Thanks to an article in the local paper about me winning the local half marathon, which I haven't fully read yet, plus the generally expanding knowledge of my vegan diet, I have had to explain myself at least five times in the last two days. One of the pleasures was explaining myself to a D3 All-American and a D1 athlete, telling them that I reached the point in my life where achieving my goals might mean no animal products for a couple months, that it was a small sacrifice. They understood the concept of no regrets, and also of how sacrificing animal products for a few months in order to accomplish a greater performance was a well worthy sacrifice.
I realized that I had not articulated those two things well enough. First, when I am "done" with competition and slow down I want to be sure I have no regrets about having tried this theory or that one. I don't want to be 37 years old, discover a vegan diet, run my best marathon and wonder, 'what would have happened if I had tried this ten years ago?' Second, I would sacrifice, and I have sacrificed, a fair amount in my pursuit of performance. (While I am specifically referring to my running, performance is definitely engineering and performance is definitely social relationships.) Whatever time I run there will most likely be decades after that on a webpage or known amongst others that in part defines me. It's shallow sure, but the thought of going without meat, eggs, milk, cheese and all those other animal products for a few months or a few years pales in comparison to knowing that when faced with the opportunity to give my talents one degree more effort I stepped back. In other words, maybe I will run a 2:26 in Chicago this year, and I will never run faster. While that is not the goal, I plan on waking up October 14th, and every day after, and knowing that I gave it everything I could.
Finally, compared to the starving people in Rwanda and Uganda, the refugees in the Congo and Syria, and the myriad of people who have been persecuted and killed throughout history, any sacrifice of comfort food or painfully muscled workouts I can make pales in comparison. In part this whole athletic "phase" I have been in for the better part of a decade is partly an effort to empathize with the suffering of those less fortunate than myself. While it may seem that I am this totally obsessed runner, and I am to an extent, it's all part of the larger picture, of teaching myself those things that can only be learned through blood, sweat and tears.