Gareth Pritchard is a regular competitive runner who has tackled some of the longest ultramarathons and taken fantastic results.
He has the Welsh national record for 24-hour running (all surfaces) from April 2023, a race in which he broke three more records (more here). The 160-mile run also eclipsed the best for 12 hours and the record times for 100 miles and 200 km (more here).
However, it was not his first highlight. In 2018 he entered Endure24, running a 5-mile trail loop for 24 hours, breaking the course record with 125 miles. A year later he returned with a major difference – he had moved from meat eater to vegan.
“I ran the exact same course and race as a vegan, improving on my distance, recovery, and performance in general at the same time. It proved to me beyond doubt that I’d made the right decision to turn vegan and it was helping my running in every way possible.” He broke his record by ten miles.
In May 2021 Gareth ran the Hardmoors 160 race. “I had a lot of vegan food to keep me going and remained focused on my own goals, to get to the end. Unfortunately, I twisted my ankle just 20 miles in and almost had to retire.”
Incredibly not only did he continue, but he completed the 160-mile course and won in 37 hours 52 minutes.
“It was my longest ever run/race and a massive benchmark in my ultra-running achievements. It opened up new possibilities for me with a podcast interview and submission of a detailed race report to vegan runners.”
- National record, 24 hours
- Course record, Endure 24
- Team GB runner
In April 2022 Gareth ran the 100 km Anglo Celtic Plate, an annual battle between the Welsh, English, Irish and Scots.
“I qualified and was selected to be part of the Welsh 100k team earning my first Welsh Vest at 42 years of age, a moment I will forever be proud of. I placed second in the Welsh team on the day, and much higher up the field than I expected. A great chance to fly the vegan flag along the way with the help of my support team.”
Just months later he was awarded his first Great Britain vest. Gareth ran in the GB 24-hour team at the European championships in Verona Italy September 2022.
“This was a special moment to reach the very highest level in my sport. I ran 247 km at the event, out of the nine-man team, I placed 6th GB athlete and enjoyed every moment of the experience. I got a small glimpse at what professional athletes experience. Traveling in full GB kit, staying in a team hotel, going through the opening ceremony, and waving the flags. I still can’t quite believe I achieved it, but I did, now I can forever say I was a GB athlete at the very top of my sport, a dream come true after years of hard work.”
By early 2019 Gareth had become vegan.
“In 2018 I went on holiday to Vietnam, and it opened my eyes to animal cruelty and how bad humans treat them. I remember eating a local meal including fish full of bones which really was an awful experience, also seeing all the live animals at the wet markets waiting to be slaughtered.”
Gareth’s wife, who is often his support crew at races, was already cutting down on animal products.
“Christmas dinner of 2018 was the last time I knowingly consumed animal products and have never looked back since then. We then worked to transition other parts of our life, choosing non- leather shoes, making sure we purchased cruelty free household and cosmetic products.
“I tend to eat a mixed variety of healthy and non-healthy products. I’m certainly not always a healthy vegan, I love chocolate, most sweet treats, pizza and even ‘pork’ pies are some of my favourite things, thankfully these are all available to vegans now, so I make the most of these options.”
“I was curious to see if it would improve my health, recovery, fitness, weight and running in general.
“Selfishly, I had already started to see the health benefits but the main reason I made that leap to vegan and not just plant based or vegetarian was the realisation of just how horrific and cruel the meat/dairy industry was. We watched a few documentaries at this transition time, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Forks Over Knives, Dairy is scary, Seaspiracy, What the Health. They absolutely blew my mind and were really hard to watch.
“Being vegan for me is very much more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle and a way of viewing the world and having respect for animals.
“The unnecessary suffering these animals go through just so I can have my milk, eggs, or a burger is horrific. I have two dogs and I would be devastated if anyone harmed them, the documentaries helped me see other animals in the same way. I now knew for a fact I didn’t need these products and I was actually healthier without them in my diet / life. A win for me and the animals.
“I watched Game Changers when it was released which reinforced lots of things I’d already realised or proven in my fitness and then Hogwood – a modern horror story, and this further cemented in me how bad the farming industry is and why I will never support the abuse of animals again with the choices I make.”
Fuelling the distances
Gareth likes to make his meals from scratch and likes meals from books – particularly ‘The Dirty Vegan’ by Matt Pritchard. He’ll eat vegan fast food and likes a pastry and coffee. At home there’s a lot of beans, pulses, fruits and vegetables, tofu and meat alternatives.
“I love a good Sunday roast and its very easy to make these vegan now with most supermarkets doing a good selection of non-meat roast alternatives. Chocolate and biscuits also make a good portion of the things I eat. Bourbons, Lotus Biscoff, Oreos, Party Rings, even certain stores doughnuts are vegan. It’s possible to be an unhealthy vegan eater, so it’s something to keep an eye on.”
Training mileage is relatively low among ultra runners, running 4-5 days per week, 40-60 miles per week. In training for the 24 hour race where he broke the Welsh record his longest run was 22 miles.
He also mixes in weekly Body Pump classes, stretching and swimming and general weight training with lighter weights. He also walks his dogs daily and runs with them.
An important part of the success is friend and coach, Anna Seeley.
“I absolutely trust her with my training and she knows how I run, think and will react. She will put a loose training program together for me which we then adapt along the way. She decides on what’s possible for my races, the plan and then gets me to believe in it.”
Anna is also vegan and a great part of the team effort to get great results. As is Gareth’s wife Catherine.
“Catherine organises my food and preparation for running and will be my support crew on most race days taking charge of everything I need. She helps me be the best version of myself which in turn translates into race results!
“My core team of Anna and Catherine are irreplaceable and priceless. They know what I can eat, what I like and how I’m feeling & what I need, it’s one of the key reasons why I’ve been so successful as an ultra-runner.”
Gareth would like to represent Britain again, although he knows it is not easy to make selection due to the high standards. He’s also keen to compete in the Angle Celtic Plate again. However, it’s not just the extreme distances on his mind.
“An age graded Welsh Masters vest at other distances will also be one of my goals. At 43 I’m not getting any younger and the chance to run for Wales is very exciting. I will try soon at most distances from 5k to the marathon if possible. I love a challenge.”
“I’ve always been a fast flat short road runner at heart, the lock downs forced me to change to longer smaller ultra-races, as these were the only races allowed. It ended up with me winning the Hardmoors 160 miles trail race and now a GB vest at 24 hours and a Welsh National record. So sometimes it’s worth trying a new distance or race or event, as it might just be your calling.”
“Being vegan for me is very much more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle and a way of viewing the world and having respect for animals. I would not knowingly eat meat, dairy or fish, or purchase items such as cleaning products or cosmetics at home or when I travel. I’m also realistic in the fact that it can be harder to eat vegan when abroad at times but it’s always possible to adapt and prepare for these challenges if you’re willing, even if chips salad bread and fruit become the main meal every day!”