Running On Greens

Shortly before his 40th birthday, Rich Roll found himself 50 pounds overweight and struggling to climb a flight of stairs. Realising he needed to make changes, he adopted a vegan diet, began training, and 2 years later, became the first vegan to complete an Ultraman uber-endurance event, placing himself within the top 10. An inspiring advocate for a whole-food, plant-based diet who wanted to turn his life around, becoming one of Men’s Fitness Magazine’s 25 Fittest people on the planet. 

Rich studied at Stanford and Cornwell University after high school, studying Law. In his early years, Rich competed in competitive swimming as a butterfly racer for Stanford. However, Rich’s life took a sharp turn when he developed a debilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol, which he subsequently struggled with for years. This addiction impacted his health, his relationships and his career. His inner demons got the better of him, spiralling him into a disastrous wedding, drink-driving, estrangement from his family, and floundering his career as an entertainment lawyer. One thing led to another, and Rich ended up facing jail time. By his 30’s, Rich was checked into a 100-day rehab program, which pushed him towards sobriety. Coming out the other side, successfully sober, Rich still felt he had more toxins to cleanse. Back into work, new-found wealth caused him to over-indulge in food; and on his 40th birthday, he decided to change. Rich was halfway up a flight of stairs, gasping for air, when he realised his weight was significantly affecting his lifestyle. With concern that his heart may put him into an early grave. 

Starting 50 pounds overweight, Rich converted himself to becoming a dedicated vegan. Rich began to find his feet again, jumping back into the pool, and going for long runs. With encouragement from his wife, Rich’s energy levels sky-rocketed, along with his ambition to compete in Ultraman. Two years later, 50 pounds lighter, he shocked the world. Not only becoming the first vegan to complete the 320-mile uber-endurance event, but also finishing in the top 10, with the 2nd fastest swim sprint. As remarkable as those results are, they’re even more unbelievable when fans realised Rich never even completed even a half-ironman marathon. 


“The prize never goes to the fastest guy, it goes to the guy who slows down the least. True in endurance sports. And possibly even truer in life.”


Rich returned to the event in 2009, taking home first honours for day one with the 6th fastest swim of all time, and the 3rd fastest bike leg. On day two, Rich suffered a severe bike crash, but with an injured shoulder and knee, he managed to finish the race, placing him 6th overall. In May 2010, Rich and an ultra-colleague completed the “EPIC 5 Challenge”, a feat no one deemed possible, completing an ultimate test of endurance of 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week. 

Rich has bravely challenged the notion of a vegan diet relating to an “unhealthy” or even “weak lifestyle” and overcame traditional ideas of what an athlete “should” be eating. His inspirational story led him to becoming a best selling author, podcaster, nutritional advocate and public speaker. His example shows that despite age, past struggles or perceived limitations, there is no limit to what one can achieve.

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