Well, the day is here. Or more accurately, it has been here, since it’s almost over. But somehow I got on an evening blogging schedule this week, so that’s where we are.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of when I started this blog. I’m not writing this post as an opportunity to get all melodramatic about the past twelve months (I’ve done plenty of that about my recent 50K), nor am I writing it to get a bunch of congratulations from everyone (you’ve given me plenty of those recently, too, which I really appreciate).
No, the main reason I’m writing this post is because this blog has grown a lot recently (almost 1000 subscribers now!), and I’m guessing that exactly three of you were around when it started. So I figured, “What would better than a quick tour of No Meat Athlete’s first year?” And I answered, “A beer while I write it.”
So that is where we stand.
A year ago, I was not a vegetarian. But I hadn’t eaten red meat for most of the previous year because of a moral aversion, and I had managed to cook some pretty good food nonetheless.
I had never been more excited about running, having run two marathons within three months right before that. Even in the best shape of my life, though, I had fallen ten minutes short of qualifying for Boston at the Walt Disney World marathon, and recently sidelined by an injury, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.
In March 2009 I went to a Tony Robbins seminar—yes, the infomercial, positive-thinking guy—and I came back completely energized and excited about so many things, including running. Also among them was my diet: Tony issued everyone a ten-day diet challenge that involved eating only fish and plants.
I took the challenge, noticed immediate energy gains, and I was hooked. (And my wife, Erin, was very receptive to the change.) I had serious doubts about whether this type of diet could possibly support endurance running, but I thought that if it could, then surely a few people would want to know about it.
Enter No Meat Athlete, and my first post.
March to May – All about the food
For a few weeks while I was still injured, this blog might have been called No-Meat Person. I wrote a little bit about running and my Boston Marathon goals, but almost every post was about a new recipe I was trying. Smoky black bean burritos was a favorite that we still make today. And I was really into Michael Pollan; I wrote a post called Junk Food Isn’t Healthy, Health Food Isn’t Healthy, based on his ideas.
I still ate fish occasionally for the first few weeks, but having opened my eyes to the idea of eating consciously, something in me wanted to be a total vegetarian. I questioned giving up fish, and I ultimately did phase it out completely, becoming a total vegetarian.
And for the record, I started to think about quitting coffee. It didn’t last.
May to October – Focusing on getting to Boston
On May 17th, I went for my first long run since becoming vegetarian, as any running up to that point had been merely injury rehab. I ran that 12-mile route faster than I had ever run it, my first clue that there was something to this vegetarian thing. (That post also describes a 100K bike ride Erin did!)
At that point, I realized I had a serious chance at qualifying for Boston, a completely unforeseen benefit of my new diet. (I had been worried that it would make me a worse runner.) I ran the Maryland Half Marathon, and thanks to my blog’s gaining just a bit of popularity, Brendan Brazier’s company sent me a copy of his book Thrive, which came to shape a lot of the way I look at food as running fuel.
Over the summer I trained my butt off to get to Boston. I followed the training program in Run Less, Run Faster, and managed to win an age group award in a 5K at the beach, when all the good runners must have been hung over or something. Though most of the training runs went well, I suffered a terrible bonk one day and had the worst run of my life.
Somehow, amidst all this training, I must have tricked somebody into letting me on the radio. And to provide some nice, sweet breaks from all the running, my sister, Christine, started posting weekly healthy desserts on Fridays. It was originally a month-long experiment, but Sweet-Tooth Friday is still going strong!
In August, I continued to train hard and started incorporating lots of the Thrive stuff, like raw energy gels. And then I got the chance to interview Brendan Brazier, professional Ironman triathlete and vegan.
Erin and I found out that she was pregnant, and I announced it on the blog! I couldn’t believe the coincidence that the due date was April 19, 2010, the day of the Boston Marathon, but I didn’t let that discourage me. For me, the goal had always been about the challenge of qualifying far more than the actual running of the race.
As the date of my qualifying marathon (the Wineglass Marathon) approached, I thought a lot about running. I realized that I did it because I loved the structure and challenge of training, but not the actual running. This prompted me to write a post called I Am Not Really A Runner. I wrote a good post about foam rolling, too, since I was really focused on avoiding injury.
Finally it was time. I did a final, surreal track workout, one that was so strange I’ll never forget it. Then the big race day came, and I did it. I qualified! There was a point when I was sure I wouldn’t qualify, and somehow I got past that and made it, by exactly one minute (3:09:59). I was overwhelmed with emotion, having achieved a goal I’d had for seven years. And for a few weeks after that, the sense of joy didn’t go away.
October to December – My Blue Period
That’s a joke. It wasn’t very blue. But comparatively speaking, we can at least call it azure.
Qualifying for Boston left a gaping hole where that goal used to be. In search of something to fill it, I read Born to Run and got really inspired to run an ultra and to start trail running. I even got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers to simulate barefoot running.
For the first time ever, I loved running. Without the Boston goal anymore, running became relaxed and fun. I met a group of local ultra runners that I started running trails (and drinking) with on Thursday nights, and that made it even better.
And then I got really, really uninspired. I got tired. I blogged less. Perhaps it was still the hole left by the goal that I’d chased for so long; perhaps it was just fatigue from focusing so much on that goal in the preceding months. Whatever the cause, I sort of just went through the motions of running and blogging. I experimented a little with ultramarathoner Stu Mittleman’s ideas about not eating sugar during long runs, but that’s something I never got comfortable with. It’s still in the back of my mind though.
And oh yeah, I had a little fight with a fitness author. Looking back, that one’s pretty funny.
January to Present – I’m back, baby!
At New Years, I made a big resolution that pertained to my blog: I decided I would only post when I wanted to, and about things I wanted to. No more posting pictures of what I ate simply because that’s what I saw everyone else doing.
I made an even bigger resolution: to donate all my pageview advertising revenue to help animals. Combine these two resolutions with my first ultramarathon on the second day of the year, and you have the recipe for a major funk-buster! As a result, I came to love blogging and running more than I ever had.
I’m proud of every post I have written since I made those decisions. You’ve probably been around for a lot of that period, but if not, just check out the archives for January, February, and March. These are my best posts to date—if I were to try to highlight my favorites, it would get really old, I promise.
Wrapping It Up
This year has been amazing. So much has changed, and it’s almost all for the better.
Like I said, I’m not going to get all sappy here. I’ll just leave it at “If you’d have told me all this would have happened in a year, I’d have called you an idiot.”
Thank you so much for being a reader of my blog, for however long you have been one.
And for that matter, thanks for reading this long-ass post. As my small way of celebrating this one-year anniversary, I’m giving away No Meat Athlete cotton shirts to five random commenters on this post!
As you probably know, I try to keep my posts short so that when you log on every day, you know you’ll get a little bite-size chunk of something to think about that won’t take long to digest. These past few posts have been anything but short; tomorrow I’ll be right back to the NMA you know, with that awesome stew recipe from Veganomicon I promised you last week.
See you then!
Looking forward to making the next year even better,