If you want to know the potential of being a vegan, then just follow the exploits of vegan ultra-runner Andrew Hedgman…
Last month I took part in Australia’s multi stage ultramarathon – Run Larapinta. The race takes place over four days with the first stage of 19.5km starting in the evening, the second stage of 41km starting the very next morning and the next two days of 30.5km and 45km respectively. All four stages are run over the technical and mountainous Larapinta trail near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
I’m no stranger to multi day running, back in 2010 I ran the entire length of New Zealand – 2,200km in 28 days. In 201, I ran 1,000km from Brisbane to Sydney in 15 days and have completed Turkey’s Lycian Way Ultramarathon and the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, both being week long, self sufficient stage races.
Run Larapinta was my first ever staged race here in Australia where I live, it was also the very first race since I had decided to go vegan at the end of last year. I had been vegetarian since 2012 and, after racing in South Africa and meeting another vegan ultra runner, I knew I had no more excuses and made the switch the day I flew back into Aus!
I didn’t have very long to prepare and train for Run Larapinta, so I wasn’t expecting a fantastic result, I was just hoping to get through to that final finish line on day four! The first stage went well, it was technical but not too hard. Day two was a completely different story, the first 30km went fine until I got to a big climb up the side of the Macdonnel Ranges! As I hiked up, the sun had come out in full force and rising above 30°C, which was unusual for that time of year. Once at the top I wasn’t feeling well, I had to navigate back down, through dried out riverbeds and gorges, getting a little lost and then a final struggle over the finish line.
45km on spicy lentil soup
During the race I was relying on the hydration mix from Skratch Labs and the Skratch Chews, a delicious chewy confectionery, for an energy boost. The chews are made with pectin instead of gelatine, making them a vegan ultra runner’s best friend during an extreme race like this. Luckily by the third stage I was feeling OK and got through without any major dramas. I returned to my accommodation and cooked up my spicy lentil soup along with a protein shake, ready to tackle the final day of 45km!
There were two big mountains to hike up on the final stage, the first being Mt Sondar, one of the highest in the Northern Territory! We had started before the sun had risen, so it was amazing to be climbing up the mountain with a beautiful sun rise on the horizon. I was feeling fantastic coming back down again until a rock flicked up and smashed into my ankle, where for a small moment during the pain I thought that I may be out of the race.
Luckily, the pain eventually subsided and I carried on. The rock incident did however throw me out of rhythm and I wasn’t feeling as good for the rest of the day, especially climbing up the second mountain in almost 35 degree heat! I had to really pace myself for the last few kilometres of the race, which worked out OK and I was able to finish up strong, completing yet another amazing journey in a part of the country I may have never discovered if not for this race.
Overall I ranked 5th place out of almost 50 competitors, this was my best result so far in a multi staged ultra. I was so happy to have completed it and coming in top 5 was a huge bonus, especially being my first race as a vegan.
I’m off to Fiji in April to run in the Lost Island Ultramarathon, another multi day race that I can’t wait to get through purely on plant power!