The Life Experimenter : Change Your Life, One Month at a Time

Life Experiment #42: Train For A Marathon In Six Months On A Plant-Based Diet

By Allen Rinehart
Photo of Rich Roll, Ultra-endurance Athlete

Photo of Rich Roll, a top finisher at the 2008 and 2009 Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. Considered by many to be one of world’s most daunting and grueling endurance races on the planet. Rich become a vegan at age 40 and has competed in ultra-endurance events ever since.


It’s a new a year and just like everyone else I’m jumping on the New Year’s Resolution fitness bandwagon and starting a new work out routine.  But looking at what I’ve done in the past from trying to do push-ups (1,2) or waking up early and working out, none of these routines really motivated me to continue them beyond the initial month or two I started them.  I decided this year I wanted to do something big.  Something exciting.  My friend Scott’s been getting me into running 5Ks over the holidays.  Last year he ran the Pony Express Trail 50 mile Ultramarathon in Utah.  While ultra-marathons may not be my thing yet, I figured I could knock out a marathon.  It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.  So I’ve decided to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon this June in San Diego.  So for the next six months, I’ll be pounding the pavement as I train for this marathon.

Hypothesis: I believe this experience is definitely going to get me in better shape.  With training 4-5 days a week, over six months there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll become a better runner and be in better shape.  But more than anything, I think running a marathon is going to change my perspective on what I’m capable of doing.  For most people, running 26 miles seems overwhelming and almost impossible.  I think running and actually finishing a marathon is going to push me to try even larger fitness goals.

The Work Out Plan

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan like myself and you’re interested in running your first marathon, I’d highly suggest Matt Frazier’s No Meat Athlete Marathon Roadmap: The Vegetarian Guide To Conquering Your First Marathon.  The book outlines everything you need from workouts, diet and gear to run your first marathon on a plant-based diet.  The plan includes an six week start-up phase if, you’re like me, and haven’t been running on a regular basis.  From there, there’s a 18-week training program to get you ready for your first marathon.

I’ve already started week one of the program and I’ve run around 12 miles this week..  Since I don’t have a smart phone I’ve choosen to use to map out routes around my house to figure out distances.  I pick landmarks to run to and create routes based off that.  I’ve also decided to incorporate the 7-Weeks To 100 Push-up routine to add some strength cross-training into my workouts.

The Plant-Based Diet

For the last eight years, I’ve eaten a plant-based diet.  Six years as a pescetarian, then the last two years as a vegetarian   I’ve experimented with veganism even raw foodism and found the greatest benefit from both.  I’m going to try a vegan diet for this marathon.  My goal is to eat 70-80% of my diet from raw, whole foods.  What I found most beneficial from a vegan diet is you tend to avoid a lot of processed foods.  So while pizza, veggie burgers, french fries, cakes, cookies and candy are all technically vegetarian foods, someone eating this type of diet might be worst off then a person who ate mostly natural foods and a little bit of meat.

The biggest benefit of a plant-based diet is not that you avoid eating certain foods, it’s that you increase your consumption of healthier foods.  The question I get asked all the time about being a vegetarian is do I miss eating meat.  The answer is always no.  I wouldn’t change my diet back because for every calorie I would have to consume from meat is one less that I can consume from plants.  I just choose to not eat meat because it makes the decision process a lot easier.  Cutting out calorie and fat dense meats from my diet forces me to consume more nutrient and mineral dense plants.  But whether you choose to eat meat or not, I believe that anyone can benefit from increasing the amount of raw, natural organic plants in their diet and decreasing the amount of processed foods.

The Simplicity of A Running Routine

What I like most about this routine is how simple it is.  Every day of the week I know I have to run a certain distance and I go and run that.  My goal is to complete a marathon. I’m not looking to set any kind of record.  I just want to finish the whole thing without walking.  I’m sure as I start getting into the 10-20 mile run phase things will get a little more complicated.  I’ll have to start eating and drinking in the middle of a workout and get running gear that doesn’t rub, but the goal is the same.  To finish.

See you at the finish line!


Check out this page for the results of my marathon.

4 responses to “Life Experiment #42: Train For A Marathon In Six Months On A Plant-Based Diet”

  1. Rakesh says:

    That is my experiment as well.All the best

  2. Akinsola says:

    This is fun, running is one thing when you start it is hard to stop, I did my first 10km this year,without having done any long distance.

    I wish you well in your pursuit.

  3. […] Completing a marathon was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done…but surprisingly, with a persistent training, it’s something that I think anyone can accomplish.  I finished the 2013 San Diego Rock N’ Roll marathon in 4 hours and 37 minutes.  I credit my competition to a single habit.  Running to work everyday. When I first began to train for this marathon, I struggled with trying to fit workouts into my already busy schedule.  I really didn’t look for forward to working all day, then coming home and running 3-4 miles at night.  But after moving to San Diego in March, I realized that my job was the perfect location from my apartment.  Using the free commuter ferry, I was able to get from my downtown San Diego apartment to my ship in Coronado everyday.  Not only did I get in incredible shape running just 6 miles a day, I saved on commuting costs.  No gas, tolls or car insurance to get to work.  Just the sweat off my back and the food in my belly.  Using a Camelback, I strapped all of my essentials on my back  and ran to work, where I showered and changed.  Surprisingly, it took the same amount of time as walking. […]

  4. […] to start with something simple.  I knew that yoga is not about achieving an ultimate goal (like running a marathon).  It’s more about getting in tune with your own body and making small progress over […]

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