Crazy good running

Jedidiah Soliz

Photo By Shoka

It takes a special kind of discipline and an unsentimental attachment to one’s big toes’ toenails to be an endurance runner, and it requires even more awareness to be fueled by only plant-based foods. But being a vegan athlete is nothing new (see track-and-field Olympian Carl Lewis and ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, for starters). Carmichael resident, long-distance runner and co-organizer of the Team Veg of Greater Sacramento Meetup group Jedidiah Soliz adopted a vegetarian diet in 2011 and transitioned to total veganism on his 30th birthday last August, and then ran his first marathon the following December. And Soliz is perfectly at ease with it all—lest anyone thinks he’s a little crazy for it.

Why did you decide to go full vegan?

Because after everything I’ve learned and researched, it’s just the best for everything involved—animals, environment, our health, other people in the world. And it became my passion and inspiration originally from my sister, who back in 2003 went to [a] raw vegan [diet] almost instantly.

Did you choose to ease into it because you felt like you’d be tempted?

Most of my life I ate unhealthy food, a lot of meat and dairy and processed foods and refined sugars and things, so I knew I would probably experience some intense withdrawals. … My sister was able to do it, but she had somebody basically take her out of society for three months to switch her over. … But everybody else I’ve known has who has tried to go right over, it didn’t really work for them.

Is your sister younger or older?

She was younger than me. … She passed away in 2006.

I’m so sorry to hear that.

She was in a motorcycle accident. She was on the back of somebody [else’s bike, who was] driving, so yeah. So she’s a big part of my inspiration now, of doing what I’m doing. It was her passion to help teach others about it … and I’m going to pass it on. So it’s kind of where I take off trying to make a difference, carrying on her legacy to some extent.

Was the California International Marathon in December 2012 your first marathon?

It [was]. … It went well. It was a very crazy experience, an experience of a lifetime, nothing like I’ve ever done before. All of my shorter races, half-marathons and down, were a completely different kind of race. …

A lot of the training was running 80 to 100 miles a week for a while, but still, on marathon day, I still felt almost underprepared. I was prepared enough to … hit my general goal, but the weather that morning was crazy. We had intense headwind and pouring rain, like a hurricane almost, and that affected the race, not only physically but mentally as well, you know, just dealing with those types of conditions.

What’s the difference as a long-distance runner with an omnivoric diet vs. a vegan one?

When I had an omnivoric diet, I wouldn’t recover as fast and got injured a lot. … So that really sparked a reason to find a way to prevent injury, speed up recovery, and that’s where a lot of my research led me to, the vegan diet. An alkaline-rich diet, especially … [a] healthy, whole-food plant-based diet and those types of raw foods. … They’re alkaline rich, and your body and your blood are alkaline, so it keeps that balance. If we eat lots of acidic food, then our body has to compensate for that by drawing vitamins and nutrients out of our bones and joints and into our bloodstream … therefore weakening our bones and making us more prone to stress fractures and injuries.

Some say that to run a marathon on a restrictive diet, you have to be crazy.

I wouldn’t doubt or discourage anyone that [says] I might be a little crazy in my approach and the way I’m doing it, but you know, I think everyone’s a little crazy, if it makes a difference.

Can you tell me what your diet is like during training?

I’ll try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. I have a salad almost every day with dark-green leafy veggies … and then I’ll do superfood smoothies in the mornings when I can, especially when I’m training or on race mornings, like a smoothie with kale, blueberries and whatever else I have at hand. And I put superfoods in there … goji berries, chocolate, raw maca, algae, chlorella, stuff like that.

You did the Tough Mudder. That is crazy.

(Laughs.) Yes. …

There’s nearly 20 obstacles or so. … What I came to find is that a long-distance runner has just about the best advantage because you need to have a good strength-to-weight ratio for a lot of those, because … you have to pull yourself up with your upper-body strength. … I didn’t have much of a struggle at all. … I did it in two hours and one minute. …

You can time yourself and submit your time to see if you can qualify for the World’s Toughest Mudder, which would be a 24-hour straight Tough Mudder … if you make the top 5 percent. … And I qualified.

The women’s World’s Toughest Mudder in 2011 was vegan.

That’s pretty cool. Nice to know. … I’d like to do it some day, I know it sounds super crazy, and I probably sound a little crazy to do that, but it’s kind of what I do and who I am.