provided me with more energy than the "meat & 2 veg" I was raised on, but raw food took it to another level. It takes a lot less energy to digest raw plant foods, leaving more energy available to be active. "You are what you eat" certainly rings true. Eat living foods and you feel more alive.

During my studies of raw eating I often came across radical claims by the raw gurus and through experience I found they were generally right. Eating like we would have done in nature makes a lot of sense. No other animal cooks their food or drinks milk from another species and only domestic animals eating our heavily processed and cooked products die from the diseases we suffer from.

I've been eating raw vegan for 2 years now. My diet is low fat, high leafy greens and high fruit (80/10/10 for those who know of Dr. Douglas Graham). I don't eat any grains as they push your body into a more acidic state and grains contain opiates which are addictive. Try giving up bread, rice and pasta and you'll see what I mean. I'm always varying what I eat, love eating seasonally and enjoy making a meal out of a single food.

Since changing to raw foods and getting enough sleep, I've noticed many changes in my body including increased hydration, alertness, mental clarity, endurance, flexibility, tolerance to the sun (no sunscreen for me) and faster recovery. I don't get regular colds any more and no longer get deep muscular soreness a few days after long races.

I don't believe you can over-sleep. I don't wake to an alarm. If you ever feel tired, you need more sleep. When I get enough sleep, I have my maximum energy available. The night after a big race is typically a 12 hour sleep. In the week leading up to a race I aim for at least 10 hours sleep per night.

In the days leading up to a race, instead of carb-loading, I nutrient-load. I get as much leafy greens and fruit into me as my stomach (acid) allows. I use a blender to turn most of this into "green" smoothies (e.g. banana, celery and water) which are simple to digest and ensure I'm fully hydrated. I blend whole foods rather than juicing, as the soluble fibres (guar and pectin) slow the absorption of sugars.

When we are active we deplete our body's stores of water, sugar and salt. If we don't replace them in the ratio in which we use them, we suffer heavy legs, dehydration, cramps, etc. I often blend dates, celery and water as a natural electrolyte drink. The dates give me the simple sugars my body needs, and celery is naturally high in sodium and perfect for replacing the lost salt. Yesterday's nutrition also goes a long way. Whenever you're not fully hydrated or don't have the right balance of mineral salts (K, Na) your body can't efficiently get nutrients in and out of it's cells, preventing you from being your best.

I avoid too much fat (nuts, seeds, avocado) as the fat stays in your blood stream for a long time and interferes with the process of insulin releasing blood sugar to your cells.

I make sure I get sunlight every day, as it reacts with the oils on your skin (if you haven't destroyed it with soap or detergent) to produce vitamin D which is necessary to effectively get the required oxygen into every cell of your body.

This year I've bought mostly organic produce and the difference is astounding. I certainly feel I get more satiation and nutrition for my dollar than on conventional produce.

My reasons for being a repeat offender in ultra-distance trail running are: the great sense of freedom (heightened by society's obsession with safety), the instinct to explore (it excites me to run alone through places I've never been) and bringing my focus to the present moment (a peaceful mental state).

In a typical week I run 30-40km which is pretty low mileage in ultra-marathon circles. Keeping a healthy, injury-free body long-term is what I value. I've completed 12 ultra-marathons in the last 2 years and carry my fitness from race to race, taking plenty of recovery time.

My short term training goals include cycling, strength work and barefoot training. My long term goal is to complete a 100 mile race when I'm 100!

Keep it real. Keep it raw. Raw to the core!
Raw Aussie Athlete

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