Vegan ultrarunner Harvey Lewis just snagged first place in this year’s Badwater 135. Lewis has previously credited his plant-based diet for his boosted athletic performance – especially his endurance.
The Badwater 135 is known as ‘the world’s toughest foot race’. It spans 135mi. (217km) and features massive slopes.
The start line is at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, which, at 85m below sea level, is the lowest elevation in North America. The finish line is at Whitney Portal (2530m), which is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit – the highest point in the contiguous United States.
The race includes three mountain ranges, covering 4450m of cumulative vertical ascent, and 1859m of cumulative descent.
Forty-five year old Lewis was the first to cross the finish line this year, completing in 25:50:23 and 100°F heat. It’s the second time the vegan athlete has won the event.
Lewis has completed the race 10 times, made the podium in five of them, and won the 2014 Badwater race.
Lewis stopped eating meat in 1996. He told Newton Running that the move made ‘a significant impact’ on his health.
“I credit much of my success in ultrarunning to a stomach that enables me to devour tons of food and start running instantly,” he said.
He told Cincinnati People that eating meat-free provides him with the ‘necessary ingredients for my body to bounce back quickly from punishing endurance events over one hundreds of miles’.
“I drink no milk. I live… entirely (on) plant-based products… I can run a 24-hour race hitting over 158 miles and then run to school the very next day.”
In 2016, Lewis adopted a fully plant-based diet. He told City Beat that his diet assists his digestion, reduces inflammation, and gives him more energy.
“We would do a lot better if we move toward more plant-based foods for the benefit of curbing the No. 1 killer (diseases) in America,” he said.
A growing number of athletes are ditching animal products to improve performance.
Vegan Olympian David Verburg thanks his diet for his increased energy. Verburg holds gold medals in the 4 × 400m relay for the 2016 Olympics, the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, and the 2014 Indoor World Championships.
In 2018, vegan ultramarathon runner Catra Corbett set a new record on the John Muir Trail. She completed the 310-mile course in the Fastest Known Time (around seven days and nine hours) at 53 years old.
And earlier this year, Andreas Vojta of Austria broke a national record when he completed the 5km (road) in 13:48 – breaking the previous record by six seconds. He has been vegan for three years.