Morgan Mitchell, vegan sprinter
Morgan Mitchell is a sprinter who specialises in the 400 metres. She’s represented Australia on numerous occasions including at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
As a young child she trained in athletics although she gave it up to concentrate on netball when she was twelve. She was a successful player, making the national junior team, and returned to the track in 2012.
In that year aged 17 she competed in the World Junior Championships in Spain where she made the semi finals and finished 13th with a run of 53:88. She helped Australia finish 8th in the relays.
In 2014 Morgan helped her country to a win in the B final at the IAAF World Relays and competing as an adult finished 17th in the Commonwealth Games where she also helped the relay team to finish 4th. The following year her Australian team finished 7th in the IAAF World Relays and 12th in the World Championships as she helped them run under 3:30 in total. Morgan also ran a 52:66 in the 400 metres in Canberra.
She has been National 400 metres Champion twice.
In 2016 she set a Personal best of 51:25 in Birmingham, UK and qualified for the Olympics. The run was the fastest by an Australian woman for thirteen years. She entered the Olympics unbeaten. There she made the semi finals of the 400 metres where she ran 52:68 following a 51:30 run in the heats.
Morgan also helped Australia make the final of the 4 x 400 metres where they ran 3:27:54 and finished 8th. Unsurprisingly the whole experience ranks among her most valued experiences. “My greatest achievement was making the Olympic team this year for the 400m and 4x400m. My most proud moment was this season where I had finished my domestic season undefeated and had ticked every goal I had set out for that year. It was just a really special feeling because at the time some of those goals had seemed unrealistic.”
Morgan has been vegan since 2014.
“I went vegan about 2 years ago now” she told us soon after the Olympics “My now ex boyfriend had watched a few documentaries and showed me them and said we should go vegan. I dropped everything instantly and did it. It was this weird light bulb moment... I haven't looked back since.”
Travelling presents some issues, although none that she finds too difficult and it doesn’t mean she needs to consider compromising.
“I am completely vegan! It's an all or nothing kind of deal with me. Whenever I have to travel I always do some research to see where the nearest supermarket is and if there are any cool vegan cafe's around. In regards to travelling for my sport I always let the head of athletics know so that once I get to the athlete's village I won't have to stress about reading any labels and finding the right food.”
Running the 400 metres is considered tough because athletes have to maintain high workrates for extended periods (unlike 100 and 200 metre races). It’s a measure of how far an athlete can run at maximum speed followed by how hard she can push herself for the rest of the race after fatigue sets in. It requires the strategy and endurance of a middle-distance race, but also the raw speed of a short sprint. This means that athletes have to train both their speed and endurance.
Fuelling this training is therefore key to Morgan’s success. “I eat a lot of peanut butter, green apples, dates, veggie dumplings and Pho [Vietnamese noodle soup]... Now that I think of it other than trying to get a lot of fruit and veg in each day, those are my go to snacks!”
While her vegan diet may not be commonplace, Morgan’s team have accepted her choices and taken an interest in them. “They love checking out all of the vegan cafes in Melbourne with me and are now adopting a bit more of a healthier lifestyle which is good to see."
Her continued improvements have provided evidence that it works.
“After running pb after pb on my vegan diet I don't think they could argue at all. There is still banter sometimes but you just have to shake it off and laugh.”
We caught up with Morgan at age 21 when she had achieved so much at a young age, achieving a ranking of 16th internationally, but she was still looking ahead.
“My hopes and plans are pretty straight forward and simple. It's to represent Australia each year at major competitions and to keep running faster. I would also like to do a bit more off the track with sponsors which would be fun.”
One thing that is clear with Morgan is that veganism is crucial to this.
“People often ask me ‘What if the vegan diet fails and you start running slower?’, ‘Will you ever eat meat again?’ or ‘Don't you miss meat?’. I just have to reiterate the fact that the life of an animal and the well being of the environment means more to me than any amount of money or the career path I wish to take, because without them we wouldn't have life. Sounds cliche and cheesy but it is true. That's just the way I see it.”