A mini stroke at age 30 is a bit of a surprise. Things like that, I thought, are for the old, the obese, the heavy smokers, the drinkers, the all-day breakfast munchers. Vegetarian and teetotal, I never considered I would be at risk for a serious health problem.
“Boo!” said life, when I lost all feeling down my right side, and the ability to think. I’d overlooked my 18.5 stone weight. I just needed to “tone up”. The daily trips to the chip shop, the 2 packets of cheese strings on bread rolls every dinner break, the freezer full of pizzas, and the fact I hadn’t moved anywhere in more than a decade without a vehicle, failed to warn me.
I asked the many doctors I met in the following months for advice, at every test I had at the hospital. I may as well have asked Tom Baker. Their advice was simply to take statins and asprin for the rest of my life, to try and be active, and that I was overweight. I worked hard to lose that weight, counting calories (all 1500 of them), playing on the Wii Fit console and taking long walks. Within a year I’d lost 8 stone. And the will to live. I felt and looked dreadful. People were accusing me of being on heroin or having AIDS! I was still constantly tired, and was starving to keep under my self-imposed calorie budget of 2000 a day now I was 10 stone 7. This went on for 3 years. I was so hungry, when I did eat, I quite often had to spit one of my fingers back out.
Knowing the risk factors of strokes in terms of blood pressure readings and BMI, I eventually wondered what the causes were. I looked. I found out it was the cholesterol and saturated fat of animal products. So no sat fat and cholesterol going in, would mean I’d no longer need medication. I also found out things I didn’t want to know about the production of eggs and dairy (look it up I dare ya!). I’d always cared about animals, so I decided it would be good for both me and them if I went vegan as my new years resolution. This was January 2013. It took a month to use up all the dairy and egg-containing products I had in the house (because I’m a cheapskate), and then I became publicly vegan. Learning to read labels took time; the early days had me exiting shops with only Coke and bread. No Nakd bars back then. If only I’d had Veganuary it would have been so much easier!
The Fully Raw Kristina, Durian Rider, 40 Below Fruity and Running Raw channels on YouTube were my guides online. I began eating a lot of fruit, because bananas and apples are cheap, don’t have complicated ingredient lists, and don’t need cooking. And for the first time since junior school, I had energy. And a lot of it. I began going for walks on my lunch breaks, as I needed to move. This soon evolved into short runs. Jogging had always hurt , a bit like I was wearing a tin suit that was too small for me. But within weeks of going vegan, there was no pain. Everything had loosened up and moved freely. I felt wide-eyed, sharp, focused and confident, too. This was what being alive is like once your body works as it should.
The hunger for food disappeared, and was replaced with a hunger for running. 3 miles on my lunch breaks was no longer satisfying my need for movement. The mileage increased with my new found obsession. I entered my first race in April 2014; the Rotary Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford. 4 hours and 45 minutes it took. And I’ve been building on that ever since. I completed my first 50-mile ultra marathon in June 2016 and run regular marathons. I’ve covered close to 2000 miles this year and I’m constantly getting faster and going further. No way could I have done this as a vegetarian!