Alina from Vegan Runner Eats shares her experience as a vegan runner and marathoner and how going plant-based has helped her. Along with sharing her running and athletic experiences on Vegan Runner Eats, there are also plenty of great plant-based recipes and tips. And be sure to check out her artistic sock monkeys and other cute animal creations too in “The Monkey Village!”
How long have you been vegan? What led you to this path?
I went vegan just over two years ago, in May 2013. I watched Forks Over Knives and their extended interview documentary, read Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run, and things just fell into place. After watching various lectures by prominent vegan scholars on YouTube I knew that I made the right choice. Later on, the subject of compassion started resonating with me more and more, and now it’s one of the main reasons I keep going strong in my vegan beliefs.
What do you feel going vegan has helped you with the most?
I noticed that my athletic endurance just soared, and my recovery from tough workouts was taking way less time. Before going vegan, I had days when I needed to lay down for a nap sometimes after a morning workout. These days, I push myself way harder athletically, and I still have energy even after tough workouts.
Another improvement: I used to suffer from bad acne for years, and soon after I went vegan, my face cleared up! I wish I had done it sooner!
How long have you been passionate about running?
I took up running when I moved to the United States from Russia nine years ago. I would run a few times a week for a while, and then stop when I got too busy at work. Then in 2010, I participated in my first race, a local 5k, and came in 3rd woman overall! I was very excited, and continued running more regularly ever since. My first half marathon happened in 2011 in Pensacola, FL, and a year later I did a full marathon at the same race.
What is your favourite running distance so far?
I’d like to say it’s a half marathon because once I ran my first one, I got hooked and ran six more within a year and a half. However, it’s been over two years since my last half marathon, so I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much if I did one now.
What initially led you to want to do a marathon? How many have you done, and how have you found the experience?
You know the saying, ‘If your goal doesn’t scare you, you need to pick a bigger goal’? When I did my first half marathon in Pensacola, FL in 2011, my husband asked me if I was going to do the full there a year later. I laughed and brushed it off, but a seed of thought was planted. When I started training, I still couldn’t believe that it was going to happen, all the way until the morning of the race. I was terrible in my gym class as a kid in school, coming in last during our yearly 1 kilometer race feeling like I was going to die. When I managed to run over 42 kilometers during the marathon, I felt like that chubby little girl from my younger days was finally redeemed. Since then I’ve done two more marathons.
After Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon
How long did you spend preparing for this most recent one?
I started my marathon training five months before the Rock’n’Roll Seattle Marathon, which happened on June 13th. In the first month, I wanted to get used to running three times a week because for a while the focus of my workouts had been on strength training, and I wasn’t doing a lot of running. The following four months were devoted to building endurance and upping my mileage.
How often do you typically run per week? And what sort of distance do you cover? Do you do anything other than running for training?
During the marathon, I was running three times a week and doing strength training twice a week. My two mid-week runs were about 6 miles each from about the middle of my training till the end of it, and my long runs topped at 20 miles three weeks before the race.
How often do you do races? And what do you enjoy most about them? Do you have a favourite race so far?
I’m not doing a lot of races these days, although as I mentioned above, I used to race pretty frequently, from 5ks to marathons. I prefer longer races because my endurance is better than my speed. My favorite part about running marathons is that I always learn something new about myself and my abilities. It’s always a humbling experience. Pensacola Marathon in Florida will always have a spot in my heart because it was my first full marathon, and I used to live in Florida for five years.
How about the night or so before a race, do you eat or do anything specific to get yourself “race ready?”
I don’t have any special routines for the night before a marathon, other than trying to get to bed early (around 9 pm at least). As a vegan and plant-based runner, I eat a lot of carbs all the time, so I don’t have to go overboard with a giant plate of pasta the night before a marathon. The night before Rock’n’Roll Seattle, I had a salad with lots of kale and some grains – it was the most ‘carby’ dish I found at the restaurant we went to – and I felt just fine during the race the following morning.
Do you have any post-race recovery tips?
Do at least some stretching and foam rolling if you can find a foam roller, it will help so much! Also, keep hydrating as the day goes after the race, and try to include more whole, plant-based foods into your meals even if you feel like you deserve to binge on junk after a marathon. Your body will thank you.
Are there any vegan products or running gear you would recommend? Do you have a favourite pair of shoes at the moment?
I did most of the training for my latest marathon in Brooks PureFlow 4 shoes that come from their lightweight vegan collection. Their cushioned sole wasn’t overbearingly thick, but it provided a good layer of protection from pounding on asphalt and concrete during the marathon. Of course, my feet were still pretty tired when the race was over, but that cusuioning was better than nothing!
Hearty Chickpea and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
You provide a number of great plant-based recipes on your site. Do you have any favourite plant-based meals? Or a favourite post-race meal?
Hearty Chickpea and Shiitake Mushroom Soup is my favorite soup from my site right now – it’s so good I can eat it even in this summer heat. Another favorite dish that also goes well at potlucks and family gatherings is Eggplant Rollups. As for my post-race meals, I try to keep it simple and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can throughout the day – their nutrients help a lot with post-race recovery.
Vegan Eggplant Rollups
Do you have any advice for people just starting out on the plant-based/vegan lifestyle? Is there any advice you would give to someone regarding plant-based meal prep?
My advice is to do your research and find out as much as you can about this diet and lifestyle. The more you know about how being vegan influences your health and positively affects the environment, the more likely you’ll be to stick to it long-term. Buy a couple good vegan cookbooks and find which recipes you like the most – those can make the core of your vegan cooking. Also, plan ahead – I try to make sure our dinners at home have leftovers, and pack them with me for lunch at work the following day. It’s easy, healthy, and saves you money and aggravation when you can’t find a vegan option at nearby lunch places.
How long have you had your website Vegan Runner Eats? And what do you most want to continue to share through it?
My site has been alive for almost two years now. It went through various stages reflecting my personal development, moving across the country last year, training for two marathons, battling injury, etc. Going forward, I’d like to share my experiences as a vegan athlete, post new recipes whenever I come up with something spectacular, and of course, share any bits of vegan wisdom that I discover.
Along with your website, Vegan Runner Eats, where else can people find and follow you on social media?
Vegan Runner Eats Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/VeganRunnerEats
Twitter – https://twitter.com/veganmonkeyruns
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/alinaz1/
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+AlinaZavatsky
Thanks for sharing Alina! It’s great to hear about the experiences of fellow vegan runners!
You’re very welcome, thanks for featuring me!
…While you’re here, read an interview with fellow running enthusiast, Gordon of This Running Life, part of the Active Outdoor Vegans series.