Written By Chris Taylor
Chris is Operations Manager at Ultra X and takes the lead on planning new races and events. His interests include (and are limited to): ultra running, plant-based foods to eat whilst ultra running, and ultra running with dogs.
Veganism in the general population has never been more widespread and some of the biggest names in sport seem to be leading the charge. High profile athletes such as Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Alex Honnold are just a few of the famous faces who have been experimenting with a plant-based diet, and openly discussing the health and performance benefits they’ve experienced.
The vegan movement within the sporting world has been further bolstered by documentaries such as The Game Changers and From The Ground Up, which feature some of the world’s best plant-based athletes touting the positive impact a vegan diet has had on their success.
Recently, we pondered why veganism seems to be more prolific in ultra runnning than any other sport. Below, we list some of the best known ultra runners that follow a plant-based diet. Leave a comment at the bottom if there are any we’ve missed!
A seven-time winner of Western States 100, Scott is arguably the greatest ultra runner of all time. He switched to a plant-based diet in 1999, the year he won his first Western States, and often credits veganism for his dominant success. Scott has even published a book detailing his dietary philosophy, Eat & Run. Put simply, no other athlete has had a bigger influence on the rise of veganism amongst ultra runners.
Despite being just 24 years old, Lucy is already somewhat of a household name in the ultra running circuit. She ran her first 100km aged 15, and has since racked up a slew of impressive results, including wins at Ultra-Trail Cape Town and Ultra-Trail Australia, and third place at Western States. She has been vegan 2016 and says: “The biggest benefit I’m noticing is my ability to recover and race and train at a high level. I have a lot of energy.”
Although not solely an ultra runner, Rich is an ultra-endurance machine. He’s previously finished second at Ultraman (which involves a double-marathon run leg) and once did 5 Ironman triathlons in 5 days on 5 different Hawaiian islands. Rich turned vegan when his health took a nosedive at 40, and is now one of the most prominent advocates of a plant-based lifestyle. You can find vegan meal plans in his book, Finding Ultra.
A Swedish ultra runner specialising in multi-stage events, Elisabet has a string of world class performances under her belt, including winning the iconic Marathon des Sables twice. She experimented with her diet for several years before turning vegan for the performance and recovery benefits she experienced.
A former professional Ironman triathlete and ultra runner, Brendan was twice crowned Canadian 50km champion. He’s been vegan since the start of his career and is now a nutritional consultant. He’s written several bestselling books about nutrition and also co-founded Vega, a line of plant-based food products and supplements.
Often referred to as “the greatest runner you’ve never heard of”, Fiona holds four World Records, including being the fastest woman to run a marathon on every continent. She’s been vegan since she was 6 years old and co-founded Vegan Runners in 2004. Her attempt at the 2017 Marathon des Sables was documented in the film, Running for Good.
After smoking a daily pack of cigarettes in his younger years, Trevor recommitted to fitness in his late-20s and soon discovered a talent for ultra running. He’s won the Wasatch 100 twice and placed second at HURT100 in 2019. Trevor has been vegan since he started running and says giving up dairy changed his life.
Helen is a British veterinary surgeon and mountain runner who has represented her country at long distance mountain running numerous times. She won the English and British Fell Running Championships in 2013. Helen turned vegan in 2009 aftrer becoming disillusioned with the way animals are exploited for human gain.
Yassine is an experienced ultra runner with a number of impressice results on his CV, including top ten finishes at Western States 100 and HURT100. He turned vegan in 2008 and feels that energy and recovery rates are positively affected by a plant-based diet: “I felt great inside and out ever since. Honestly I don’t see myself going back.”
Swedish ultra runner Sondre has won or podiumed a number of iconic ultra marathon and clocked a top ten finish at UTMB in 2014. He’s been plant-based since 2013 and comments: “I feel that a vegetarian/vegan diet helps me recover a lot faster. And I just feel better!” He’s also married to fellow vegan ultra runner Elisabet Barnes (see above).
Vlad started running in 2012 and turned vegan shortly afterward. The 33-year-old Ukrainian is a North Face athlete and one of the foremost runners in Asia. He’s already won more than 40 ultramarathons in his short career and often sets new course records, including at The North Face 100, which he’s won twice.
Catra has competed in more than 250 ultramarathons, including over a hundred 100 milers. She often wins races outright (beating everyone in both the women’s and men’s fields) and holds the overall record for completing the John Muir Trail twice (a total of 424 miles). She turned vegan to clean up her lifestyle after battling drug addiction for several years.
Tim Van Orden
Tim Van Orden has been crowned US Masters Trail Champion an incredible 10 times and is a four-time US Runner of the Year. He turned vegan in 1998 and became a raw vegan in 2004, excluding all cooked and processed foods. He describes how his diet has had a holistic positive impact on his life in his book, A Compassionate Approach.
Popularly known as “The Natural Life-Stylist”, Tony has devoted his life to developing techniques for living naturally in the modern world. In 2019, he ran 874 miles barefoot across Great Britain to support environmental sustainability. Tony has written extensively about diet and lives a plant-based lifestyle.
Kate is an American athlete who’s been running at an elite level for 15 years. She’s previously won the JFK 50 and UTMB’s MCC. She went plant-based more than 10 years ago and credits veganism for her success: “I felt better and better. Then my performances got better and better and better. I got leaner.”
After ditching a career in finance, Denis started running in 2010 and quickly became a world-class athlete. He won a number of races, including The North Face 50 and Virgil Crest 100 and set a world record 12 hour treadmill in 2015. He is entirely vegan and eats almost a completely raw diet.
Damian has been a prominent ultra runner since 2006. He’s won and podiumed at races all over America, yet he considers his greatest achievement to be running injury free for more than 10 years. Damian attributes this impressive feat to his plant-based diet, which he’s been following since 2000.
Alberto Pelaez Serrano
An experienced ultramarathoner, Alberto has several impressive results on his resume, including a three-peat at Ultramarathon of Lanzarote and a top ten finish at UTMB’s CCC. He’s won twelve ultras in total and uses his notoriety to promote veganism in the sport, wearing an “I don’t eat animals” t-shirt on podiums worldwide.
Sarah is a professional Under Armour ultra runner and coach. As a vegan, she believes that ultra runners are more likely to adopt a sustainable diet as they spend more time outdoors: “Personally, this makes me feel more connected to earth, and I guess it just feels right to use Mother Nature the way it was intended.”
A model turned actress and director living in California, Eimanne made the shift to veganism after running her first 50 miler. She was heavily influenced by Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run, and discusses the benefits of a vegan diet for endurance athletes on her YouTube channel, Actress Adventuress.
Alister is an ultra runner for the Canadian Mountain Running Team. His best results include smashing the course record at the 100 mile Mont Bremont Ultra Trail in 2017, and finishing in the top twenty at UTMB’s CCC. He turned vegan in 2012 after discovering “the hidden truth of modern farming”.
You may also like…
What exactly is an ultramarathon, what are the different categories, and what does it take to train for one?
Renee is a leading Sports and Eating Disorder specialist dietitian. We spent 30 mins answering your questions about fuelling your training right.
The number of athletes identifying as plant-based or vegan seems disproportionately high in ultra running, compared with other endurance sports. Why?