the Born to Run Diet

As I've mentioned before, I am reading Born to a pace of about 1 page per week.   I began reading it this past January, and am about 3/4 of the way through it.

Anyone jealous of my speed-reading skills? Maybe I should trash running and start blogging about my reading training instead.  "Today was pretty good, I hit about 20 pages in 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That's 1.3 chapters in metric terms.  I ate one Gu, and a milkshake.  I wore my green Costco sweatpants and managed to complete the session chafe free." 

Oh, blogging about running is so dorky. 

This book, compelling in so many ways, does it's fair share of very gentle and subtle preaching about the "best" way to run.  It leads and guides you to the discovery that barefoot running (or minimalist running, avoiding a heel strike) is the way to improve speed, agility, and banish injuries once and for all.

It also leads and guides you to the conclusion that vegetarian (and maybe even vegan or raw) eating is key for a strong, elite runner. 

One example is Scott Jurek, ultra-marathon runner sensation, who saw his energy and performance grow stronger and stronger as he focused on a vegan diet focused on plants, fruit, and whole grains.

Scott Jurek

Another example is the Tarahumara, a native American tribe in Northwestern Mexico who are known to be long-distance running phenomenons.  They eat little more than chia and pinole (ground corn). 

The last example is the author of the book, Christopher McDougall, who started eating salads for breakfast before runs and found himself stronger, and naturally, lighter than ever.

All, of course, on top of weeks of, I don't know, 150 miles or more.

I was reading this thinking, "I love plants.  I already haven't tasted meat in almost 2 years.  It would feel so great to follow this native, naturey, minimalist eating plan and shun the Standard American Diet."

And then it struck me that while it sounds like an athletic and disciplined approach to becoming the best runner one can be, in real life, this diet would peg me as severely disordered and underweight.

Seriously guys.  This regimen in the book describes my college self perfectly.

Running 100 miles a week: check
Eating a diet based on plants, fruit, and whole grains: check
Avoiding white flours and sugars: check

What was the result.

Was I being heralded for my athleticism?

Was my trim, ethiopian-like body leading to a lightness that made me run as fast as the wind?

ha. haha.

No.  I was told to eat a burger.  I was told to eat a sandwich.  I was told, through the tears of my sister, to get help.

That's me on the right.  This was about 3 months after my first marathon, 22 years old.

This may be hard to believe, but I was eating in the range of 1800-2200 calories every day.  I was running 10-15 miles every day.   I was 22.   And all that food was "healthy" -- vegetables, fruit, popcorn, frozen yogurt, whole grain cereal and bread.

You know what else?  I was not unhappy.  People see someone underweight and think there must be a sadness hidden underneath that thin layer of skin. 

I felt great, every day.  I was so in love with running. Reaching for an apple instead of a candy bar was never a hard choice.  It was a simple time for me -- the hardest part was trying to make people leave me alone.

Cute hip bone, psycho.  21 years old.

Obviously, I can look at these pictures now and recognize why people were concerned.  But I can still freshly remember what it felt like to be in that head, to know I was skinny, but to feel really, really good.

So now what?

Now, I more or less follow a Standard American Diet -- full of daily pieces of candy (snickers, whoppers, donuts and lollypops find me at work every day), pizza, cheetos and chips of all varieties, extra salt and sugar in everything.  All in order to run 80 miles a week, and look like this.

Healthier looking, but no Deena Kastor

I've spent nearly 5 years training myself to "understand" that in order to run as much as I do, I need to (or get to) eat a bit excessive.  I'm in the 2500-3000 calorie range almost every day.  I don't think I could do it any other way now that I am in the delicious habit of eating 3 dinners.

So what am I to think of this running wisdom, that it is to my benefit to be a twiggy little Tarahumara man?

Scott Jurek and a Tarahumara man

Well....what do YOU think?  Is the book spouting elite athletic wisdom, to eat a vegan and limited calorie diet on heavy miles? Or is it a recipe for a scarily underweight runner?

I have to say that many of the top runners probably would strike us as sickeningly skinny if we saw them in our every day lives.  I know Skinnyrunner just posted about her date with Kara Goucher, and she couldn't help notice how tiny tiny she was.   But they have doctors approval that they are in good health.  Is skinny the new healthy for runners?