It was 5 AM on a Sunday morning and I hadn’t found a cup of coffee yet. It was far too early for this shit. I looked the stocky dude at the next-door tent up and down.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Well, you know how vegetarians are. You guys probably say you don’t eat meat, and then you go home and eat a whole steak but don’t tell anyone.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but …”
“Yeah, you just can’t resist bacon, right?” he interrupted.
I smiled politely and walked away in search of coffee.
I shared this story several times on Sunday, January 20, as I congregated with No Meat Athletes at our VIP tent at Rock & Roll Arizona. The response was always the same: an eye-roll and a chuckle of “oh, yeah, I’ve heard that before!”
To outside observers, our tent may have looked like any other team tent. There was a cooler full of water and juice, fruits and breakfast burritos on the table, and a lot of happy people in matching shirts. But for the 47 marathoners, half-marathoners, and mini-marathon finishers in No Meat Athlete shirts, it was something much more.
It was a community.
You see, as we laughed over shared experiences with uninformed stereotypes and swapped restaurant suggestions, there was an incredible sense of familiarity, even though we had never met before. We noshed on vegan muffins and breakfast burritos while discussing vegan egg substitutions. Runners celebrated their PRs and shared training strategies (including several who gave glowing recommendations of Matt’s Marathon Roadmap). Recommendations for plant-based protein powders were exchanged, followed by e-mail addresses so people could stay in touch with their new friends.
Conversations were often punctuated with happy sighs, followed by “it’s so nice to meet someone else who gets it!”
That, my friends, is what the No Meat Athlete community is about.
NMAs, I’ve learned, are a special breed. Every time I encounter someone wearing an No Meat Athlete shirt, whether spontaneously or at an organized event, my heart skips a beat. The Running Carrot is not just a logo for this brand — it’s a symbol of this community.
It’s a small but powerful statement that someone else out there has experienced the same incredulity from others, the same “but you still eat fish and chicken, right?” and made the same skeptical face when looking at hemp protein for the first time.
They’ve probably served some of the same vegetarian dishes I’ve served to my family and flashed the same tongue-in-cheek smile when passing someone in a “Fueled by Beef” t-shirt at a race.
They usually take a low-key, non-preachy approach to sharing the plant-based lifestyle, preferring to lead by example rather than dish out ultimatums and judgement.
I know, because this is what we talk about when we come together, either spontaneously or intentionally. When I see a fellow No Meat Athlete, I know that person gets it.
For the past three years, I’ve watched this community grow on the site, on our Facebook page, and in person. Matt and I sometimes crack a joke about this site being a small “dog and pony show,” but that’s often because we can’t believe how something Matt once described as “a river of suck” has developed into an international, multifaceted movement.
We simply provide information, tools, and the occasional corny joke (the bad jokes are all Matt, by the way). But you — who reads, mentors, leads by example, and wears the shirt proudly in spite of “hipster vegetarian” comments — you are the reason this community has become what it is.
You play an important role, whether you’ve been with No Meat Athlete since Matt’s first blog post or you’ve just recently joined the site in search of information on a plant-based lifestyle.
Events like Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona are merely an extension of what happens every day between No Meat Athletes. Our staff didn’t do anything extraordinary — we simply arranged for the space and the food. It was the NMAs themselves who made that event so special. As I took down the tent that afternoon, my attitude had done a complete 180 from that morning. Instead of irritation, I was full of happiness, warm-fuzzies, and vegan muffins. Our future is a bright one. I’m proud to be a No Meat Athlete.
I know I don’t have to explain that feeling further — you just get it.
Post written by Susan Lacke.