Old Organic Athlete Interview

Sorry for being so quiet lately….I’ve simply been busy training, working, wedding planning, etc. etc. Life, you know. Anyways, I found this interview I did for Organic Athlete before the Chicago Marathon last year and I wanted to repost it, because it touches on a lot of subjects I’ve been thinking a lot about again. Enjoy.


Vegan distance runner Scott Spitz is getting ready for the Chicago marathon

Scott Spitz, an Indianapolis distance runner, is blogging (runvegan.wordpress.com) about his build-up to the Chicago marathon in October, with running and diet logs. Scott talked to OrganicAthlete about veganism, running, blogging and more.
You are vegan and you want to run a marathon. What kind of reactions do you get from other people?
Surprisingly, most people never make mention of my veganism in relation to running a marathon. I think the majority of people I know are aware that I’ve been vegan for so long (almost 15 years) that it’s not even a concern to them, not to mention that since veganism has gained more cultural exposure over the past 15 years the tired response of “Eating like that will make you weak and sickly” has started to diminish. Not to say there aren’t detractors. Some guys I run with found out about my vegan diet through my blog and didn’t necessarily express any serious doubts about my ability to run a marathon as a vegan, but simply warned me about calorie loading leading up to the race. In general, the response hasn’t really been positive or negative, which I think is a good gauge of veganism becoming more culturally normative.
Your results show you are always amongst the best, if not the best. What result or achievement are you most proud of? 
As far as racing goes, my Personal Record in the 500 Festival 1/2 marathon (1:10:28) makes me very proud. It was a full minute jump from my last PR and fulfilled a number of expectations I had of myself going into that race. Ultimately though, I’m most proud that I have not only continued with my competitive running, but dedicated myself to continuously progressing, finding the ability to push myself further and further, doing whatever it takes to set my goals higher and go after them. To this day I still feel like I’m just getting started.
How did you get into running? 
I discovered my talent when I was 6 years old, when during a community 5k race I went chasing after my mom right after the start gun went off. I finished that race and then went on to run in middle school and the last two years of high school. I stopped running after high school when I found myself interested more in social issues than anything else.
You stopped running for quite some time. What made you start running again? 
A couple years ago my son was born and I moved to my parents’ retirement home to save money. I lived in a double gated community in the middle of a PGA golf course in a small rural town. There really wasn’t much to do and although I used to ride my bike for fun, there simply wasn’t anywhere to go out there. Not wanting to lose the fitness I generated through cycling, one day I decided to go out for a run. That turned out to be 5 miles and at some point during the run all the nostalgia associated with my earlier running days came flooding back in. It was like a lost part of myself was found again. I never looked back.
Why did you decide to go vegan? 
The ethical considerations of vegetarianism/veganism were communicated to me through a musical sub-culture I was/am a part of. Veganism was a foundational component of that culture, so NOT considering veganism would have been an act of extreme denial. Once I took the time to understand the dominant culture’s treatment of animals and what that meant for them, for the earth, for my health, and how all those played into power structures of social relationships, there was no way I couldn’t go vegan. That was back in 1994.
You want to show people you can run marathons on a plant-based diet. Do you find any particular benefits from a vegan diet? 
For clarification, I don’t just want to show people that you can run marathons on a plant-based diet. I also want to show that you can do it fast! I wouldn’t say I INHERENTLY find any particular benefits from a vegan diet. Technically, I could eat a vegan diet extremely poorly, subsisting on chocolate bars, twizzlers, white bread, and oreo cookies. As in ANY diet, we can do it well or we can do it poorly. However, the point is that the vegan diet should not be an act of sacrifice or compromise. There is no reason to think if we eat vegan that we sacrifice health or athletic performance. The body simply requires specific nutrients for functioning and the vegan diet supplies that without fail. Just as omnivores both fail and succeed athletically in relation to their diets, so can vegans. It’s really a matter of choice in how one eats. However, I will say that the ethical considerations of veganism, whether that is regarding the treatment of animals or the contempt I hold for corporate culture and their involvement in animal exploitation and domination, does make the choices to avoid certain unhealthy options that much easier. My veganism doesn’t simply end with avoiding meat and dairy, but when possible, I avoid corporations that are a larger part of the dominant culture that upholds the current treatment of animals, both human and non-human. So, if I’m at a party and the only beverage available is Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper or some other crappy drink, I absolutely won’t drink it, for both political and health reasons. So in that, veganism has expanded my perspective on diet and affords me the benefits of not ingesting a lot of culturally normative and extremely detrimental junk. All this helps my running for sure.
You are blogging about your training leading up to the Chicago marathon. Do you want to inform people about you preparing for a marathon on a vegan diet, or is there a more specific reason? 
Well, for the sake of full disclosure, part of my reason to blog is the agreement I have with my sponsor, Vegan Dandies (www.chicagosoydairy.com). They are friends of mine who make awesome vegan foods and we are in a cooperative partnership where they are helping me run the marathon and I’m helping promote their product. However, one of the underlying motivations for both my running and their business is to prove the value of veganism without compromise. I’ve decided through this blog, for the first time, to really express my veganism in relation to my running. It has always been a point of pride with me, that all my accomplishments in running run counter to a lot of the perspectives that people have about vegetarianism/veganism in that it supposedly makes one weak and frail. I finally decided to put it all on the line and say, “No, actually I’m proving that it absolutely doesn’t and actually veganism can complement one’s strength fundamentally. I feel like I’m doing that pretty convincingly and now that I’m running a high profile marathon, I’m going to make this point known in a higher profile manner.” I like to say I’m proving the possibility.
I believe many athletes will find your blog a great source of inspiration. What would you say to athletes still having some doubts about a vegan diet and performance?
I really do hope others are inspired through my blog, whether that is to make the switch to veganism or at least gain confidence in their ability to eat vegan and perform athletically. I’m not entirely sure what I can say to athletes having doubts about veganism and athletic performance except, “Watch.” I guess I don’t know what doubts they would have, unless they simply haven’t done the research themselves, which in that case I would suggest they do some basic searching. Veganfitness.net is a great place to start. They have so many knowledgeable and supportive vegans engaged in all sorts of athletics, many of them outstanding in their field. I think, even if one doesn’t make the decision to go entirely vegan, just doing basic research will help them understand the benefits of even just eating closer to veganism.
Thanks a lot!

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