Brutal trail race sees vegan runner take second

Vegan trail runner Alister Gardner is known for taking on some tough races and so it was no surprise that he revisited the 30 km Escarpment race.

2 August 2019

The race website the 30 km course in stark term.   “It is extremely rocky and a runner must expect to navigate over boulders, downed trees, gullies and hidden roots the entire distance. Contestants must be prepared to deal with any of the forest’s natural barriers, such as bees, slippery rocks, porcupines, black bears (not probable, but possible) and anything else that can be found in the forests of the Catskills. There are numerous places where runners must climb hand over fist to scale a rise, conversely, extremely steep downhill sections add not only challenge to the course, but also a high degree of unwelcome danger. There are sections of the course that travel along cliffs. If you’re not careful, you could fall to your death. Very few runners go the distance without taking at least one painful spill. “

“I did the race last year for the first time and was sure I could do better” said Alister. “I am really enjoying this type of distance as it faster than the ultra distances but still has the endurance element to it.”

Returning to the race in New York state, Alister knew what to expect.  “Some of the uphills are very steep and it is more scrambling than running.  The fun part of that is the downhills and navigating the technical terrain at speed.”

Facing the challenge

“Over the first 20 kilometres it was a close race between me and the guy behind.  I was stronger on the climbs and was taking it easy on the downhills, it seemed he was doing the opposite and was often catching me by the time we were at the bottom of the hill.

“On the final descent I decided to push hard and was able to properly break away.  I was told at around the midway point that first place was four and a half minutes ahead, but in the last few kilometres I was told I was just over a minute behind.  The distance to the finish was too short though and finished 1’30” behind first place.  It was 3’30” faster than last year and the first place was 2 minute slower than last year, so a promising sign of progress.”

The 38 year old Canadian was over seven minutes ahead of third place; 242 runners finished.


Alister turned vegan in 2012 after learning about the cruelty in animal agriculture.

He once told Great vegan Athletes “For anyone considering trying a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet then I suggest you go for it; go online and you will find plenty of resources and numerous recipes.  It doesn’t need to be an instant change but to try one new recipe each week is a start.  It won’t take long to start noticing the difference.  The more stuff you cook yourself from scratch the better.”

He has trained hundreds of miles with his rescue dogs Chester and Gaston.


More on the course 

Alister’s profile

Alister’s dogs

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