The Vegan Marathoner: From 250 Pounds to 26.2 Miles

Here's how one dad took up clean living, dropped 50 pounds and completed a marathon

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They say pain is nothing but weakness leaving the body. I wholeheartedly agree and believe that every weak atom in my frame must have been jettisoned during a 26.2 mile journey though Richmond, Virginia on November 10, 2012 – one day after my 39th birthday. The marathon was a first for me and a testament of strength, will and endurance while operating on a vegan diet. With November marking the two-year anniversary of eating only plant-based foods, I am truly amazed at how quickly my figure and performance numbers have changed for the better.

You see, the marathon wasn't just a race, but rather an enormous milestone in my journey. During this transformation, I ditched my regimen of fast food, heavy drinking and smoking – the very habits that took me from a fit, Division 1 football player at Georgia Tech 20 years ago to a 250-pound couch potato. I chose to make a positive change, which we all know is a deep, methodical and uphill battle. I traded in my vices for water and teas, juicing, plant-based eating and the elimination of any self-inflicted carcinogen known to mankind.

To test my inner strength, I decided to run my first marathon in 2012. When the gun sounded, a group of fast marathoners surged from the crowd like greyhounds chasing rabbits. It would have been simple to follow suit while burning fuel reserves within the first hour. Yet, I remained calm and collected while remembering the coaching both Nina Russin and Chris Anderson offered during a six-week training period. Yes, I said six weeks, which is most likely the culprit for the nearly six-hour run. However, I was thankful for finishing and sticking with the long, challenging, Sunday training sessions, which led to throbbing knees and ice packs while watching Eagles games. With the proper four to six months of training, I should have no problems reducing my time by another hour and a half.

[Read: How to Prepare for a Marathon Race]

What I like most about running 26.2 miles is that it's a feat only a small percentage of humans around the world have accomplished. I'm a sprinter and football player by trade, so transforming myself into a distance runner was quite amusing, especially to friends and family who thought I had lost my mind, until they saw recaps of my 13- to 18-mile training sessions on their Facebook and Instagram feeds. Moreover, running a marathon on a vegan diet is even more rare. For that very reason, I was featured in the New York Times as someone planning to run the New York Marathon animal-free. But then the race was cancelled due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, and so we ran the marathon in Richmond race a week later.

Before the race, I had always wondered why people put themselves through the agony and torture of marathons. What's the point in tearing up muscles and tendons just to show you can go the distance – especially for frequent marathoners. However, after that indelible race experience, I get it. There were people running for lost loved ones, cancer societies and fundraising groups. And, of course, some people run because they emphatically love to energize their lives. I was one in a proud group of overachievers logging miles with pride and enthusiasm.

My reason? I did it to educate family, friends and followers on the benefits of a nutritious, active and healthy lifestyle by way of my newfound wellness and fitness company Fit Fathers. While the race is over, the war against gluttony, obesity, fast and enriched foods and lethargy wagers on. Far too often, we take life for granted and don't typically improve our quality of life until after a negative visit at the doctor's office.

[Read: 5 Tips for a Smooth Doctor's Visit]

Why wait until a degenerative disease strikes? Why not eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds now to prevent clogged arteries and attacks from mutated cancer cells? If we know that sugar enhances the odds of diabetes, why indulge in all the soda, candy bars and pastries? If we know that our bones, muscles, lungs and hearts are strengthened through routine exercise, then why lead a sedentary life? Why wouldn't you be running, walking, swimming or biking everyday?

Listen up. I used to work hard and party harder. Now I work hard and workout harder while operating alcohol-free, meat-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free! I'm 39 years of age and can still bench my college max of 405 pounds when I train for a month, run marathons and sprint exceedingly around tracks. Alkalinity is the goal for disease prevention, purity is the formula for life extension, and daily fitness is key for overcoming physical attrition! Eat clean, drink clean and keep moving!

Kimatni D. Rawlins played running back for Georgia Institute of Technology and is now the founder of the health, fitness and wellness website Fit Fathers (@FitFathers). After shedding 50 pounds through daily workouts and a plant-based diet to regain his high school weight of 201 pounds, Kimatni became a certified fitness trainer and received certification in plant-based nutrition from eCornell.com. Today, the married father of two young girls enjoys running, cycling, hiking, obstacle courses, boxing, basketball, yoga and strength training. He competes in races and logs roughly 30 miles a week on foot.