Meet Paul: endurance runner & 'plogger'
We’re on a mission to inspire the world to live a fitter and healthier life. Whatever people are into, for all their personal fitness journeys, we're here with the products, expert nutrition and inspiring community they need. ‘Fit’ is not a one size fits all, which is what our recently launched #FINDYOURFIT campaign is all about. So, who better to inspire you than real people who are part of our community and their own stories of finding their fit. This is Paul; a 54-year-old British endurance runner and ‘plogger’ (a person who collects trash while running), living in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Today, he’s vegan and feels like this choice was one of the best he’s made for him, his training and his endurance running. #FINDYOURVEGANFIT.
Finding my safe space in sports – mainly in running
“I’ve been living in the Netherlands for around 20 years now, but I originally come from a small village in England called Hartfield. I had a really happy childhood. My mother had a newspaper shop, and on weekends I delivered newspapers when her normal paperboys/girls couldn’t make it. I’d sometimes end up with several rounds to do, so I just used to run them — which is where my early love of running came from. I started to develop gynecomastia at school (where the breast tissue in men or boys becomes over-developed) and was bullied a lot for it. School can be a brutal place and I developed pretty low self-esteem. Sports became a refuge for me. I did many different sports and stayed after school several days in the week to play hockey, athletics, basketball, volleyball, etc. Sports were definitely my safe space.”
Running also gave me mental and physical strength
“I’ve had weight issues since childhood. A sports teacher once said to me: ‘you’d be a pretty good sportsman if you weren’t so heavy’. I was 13 at the time. He encouraged me to do weight training and I also started running with the sole intention of losing weight. A real highlight for me was after I lost a little and my class did a 400m race. I didn’t win, but I gave it everything and finished in the top half of the class. My sports teacher then gave everyone a lecture on how I was showing them up by giving it my all. That’s a very powerful positive memory for me.”
Fatherhood and having to switch my focus from fitness alone
“It’s a long time ago since I was running in the English countryside as a kid. By my own calculation, I’ve been running for over 40 years! Yikes! I used to live by the rule of ‘the more sports, the better’, and I still love playing each and every sport. Yet when I became a father (I have a son, Finley, 19 and daughter, Maia, 15), my focus changed and I limited myself to just one; the triathlon (see what I did there? 3 sports in 1!!). I love to focus on endurance. Going long and strong. In triathlons, I loved the Ironman distance (I have done Zurich and Frankfurt). I also took part in the legendary Marathon des Sables — an extreme race covering the equivalent of 6 marathons in 7 days in the Sahara.”
BED and controlling my inner demons in my fitness goals
“I’m not a person who gets faster as I go longer. My best marathon time is 3:23. Nutrition and feeding the body has always been a weak point for me. I suffer from BED (Binge Eating Disorder). I also show traits of Exercise Bulimia. After binge eating the night before, I’ve been known to force myself to run some extreme distances to ‘burn off the calories’. The main cause is definitely a low self-image, but with age comes wisdom and so these challenges no longer define me. They will always be there, ready to appear, but I have learned to control them by focusing on me and not what others think. I still strive to be as healthy and fit as I can, but I am doing it for me and not what others think. While they’re the same end goal, the journey is very different — with a positive rather than negative mindset.”
Going vegan as an endurance runner is a journey in itself
“I think my interest in nutrition and food really started like many overweight people; with fad diets. I’m not super knowledgeable about nutrition. I have loads to learn, and I still love bad foods. Now, I focus on moderation. I used to be a massive meat eater, but I first went vegetarian back in the 80s. It was more of an experiment, really. I was trying to be one of the cool kids. When I eventually went back to eating meat though, I realised how slow and sluggish I was, yet I carried on. It stayed in my mind over the years until I finally said to myself: ‘I really don’t want to eat meat anymore’. I went back to being vegetarian for a few years then decided to go vegan in January 2019. The difference in the way I felt, my body and my performance, was incredible. I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do think people should be open to trying it. As a vegan, I feel lighter, fitter and more energetic to get out there and train than ever.”
“Also, at 54, I’m still running 4000km per year (11km per day). I often hear: ‘how do you manage to run so much at your age?’. My answer? ‘I’m vegan!’. Then I say that I’ve been running all my life up to this point, of course, but I still don’t think I’d be at this level at this age if I wasn’t vegan. That’s just me. I’m not a super skinny Adonis figure. I’m a normal person with wobbly bits. I just found what worked for me, and so can you.”
My commitment to the environment and ‘plogging’
“I became vegan because it fitted me, my body, my training. It wasn’t until later that I learned more about the sustainability side of it. As a 20-year-old, I cared a lot more than I did as a 50-year-old and I missed that person. Now, I’m committed to plogging on each and every run. Plogging is basically collecting trash as you run, and I’ve actually started bringing in my plogging to inspire others to run. Beginners often run using a mixture of run/walk (run 1 min, walk 9 min and then slowly increasing the run amount). A lot of people (especially if they’re overweight) feel self-conscious when they’re walking or scared that people will judge them for not running. So, I suggest doing a 1 min run and 9 min plog-walk instead. If you’re looking for trash during the walking, then you won’t feel so self-conscious AND you will be helping the environment. How cool is that?”
Accepting me, for me — don’t bully yourself
“Growing up, the biggest bully I had was myself. I’d be fat shaming myself every time I looked in the mirror, all the way through to my 50s. But one day I said to myself: ‘this is me’. For years what would happen when I told most people I ran marathons was for them to reply, surprised, ‘Really?’ That’s what hurt me the most. Yet, now I don't mind. Hell yeah, I run marathons. I could run one tomorrow if you like! You try it... Fitness and nutrition become more important to me each day, to be the best I can be for myself and set a positive example for my kids.”
A day in the life of a Vegan Endurance Runner and Plogger
“The first thing I do after I get up is grab a coffee. Then, it’s time for YouTube and the foam roller. At my age, just using this droller in the morning while watching an inspirational running YouTuber is a brilliant way to get loose, stretched and ready for the run. Then… RUN! Above the age of 50 I find that days off are not so good. You get stiff. So, I do at least something nearly every day, even it’s an easy 20k bike ride or 30 min jog. After training, I go to work (I’m an IT business/data analyst), then after work come home and cook. I approach food simply. It’s there to give us energy. To fuel us. If you eat something, surely you should feel energised by it? I love cooking and the beautiful thing about being vegan is that you tend to experiment more. My kids love it (sometimes, at least!). After that, I relax with the family and get the rest I need to keep doing what I love”.
The Body&Fit VEGAN SERIES products Paul likes to use
I’m a bit of a newcomer to performance nutrition, but nowadays I like to use sports nutrition on sessions over 90 mins and I’m really interested in learning more about it and trying out other products. I’ve recently started taking Body&Fit Vegan Multi and I will incorporate Body&Fit vegan protein bars into heavy workouts. * It can be hard to find handy and tasty vegan foods to snack on to be honest.
*Our Body&Fit Vegan Series is a complete range of plant-powered performance nutrition products to support every health and fitness goal, from plant-based vegan protein to the vegan bars, to plant-powered vitamins & supplements and more.
Follow all Paul’s epic adventures via Instagram @wayeoflife and check out his website at Plog, Run Long, Vegan | Waye of Life. You can read more of Paul’s vegan story alongside some others in our blog: our top vegan advice, inspiration and insights from some of our Body&Fit community.