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Vegan Runner: Jeffrey Eggleston

Jeffery EgglestonJeffrey Eggleston is a 25-year old runner from Greece, NY. He now lives and trains in Flagstaff, AZ. His fuel comes from a plant-based diet. Jeffrey qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. Time for a chat with this vegan marathoner.

You are a runner. Which distances do you run and which do you like most?
I am primarily a road racer and compete in race distances from 5K to the marathon. Of all the distances I run, I like the marathon best. It suits my personality well and the way I train; I believe this race is the ultimate aptitude test. I also like how the higher training volume and longer workouts challenge both my endurance and concentration. Although I am still new to the event, I am quickly finding my niche as a competitive US marathoner.

Have you always been running or do/did you practice other sports as well?

I was always running in some form. I was very active growing up and played soccer for about 7 years. Before entering high school, I was persuaded to run on the cross-country team, and I quickly took a liking to the sport—I think it was the competitive aspect that I found most appealing. I ran throughout high school and competed for several seasons of cross-country and track at the University of Virginia. After graduating from college and a hiatus from racing, I ran in the USA 20K Championships and finished 10th. It was an encouraging result and after that the sport began to take on a whole new meaning.

What are the achievements you are most proud of?

At this point, I think I am most proud with all the progress I have made as a post-collegiate athlete. It was exciting when I first qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials by running 1:03:58 for my second half-marathon. Then I was even more pleased with my 2:14:32 marathon debut in January this year—it places me in good company on the all-time American debut list. Most recently, I was an honored recipient of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Roads Scholar Grant, which is awarded to top American post-collegiate road racers. I am proud of how far I have come so far, and look forward to my future in the sport.

What are your ambitions for the following years?

I would like to continue my improvements in the marathon and establish myself as one of America's top distance runners. My current focus is on preparing for the 2012 Olympic Trials. At 25 years old, I feel I have a lot of room for growth and that my running career is just beginning. I hope down the road that I can earn the opportunity to represent the USA at an international championship. Consistent, smart training and staying healthy will be the key.

As a vegan athlete, it's my goal to help advocate the benefits of an organic and animal-free diet, and live out an example of how this mindful way of living has positively impacted my personal and athletic endeavors.

You are a vegan athlete. How long have you been a vegan?

I adopted a vegan diet at the beginning of this year—it came shortly after my switch to a vegetarian diet.

Was there a particular reason for becoming vegan?

I had contemplated a dietary change for several years. Coming out of college, I had developed some less-than-nutritious eating habits and my body was in dire need of a detox. As I became more focused on my running, I started to make better eating decisions. With these simple changes, I began performing better and better.

This year, I decided I would try to adapt a vegan diet. I did some research on veganism, and the more I educated myself, the more I felt attuned to the philosophy and lifestyle: I did not want to contribute to the suffering of other living things and I felt a personal responsibility to living in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner. I knew the switch would be a great challenge, but would encourage me to be more proactive in monitoring my vitamin and nutrient intake—while getting them from natural sources. I also felt that an organic,
animal-free diet would be a more pure way to fuel my body. Given my marathon training demands, I felt this diet would optimize my energy needs.

What is your favorite food?

Being vegan has introduced my palate to a whole new variety of delectable foods, and it is hard to single out one favorite. Cooking has become my second passion; I like to experiment with new recipes and dishes, and I have great company and help in the kitchen! Some perennial meal favorites include: couscous with berries and fruit, red lentil dal, falafel with hummus, butternut squash ravioli, black bean and quinoa burros and raw kale salad.

Do you notice any benefits or disadvantages because of your vegan diet?

Since becoming vegan, I have felt more energetic and had fewer ups and downs. I feel better in training and racing and I am able to recover faster than before. My body isn’t nearly as sore as it used to be after hard efforts! Plus, I haven’t had the occasional colds or stomach problems that have interrupted my training in the past.
Overall, I think it has improved my health and state of mind.

I think the most challenging part about being vegan is planning out meals, particularly when I’m on the road for competitions. However, I usually pack a few foods and can peruse the organic section at any grocery store to find my other meals.

How do people react when they learn that you’re eating a vegan diet? Are they supportive?

I’m proud to be a vegan athlete, but I try not to broadcast it from a soap box. I've encountered mostly genuine curiosity from family, friends and other athletes. I am happy to share my experience and what I have learned from being vegan with them, occasionally debunking common misconceptions about the diet (i.e. getting adequate protein, calcium, or what I “can” or “cannot” eat). Everyone I have talked to has been respectful and supportive of my choice.

Do you have advice for other athletes who want to run on a vegan diet?

I highly encourage athletes with any interest or intrigue in veganism to give the diet a trial period—or even a few meals—and see how your body responds. For me, my trial introduced me to more new food possibilities than limitations. My increased sense of wellbeing during training and day-to-day activity was convincing enough. I tell athletes interested in starting a running routine the same thing: give yourself time to adjust to the new routine and enjoy the new experiences it brings you.

Do you want to share something else to the world?

I believe we can all discover a healthy balance in life through compassion and mindfulness. If we eat, exercise and live thoughtfully—with an awareness of our choices and their impact—wellness will be in abundance in our lives. 

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