A vegan athlete who ran 100 miles around Central Park in under 24 hours said a plant-based diet is his 'superpower'
- Endurance athlete Robbie Balenger broke a record by running 100 miles around Central Park in one day.
- Balenger said a plant-based diet is his "superpower."
Robbie Balenger, a vegan endurance athlete, has broken a world record for the number of laps run around Central Park. He completed 16 laps around the park, a total of 98.7 miles, in just over 18 hours on March 21.
Then, he ran the extra 1.3 miles to make an even 100 miles "just for fun," he told Insider.
As an ultra runner, Balenger's definition of fun is likely different than most people's.
His previous claim to fame was running from 3,275 miles from Los Angeles to New York City in 75 days, completing an average of 45 miles, or a marathon and a half, each day.
After taking a year off to recover from that effort, and then waiting out the pandemic, Balenger decided to return to Central Park for his next big effort, since it was the finish line for his cross-country feat.
In partnership with activewear brand Ten Thousand, Balenger set his sights on breaking the record for loops around the park. He knew it was possible - months earlier, he had run 100 miles in 24 hours with a friend after feeling "cooped up" by the pandemic.
"The existing record was something I felt like I could surpass and at that point it was about by how much," he said.
The previous best time for the Central Park Challenge was 11 laps (about 67 miles) in 14 hours.
Balenger shattered the record, averaging just over a ten minute per mile per pace for the duration of the nearly day-long run.
Balenger credits a plant-based diet with his athletic success
All of Balenger's feats of endurance are fueled by a
"When I set out to run across the US, I wanted to show it was possible to do this on a plant-based diet. Not only it was possible, it was the reason I was able to," he said.
For that effort, Balenger consumed an average of 8,000 calories a day in the form of nut butter, coconut milk, and plenty of easy-to-digest carbs like pasta.
When he's not running ultramarathon distances every day, Balenger said he doesn't track calories or macronutrients like carbs, fat, and protein. He just eats what makes him feel good.
For meals, some staples include tofu scrambles, rice and beans, and smoothies with chia seeds, carrot juice, and kale.
He also adds calorie-dense foods like nuts, dates, and coconut to his snacks.
"All the efforts I do are to uplift a plant-based diet and help the planet," he said. "I think the world's waking up to the environmental aspects, and the fact that incremental changes can help, regardless of if you get to 100% plant-based or not."
Recovery is as important as training
Balenger said he's learned the hard way that rest is essential. During his cross-country effort, he struggled to sleep well after each day of running. As a result, he nearly had to quit because of severe pain and psychological symptoms like disorientation.
Since then, he's worked on his recovery routine to optimize performance. He now relies on strategies like binaural beats, a type of sound wave that can help relax the brain to promote sleep and ease stress.
"If you don't give yourself time to recoup after applying pressure, the work is in vain," he said.
Consistency is key to develop the mental strength for endurance running
As anyone who has completed even a half-marathon can attest, distance running takes fortitude to fight off self-doubt, fatigue, and boredom over the miles.
Longer distances also require a high tolerance for physical discomfort.
Balenger has made it a habit to push through what endurance
To hang in there, Balenger said it's important to practice the skill of self-discipline in your daily routine, so it will already be a habit when you need it the most.
"It comes down to consistency, making yourself accountable to really trivial goals," he said. "Anytime I thought I didn't want to run, I would make myself run to work through what that felt like."
At minimum, Balenger said his training includes 10 miles of running a day.
By deliberately choosing to run when he'd rather not, Balenger said he's become more comfortable with discomfort.
"There's always an apex, a moment where it gets its hardest and you feel you can't continue," he said. "It's about understanding that nothing is permanent to acknowledge and accept this discomfort in the moment could pass in the next moment."
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