- Endurance athlete Robbie Balenger ran across the country – 3,275 miles – in 75 days on an entirely vegan diet.
- He set off from LA to New York City to raise awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons.
- Balenger’s 8,000 calorie-per-day meal plan included oatmeal, coconut milk, smoothies, cold pasta, and peanut butter.
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Robbie Balenger never intended to run across the country when he first laced up his shoes six years ago. Back then, he was simply looking for stress relief from his hectic career in the restaurant business.
But in May, he crossed a finish line in Central Park, marking the end of a 3,275-mile journey from coast to coast. That’s an average of 45 miles, or more than a marathon and a half, every day, for 75 days in a row.
And, he did it all on a diet of entirely plant-based meals, he told fellow plant-powered ultramarathoner Rich Roll in a recent podcast interview.
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It’s over y’all! 75 days. 3,175 miles. 15 states. Lots of plant based calories. Feeling all the feels. More later! . . . ???? @stevenseighman #transcontinental #coasttocoast #finishline #nomeatathlete #runlong #time2run #plantbasedrunner #runoutside #neverstoprunning #veganrunner #plantbasedathlete #veganrunning #plantpoweredathlete #runforever #ultrarun #roadrunning #justrun #runfree #runtoinspire #onrunning #runninginspiration #ultrarunning #ultrarunner #correr #ultrarunninglife #runfar #correresvida #soycorredor #runnersworld #runnersglobe
Balenger isn’t the first to tackle impressive mileage without eating animal products. Vegan ultra runner Scott Jurek has broken multiple records, including the fastest time to complete the 2,189-mile Appalachian trail.
Balenger said he hoped to continue raising awareness of the benefits of going plant-based, even for elite endurance athletes.
“My motivation was from an advocacy standpoint to promote a plant-based lifestyle, and to really show what is possible on a plant-based diet,” Balenger told Runner’s World.
Balenger ate an average of 8,000 calories a day, including coconut milk, bananas, peanut butter, and cold pasta
Balenger stopped every five miles to refuel on high-fat, high-carb meals and snacks. In all, he said he had to eat a whopping 8,000 calories each day just to sustain his body through the serious strain of daily ultramarathons. For comparison, most people require between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day to meet their energy needs.
In the mornings before he began running, Balenger said his breakfast was typically oatmeal loaded with chia seeds, bananas, maple syrup, nuts, and sometimes chocolate, along with a cup of coffee.
Four times a day, he consumed 1,000-calorie smoothies made of Soylent meal replacement powder, with added coconut milk, chia seeds, bananas, and veggies. He avoided drinking plain water, instead hydrating with electrolyte powder that also added additional calories.
“When you’re doing something like this, you need to get those calories whenever you can and wherever you can,” he told Roll.
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Day 40: 45 miles. Again! . The accumulating exhaustion has me searching for additional calories every day. This means eating @nadamoo throughout the day instead of just for dessert!!! I’m also adding coconut milk to almost everything. . Some fun facts: today was my last full day in Oklahoma, and it feels like I’ve been here forever. Tomorrow, I will run in three different states in one day, OK, KA, and MO. This has only happened one other time when I popped into TX for a few steps while crossing from NM to OK. . The story of the day is pure exhaustion. It feels like the fatigue is accumulating and I spend my days looking forward to going back to bed. Or just hanging out in the camper socializing and feeling human again. Maybe that’s a missing piece here: feeling like a human. . I’m hoping that as I run through smaller states, I will feel like I’m getting somewhere. As it is now, I just feel like I have so many more days to go, and that I’ve already been doing this Transcon for so long! 40 days. That’s no joke. . Some good news is that physically, I’m holding up! I’m also sleeping well, usually getting at least 8 hours. I’m just waiting to wake up magically with more energy one of these days! . #plantpoweredmission #transcontinental #coasttocoast #enduranceathlete #nomeatathlete #runlong #endurance #plantbasedathlete #plantpoweredathlete #runforever #trailrunning #mindfulrunner #runlife #runhard #roadrunning #justrun #runfree #runtoinspire #onrunning #runninginspiration #ultrarunning #ultrarunner #ultrarunninglife #runfar #liveyouradventure #correresvida #soycorredor #runnersworld #runforlife #runpassion @ultrarunningmag @trailandkale
For meals, Balenger said he stuck to easy-to-digest carbs like cold pasta tossed in olive oil, potatoes, and quesadillas with vegan cheese. Initially, his favorite meal was a vegan banh mi sandwich, but Balenger said bread quickly got soggy and was hard to manage.
“Bread was not working for me,” he said on the podcast.
Balenger told Runner’s World he supplemented with energy gels and ended the day with double serving of a vegan camping meal, or pre-made, dehydrated food designed for backpackers, and a cold IPA.
Balenger also had dessert at the ready. Non-dairy ice cream company NadaMoo sponsored his trek, as did the nonprofit Switch4Good, which encourages people to give up dairy and adopt a plant-based diet.