Vegan runner runs fantastic 50k against international elite

A vegan runner and Indian record holder has run an incredible 50k race in Thailand.

9 January 2024

Sandeep Kumar, who has never eaten meat, faced the distance – well over a standard marathon with height gain of 2872 metres.

“I didn’t get much time to train specifically for this race but I’m quite active in the outdoors on daily basis” Sandeep explained.

The Hmong 50 is part of the prestigious UTMB (Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc) series and attracts a quality field from around the world.

Sandeep finished in 5 hours 33 minutes 26 seconds to take second in his category. He was in the top ten overall and the result qualifies Sandeep for the class UTMB race in the French Alps in August/September 2024.    He is the only Indian to have qualified for the race.

The result endorses Sandeep’s decision to leave his engineering job (even though he was sponsored) four years ago to train more and become a full time runner and athletics coach.

“The transition from high-altitude training to low-altitude race running was difficult for the body to adjust to. Also, I practiced in colder climates and the race was held in hot and humid conditions which meant acclimatization was tough. As the race began, the initial pace was slow as there were thousands of participants present on the single-track trails who started before me and overtaking them was difficult. But as the run progressed, I was able to gather energy for the remainder of the race.”

The most challenging part was the downhill section which included fallen trees, moving stones and streams.

Sandeep classes this race as one of the highlights of his career.

Vegan runner

Born into a vegetarian family, Sandeep turned vegan in 2015.

“Initially my decision was based on sports performance” he says. “I got to know that just being vegetarian isn’t satisfactory for me in terms of compassion and environmental conscious person.”

He found the diet helped him in this race.

“Of course being a hardcore vegan athlete I have edge in terms of recovery and lean body mass” he says.

Sandeep is the fastest ever Indian runner at the Comrades 90 km Ultra Marathon and has the Indian national record for 100 km.