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Digital Running Club » Catching Up » Catching up with Matt Frazier

Catching up with Matt Frazier

Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete
The basics: 31-year-old meat-free athlete from Bel Air, Maryland, who hopes to move out west this year to San Diego.
Occupation: “No Meat Athlete”, my website, is my full-time job, and I never have any idea what to tell people when they ask this. I refuse to call myself a full-time blogger because I’m sure they’ll think of Perez Hilton, so usually I just tell people I run a website about being vegetarian and running.

When/How did you start running?
I started running in college, and it’s sort of a funny story. Two of my friends and I were really into lifting weights and bulking up. Then one day we decided we had gotten too fat, and we figured the best way to get lean would be to run a marathon. None of us were runners or had ever run more than 3 miles in our lives, so we made so many mistakes during our training. All 3 of us got injured, yet we were stubborn enough to still fly out to California to run our marathon. We all crossed the finish line, though it wasn’t pretty.

I felt like I had to redeem myself, and it took me 4 years to successfully train for another marathon, but I finally did!

Why do you run?
For most of my time as a runner, I’ve done it because I became obsessed with the goal of qualifying for Boston. I really didn’t get any enjoyment out of running for its own sake, but I was so focused on that goal that I loved to train and see myself make progress. I failed many, many times before I finally did it.

Since then, I’ve run more to explore what I’m capable of. I’ve gotten into ultrarunning and done a few 50-milers, and a lot of times I ask myself why I do it when I know it’s going to be painful and I’m going to really, really want to quit. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something addictive about being on the edge of quitting, thinking that something is literally impossible, and then proving yourself wrong by doing it.

When do you prefer to run?
I’ve always been an evening runner. I like when it’s just starting to get dark and you’re trying to finish your run before you can’t see anything. There aren’t many people out then so it’s always a calm, quiet experience.

When/Where was your best run ever?
I think the most I’ve ever enjoyed running was my 2nd marathon. After such utter failure the first time around, when I ended up walking so much of the race, I felt funny even telling people that I had “run” a marathon. I wanted so badly to do it right and run a marathon that I was proud of. But I just kept getting injured, and a physical therapist told me that maybe my body just wasn’t meant to run that far. I would have dreams about finishing a marathon and running the whole thing (4 hours was my goal back then), and then I’d wake up and be so sad that it wasn’t real.

So when I actually did run a successful marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, it was the best I’ve ever felt running. Once I hit 20 miles or so and knew it was going to happen, I made sure to soak it all in so I’d remember the experience and how good it felt, and it still gives me goosebumps to think about.

What is your proudest moment in running?
By far, my proudest moment was when I qualified for Boston with a 3:09:59 marathon at Wineglass in New York in 2009. I had worked so hard at that goal, harder than anything else in my entire life. And even that day, 22 miles into the race, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because I was slowing down. So when I felt those 8 years of training and even the effort of that very day pay off, it was the proudest I’ve been as a runner.

What is your biggest running disaster/embarrassing moment?
Well, that first marathon is a pretty big one. Even back then I wanted to qualify for Boston, so I put down 3:10 as my projected finish time. The funny thing is that even 10 miles or so into the race, I was still somewhere near that pace. I was just so naive and mistook the adrenaline rush of a first marathon start for my actual fitness level. So I crashed hard a few miles later, and ended up walking most of the race from mile 18 on. In fact, when I looked at my times I saw that those last 8 miles took me as long as the first 18!

What are your running goals?
I actually don’t have any running goals for about the first time since I started. After I qualified for Boston, my goal was to run a 50-miler, but since then I haven’t found anything that really gets me excited to train like I did for those things. I’ve thought some about doing a 100-miler, but haven’t really committed to it. Long term, I’d like to do that, and I still have the idea of a sub-3 hour marathon in the back of my mind. But right now I just run because it’s good for my head.

How long have you been a vegetarian?
I went vegetarian in March 2009. I wasn’t quite all the way, because I still ate some fish, but I phased that out over a few weeks and became fully vegetarian. And then I went vegan in March 2011.

What is a typical dinner for you? (FYI-I love that you give tips on vegetarian lunches to eat at work!)
Now that I’m vegan I eat such a huge variety of foods that it’s hard to say what’s typical — I cook from recipes all the time and almost never make the same dish twice unless it’s really special. I’d say an average meal involves some sort of bean, often lentils because I cook a lot of Indian food. And usually rice with it, along with spinach, kale, or collard greens, but sometimes other things like quinoa or millet. A grain, a green, and a bean is a formula I like to follow a lot. I also eat a lot of Italian pasta dishes, and the pasta might be made from whole wheat, quinoa, spelt, rice, etc. to mix it up. But sometimes I treat myself to plain old white pasta.

What advice would you give to a meat-eater who is looking to change their habits?
I know some people do well with all-or-nothing approaches — one day they eat meat at every meal, and then they go vegan just like that. But for me, I don’t think that would have worked. Before I went vegetarian, I actually spent about a year just cutting out red meat and pork. Then I cut out chicken entirely, and as I said above, I then phased out fish. A useful way to think of it is reducing the number of legs on the animals you eat — from four, to two, to zero over time. I also think a lot about goals and commitments and strategies for making changes, and I wrote a post about what I did to go vegetarian called 7 Steps to Eating Less Meat Now.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
It used to be pizza back when I still ate cheese, but cheeseless pizza just isn’t the same. Now I guess I like to drink my indulgences — I drink more coffee than I really should, I think, and I’m also a big craft beer fan. Especially after tough runs and races!

What advice would you give to a beginning runner?
Two main things – first, slow down. You don’t need to be exhausted after every run you do. It’s totally fine to run two or three or even five miles at a really slow pace just for the sake of enjoying it. I think you need to learn to enjoy it, so that you’ll stick with it long enough for your body to adapt and it to become easier. Then running harder becomes more tolerable.

The other big thing I tell people all the time is to turn your legs over faster than is natural. The biggest key for me to stop getting injured was to focus on taking 180 steps per minute. I would just stare at the clock on a treadmill and line my steps up with it so that I took three each second, and I did this over and over until it was comfortable. What this does is force you take smaller, quicker steps, and when you do that, so many common form issues correct themselves automatically.

What do you bring to every race?
Well, I’m happy to say that my wife, Erin, still comes to almost every race I run. She’s very supportive, because she’s a runner too so she understands how it nice it is to have someone cheering for you.

But as far as non-living things go… the only real constant I can think of is that I drink Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer before pretty much every race. It’s a natural sports drink. I can usually handle whatever drink they’re giving out at the aid stations, but I just like to start with Vega Sport for the first hour or so of running.

I also always bring compression socks. Sometimes I wear them during the race, but almost always afterward.

What do you listen to when you run?
It depends. Most of the time I don’t listen to anything, but when I do, sometimes it’s music and other times it’s audiobooks. I like punk and rock music from the 90′s – and as far as books go, I like corny, motivational stuff like Tony Robbins when I’m running. I don’t have a commute anymore so it’s nice to have a chance to focus on it and not be distracted.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I play the drums and the guitar. My band in college played lots of shows and we even recorded a CD, which isn’t such a big deal now that anyone can do it with just a laptop. But back then in 2001, it seemed like a big deal; we made it in a real studio and everything.

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