Vegan Runner Scoops Second Place At Brutal Trail Race

The plant-powered athlete - Alister Gardner - is well known for taking on some tough challenges
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Gardner in action (Photo: Doug Freese)

Gardner in action (Photo: Doug Freese)

A vegan athlete has scooped second place at the brutal 30km Escarpment race.

Alister Gardner, who ditched animal products in 2012 after learning about the cruelty in animal agriculture, is well-known for taking on tough races.

The Escarpment is just that, covering extremely rocky terrain, with runners expected to navigate over boulders, downed trees, gullies and hidden roots the entire distance. 

Brutal race

According to the race's website: "Contestants must be prepared to deal with any of the forest's natural barriers, such as bees, slippery rocks, porcupines, black bears (not probable, but possible) and anything else that can be found in the forests of the Catskills. 

"There are numerous places where runners must climb hand over fist to scale a rise, conversely, extremely steep downhill sections add not only challenge to the course, but also a high degree of unwelcome danger. 

"There are sections of the course that travel along cliffs. If you're not careful, you could fall to your death. Very few runners go the distance without taking at least one painful spill."

'Could do better'

Speaking to Great Vegan Athletes about his performance, Gardner said: "I did the race last year for the first time and was sure I could do better. I am really enjoying this type of distance as it faster than the ultra distances but still has the endurance element to it. Some of the uphills are very steep and it is more scrambling than running. The fun part of that is the downhills and navigating the technical terrain at speed.

"Over the first 20 kilometres, it was a close race between me and the guy behind. I was stronger on the climbs and was taking it easy on the downhills, it seemed he was doing the opposite and was often catching me by the time we were at the bottom of the hill.

"On the final descent I decided to push hard and was able to properly break away. I was told at around the midway point that first place was four and a half minutes ahead, but in the last few kilometres I was told I was just over a minute behind. The distance to the finish was too short though and finished 1'30" behind first place. It was 3'30" faster than last year and the first place was 2 minute slower than last year, so a promising sign of progress."

The 38-year-old Canadian was over seven minutes ahead of third place; 242 runners finished.

You can find out more about vegan runners here