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I'm a 63-year-old ultra-runner. I eat gut-friendly foods and wake up between 4 and 5 a.m.

Melissa Noble   

I'm a 63-year-old ultra-runner. I eat gut-friendly foods and wake up between 4 and 5 a.m.
  • John Salton is a 63-year-old ultra-runner.
  • He started running 10 years ago and regularly runs long distances.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with John Salton, a 63-year-old vegan ultra-runner from Bright, Australia. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I took up running 10 years ago, and now, at 63 years old, I'm an ultra-runner. I regularly run distances of 50km and more. Next year, on July 5, 2025, I'll be running across Australia, covering 76km a day for 63 consecutive days.

I've always believed in the importance of movement, and I believe that movement is life.

There are certain things I do before a big run to prepare my mind and body for what's ahead. Here's how I fuel up.

I make more intentional choices

For me, the most important thing is being consciously aware of the decisions I'm making. I start being more intentional about the way I breathe, the water I'm drinking, and the food I'm eating. It all starts with a level of consciousness, and the key behind becoming more conscious of these choices is the 'why' behind them. I think when you understand the 'why,' it gives you more motivation to do whatever it is you need to do to be healthy.

My big 'why' is that I want to do what I can do to positively impact not only my own future, but also the lives of others. For example, the money raised from my run across Australia will go toward creating a charity called Soaring Connections. The goal of that charity is to build regenerative farms that will grow food for regional communities.

I focus on my breath

After focusing on being more conscious of my choices, I focus on the breath. It's a huge priority. After all, you can go without food for several days, and you can even go without water for a couple days, but you have to breathe.

When I got serious about my running, I met up with Brett Haynes, the head coach and developer of TriBreath, a program that focuses on respiratory fitness. He taught me about a very particular — and disciplined — type of breathwork.

When I'm running, I use what's called the 2-1 method, which is two breaths in through the nose with my tongue on the roof of my mouth, and one exhale out through my mouth. I do it in timing with my elbows. It creates this movement of energy through the body in a very rhythmic way. I use that type of breathing — which is referred to as 'first gear' in the TriBreath community — in terrain that's quite technical and demanding.

Then I can go into second gear, which is breathing at a 3-2 count, and third gear, which is a 4-3 breath. By the time I get to third gear, it feels like I'm becoming one with the energy all around you. It's incredible. When I'm running in the mountains, it feels like a meditation.

I drink a lot of water

I add a pinch of Celtic sea salt to every liter of spring water I drink. The one I use is organic and has a blend of about 83 different minerals.

I drink at least two, if not three, liters of water a day. How much I drink also depends on the level of moisture in the atmosphere. If the air's dry, I drink more water. If the air's moist, then I sometimes don't drink as much. My exercise level also impacts my water consumption. If I'm more active, I drink more. When it comes to fueling myself, I view it like a car — the more I push the throttle, the more fuel I require.

I eat gut-friendly foods

One of the things I've noticed that's made a massive difference in how I feel is eating miso. I look for a really good miso that's been fermented for several years. The longer the fermentation process, the more living culture in the miso. The amino acids (the building blocks of our body) in miso are huge and are really beneficial in supporting good gut health.

I'm 100% plant-based, so I eat lots of vegetables. Before a big run, I eat a lot of food the night before. I pack in broccoli, as well as lentils and beans. In the morning, I start my day with a banana, or avocado with tahini for the fat.

During my run, I've started fueling my body with organic dates filled with tahini and miso. It's like a little bomb of energy and so easy to get down. I also snack on organic mixed nuts, and I love celebrating the completion of a run with mango and vegan ice-cream.

I get plenty of sleep and start my day right

The other important aspect of fueling your body is sleep. That's when the magic happens with the body's recovery process.

I go to bed early, usually around 8:30 or 9 p.m. and I generally get out of bed by 4 or 5 a.m.

The first thing I do is drink some water, then I do warm up exercises, followed by the five Tibetan rites, an ancient yoga practice involving a sequence of exercises.

I usually start my day with a warm shower, followed by a cold shower to get the lymph system moving. After a light breakfast, I'm all set for my run.

I think it's important for each of us to value who we are as an individual — to truly embrace every single aspect of you as a human being, and take responsibility for the choices you make in support of your health.

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