Everyone Welcome (Even “Hipster Vegetarians”)

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Leslie, Cathy and Jon at the No Meat Athlete tent after Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona

“So … are you guys, like, real vegetarians? Or just the hipster kind?”

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.

It’s likely they’ve read something by Brendan Brazier, had a smoothie explode all over the kitchen, and have Googled “Is Gu Vegan?“.

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.

Thanks to Dan Cruz and Competitor Group, Inc. for graciously providing us with finish-line space at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona. You can thank him on Twitter — @CGIPRguy. Major kudos to 24 Carrots restaurant and juice bar, who provided delicious post-race food with a smile in spite of an early-morning vandalism and burglary at their establishment. If you’re in the area, stop by and thank them with your business — they could really use it as they rebuild!

Post written by Susan Lacke.

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Comments

  1. I love you guys – seriously. Thanks for doing what you are doing and for putting up with stuff like that with such calm, respect, and resolve. I used to live in Phoenix and one of the best things I ever did was move, but reading this post, I almost wished I was still there just so I could have joined in with my own NMA shirt, had a vegan muffin, and talked smoothies with you all!

  2. You guys are SO awesome. I’ve been following your posts since my girlfriend told me about your site – ironically enough she’s neither a runner nor vegetarian/vegan!) I’ve gotten so much useful information. And I’m now following the half-marathon training plan and cannot wait to run my first half on plants! Keep up the great work and I’m glad to be part of a community that GETS it! Hope to see you guys at an event one of these days.

  3. I was one of the marathon finishers who hobbled over to the NMA tent after the race. I used the Marathon Roadmap to train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll, my first full marathon, and I know my experience wouldn’t have been as enjoyable and rewarding without it. NMA is my go-to source for training tips, recipes, and general life advice for a vegetarian athlete. Thank you for everything you do!!! And thanks for the koozie–I was almost as excited about that as I was about the medal!

  4. I’m a big fan – let me start there.

    I think it’s important to note that many (no, not all) non-vegetarians ask silly questions because really want to know, and are trying to think of something to ask. Or they make snide comments because something has been twinged in them about their own habits and they really are curious about how to being making a change. No, not all of them. But I do consider it my responsibility to offer an in-road, not by being preachy, but so suggest that they might like to try my vegan muffin or to just visit the NMA website for some really awesome recipes. The way we eat is a way to build community, as you have described, but when folks don’t eat like us they become the “outsiders.” It’s in our hands to welcome them.

  5. OH EM GEE. I wouldn’t even eat bacon when I was an omni (just avoided all forms of piglets naturally). This entry brought tears to my eyes! It’s so true…we are so incredibly passionate about our beliefs, yet people think they can belittle them or make a joke…like it’s some sort of fashion trend. Ah well, we will lead by example, as you said :-)

    • Tell me about it! Pigs are smarter than dogs. How anyone could think of eating anything pork-related is beyond me.

  6. Great post. I am glad to be part of the NMA community, even if it is just virtually!

  7. This is great! Will you guys be at other marathons/halfs this spring?

  8. I’m looking forward to the day when I see you guys at one of the races I’m running! Keep on keeping on. You are good for ALL of us! (Even the hipsters, unbelievers, and snarky skeptics–yeah, they could benefit from talking to you guys!)

  9. Well, that “uninformed stereotype” no doubt stems in part from the people who identify as vegetarian but still eat meat (most commonly fish, in my experience).

  10. Good post….I find it hard to be tolerant sometimes, but I counter stupid remarks by saying “You can never be sure of reaching your full potential as an athlete if you make dead animals your fuel..switch to plant foods and achieve a PB..” Of course, I would rather rip their heads off and stuff them up their collective asses…but then they would think that I was just another grumpy old 79 year old…

  11. Anders Olme says:

    Keep running gals and guys! “Only” a vegetarian here but i hope its ok to run in my no meat athlete t-shirt anyways :).
    Best regards from järfälla /Sweden

  12. Just wanted to say thanks to Susan for hosting. I enjoyed our chat.Especially the training advice. I promised that I would get the marathon road map, and I did! The training sheet is on the fridge and already has days scratched off. Looking forward to my first marathon. Could not wait to get started and am searching for one that works for me. Everyone in the NMA family is doing an awesome job. Please keep it up and I will stop by the booth at next years RnR AZ only this time I will be on the marathon side. Thanks! Greg

  13. I really enjoyed meeting you at the Rock N Roll Marathon and thank you for the goodies! I’m still a newbie to this vegan thing, but my husband is helping me with the process. I’m thinking that I need to thank him for making this commitment, in spite of my whining. I know my body needed this change! Looking forward to my shirt order coming in, too!

  14. Katrina Livingood says:

    I ran that marathon!! AND I passed a guy at about mile 25 who was in a NMA tank and I said, “Hey! I run on plants to and I was JUST on that site LAST NIGHT getting last minute tips!” :) Not sure how I missed the tent afterwards unless in was in some VIP section (Assuming??) but I’d love to know how not to miss it next time at a race so I can have fun connecting with all of you who “get it” too (and get yummy food)!! Not only am I the only runner in my social circle to speak of, I am the only vegetarian by far…. my husband is a hunter (as was I back in the day!). So, I am thankful for the online communities such as this to look to for encouragement… but I would LOVE to meet people in person!! :)

  15. The Running Carrot is definitely a recognizable symbol! Whenever I wear mine at a triathlon people always comment about it. I am glad to be part of the NMA community, the feeling that there are others out there who “get it” is comforting. Great article!!

  16. I’m so sorry to have missed this, but it’s awesome to hear that there are so many NMA’s in Arizona! See – we’re not that bad :-) This website is such an awesome resource for plant-powered athletes or just vegans wishing to eat healthy.

  17. I ordered my first NMA shirt for my upcoming 15k in march. my experience with racing (or running, for that matter) maxes out at 5ks. I hope that the shirt will help motivate me as a proud vegan racer, as well as inspire others to look into the lifestyle. I also hope to have a few of those moments that you describe where I see someone else representing NMA and we’ll have a brief moment of camaraderie and community. great post!

  18. Man I love you guys … so many similar experiences on journey to plant awesome.

    We’re pioneers for the human body and soul – just gotta keep trucking. Looking forward to the journey more and more every day baby!

  19. Jim Haggerty says:

    This is great. I know it fits me, as I have also had many smoothies explode all over the kitchen, still am looking for a simple way to get my hemp protein down without cringing and also staining a white wall while trying to open a pomegranite like a rookie. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Happy Friday!

  20. Oh my god…. this post was so right on! I often get that ‘bacon’ comment- so friggin funny. I love what you guys are all about and often repost to my facebook page and blog. If you ever come to Oakland, Ca let me know- tons of great vegan restauants here and loads of trail running :)

  21. Thank you so much for this site and this post! I hope to someday meet this wonderful community at a run soon. Just started running last year and signed up for my first half-marathon in June. :)

  22. I’ve only recently stumbled across your blog and even though I ‘m not a vegan/vegetarian, I love it. Though I do occasionally eat meat, I try to fuel my running with a diet based on whole, raw foods. And whether people want to admit it or not, when I’m looking for more info in that pursuit, I always seem to find myself on a vegan/veggie site. Thanks for doing what you do.

  23. Blah, I’m totally sick of the “Cult of Bacon. “

  24. Alice M. Weiland says:

    I love your site! Thank you so much for always providing so much informative info and for busting the myths around being vegetarian and an athlete. I just completed yet another half marathon in my No Meat Athlete shirt. Lots of looks of wonder as I crossed the finish line looking ready to run another half! I hope that you guys will start getting out to more racing events in support of veggie runners everywhere!

  25. I just discovered your site and I have to admit that I admire your passion towards keeping a healthy living full of exercise and healthy eating habits. Still, I think you can eat everything…as long as it is in moderation. Just like eating an all meat diet sounds extreme, eating an all vegetables diet sounds extreme as well. I don’t root for either camp but instead for a moderate approach. I am originally from Ecuador and this is a tradition passed on by generations by my family. Do you think that I am being naive to push for an “equal opportunity” diet?

  26. Larry Bard says:

    Next year RNR DC please!

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