Welcome to Vegan Runner Eats! I am very excited that you’ve visited my site!
Forks Over Knives has published my story on their site, you can read it here.
I always knew that I would eventually become vegan.
For the longest time it seemed to me that I was just looking for excuses as to why I couldn’t do it just yet. The main excuse? I thought that it’s too darn hard! But let me take a few steps back and tell you who I am.
I was born in Uzbekistan – a country that used to be a part of the Soviet Union. The latter collapsed when I was about to start elementary school. I am so grateful now that I was just a child during that uneasy era, so I didn’t have to worry about anything. My parents both worked jobs that would delay paying the workers for many months (the unfortunate trend that could have been followed all over the newly collapsed USSR), and in these conditions they did everything they could to put food on our table. I remember the joy we had over a frozen chicken that my mom had bought after having to stand in line for hours – only to have to boil it for at least three hours because the bird had turned out to be really old!
There are a lot of stories from those days that I could bring up here, but I have to say that I am endlessly grateful to my parents that despite all hardships, they still managed to give me and my brother a happy childhood. They provided us with an opportunity to be creative, artsy, compassionate, and it’s thanks to them that I developed my love for animals. As a child, I found it unfair that we were eating some animals – even the ones that seemed so cute to me in real life. I remember spending the summer in the village with my mom’s relatives when I was five: my mom’s aunt made soup with one of the chickens that I had developed a liking for – and I refused to eat it because the news of that chicken’s passing was heartbreaking!
Okay, enough of the sad chicken stories 🙂 . When I turned 13, my family moved from Uzbekistan to Russia, and my focus switched from saving all animals to the generic teenage stuff. As I got older, I got more interested in nutrition and fitness. I was a lousy athlete throughout my childhood, so getting straight A’s in all school subjects and barely passing gym had gotten old eventually. I wanted to improve. I started doing some research, mostly on how to get better athletically and lose some of that lingering baby fat (ugh, it’s sad that nearly all teenagers have had to deal with some type of dissatisfaction with their appearance – this is the first time I admit to having dealt with it myself). Most of the information I found came from random magazine articles and even some hearsay, but some of my efforts eventually started paying off: I got much better athletically by the end of high school, and also I discovered my love for cooking. It turned out to be so much fun to create my own recipes!
This proved to be quite handy once I went off to college. Cooking for myself every day after classes was a zen-like experience: it helped me relax and took away the stress of college life. I witnessed some of my college friends go through bouts of eating disorders (another sad, sad thing that’s all too common), and this made me wonder if there was a healthier way of looking and feeling good without ever feeling guilty of what you just ate.
My life changed shortly after I turned 21: I decided that I was never going to get fulfilled as a person while living in Russia, so I decided to move to the United States of America. This part of my life could provide enough material to a separate blog – or a book – so here I’ll only focus on the nutritional and exercise aspects.
I noticed quickly the difference between Russian and American approaches to eating. In Russia, everybody cooks, every day (at least one person in the family to provide meals for all family members), and going out to eat is reserved to big occasions. To this day, my parents only go out to a restaurant maybe once or twice a year.
Things are quite different in America. While some families put in the effort to cook often, the majority still heavily depends on takeout/fast food etc., and a lot of people believe that cooking at home is too complicated/more expensive/only a Thanksgiving affair etc.
I don’t want to talk ill here about my new home country: after all, I grew to love it a lot and believe that it’s the best place in the world (trust me, you know that I compared!). It also became clear to me that even being Russian and maintaining Russian habits of cooking at home couldn’t guarantee staying healthy. In my first year in America, I was renting a room from a Russian family that had lived here for a few years. They cooked at home every day, and yet shortly after their arrival to the US they all developed diabetes. I got curious if there was more to eating right than just making your own meals at home , but there were still a few years before I first heard about the benefits of plant-based nutrition.
And this is when I discovered running. How handy it turned out to be! I started running in the evening a few times a week, and soon was able to go 2-3 miles at a time. I continued to cook at home a lot, mostly recipes of my own invention with lots of added vegetables .
In the years that followed, I tried to maintain my running routine as much as I could. There were a few breaks, however, mostly work-related (16-hour workdays, anyone?). In the spring of 2010 I recommitted to my running – and even registered for my first race, a 5k! That race was a huge success: I managed to finish 3rd woman overall, which gave me so much confidence (I’ll admit that the field was very small though 🙂 )! Needless to say, my newfound love for racing gave me a reason to keep running. I ran my first half marathon in November 2011 in Pensacola, Fla (I’ve done 7 of them to date), and then, encouraged by my fiance (now husband) Rob, did my first full marathon at the same venue the following year.
As I became more interested in running and maintaining good health, I started doing more research. I realized that in order to be a healthy runner, one needs to embrace strength training. And when it comes to nutrition, switching to a whole foods plant-based (WFPB) diet is the best thing one can do. I learned from the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall about the existence of successful vegan endurance athletes. Watching the documentary Forks Over Knives answered more questions that I ever had (honestly, the latter took 2 times to watch: I was very impressed after watching it the first time, but didn’t make a switch because Rob was skeptical. I thought that it would be too hard to do it on my own. After the second time I watched the documentary, I decided to be strong and give it a try. It helped that Rob wasn’t as skeptical anymore 🙂 ). Lastly, I was glad that I could finally love animals without feeling like I was living a double-standard life.
I keep finding more and more information about the goodness of plant-based diet every day. I decided to start this blog to help people who are also new to the vegan lifestyle, or are only considering giving it a try.
Thank you for visiting my blog! Give yourself a pat on the back for reading this, um, rather lengthy post!