Veteran vegan runner takes six medals from six

Veteran athlete and writer Ellen Jaffe Jones was aiming for the nationals this season as she took on a variety of track events. Competing in the 65-69 age category, she needed to finish in the top 5 at county level to qualify for the Florida games, then in the top 4 at State level to reach the nationals. Not everything went to plan.

12 December 2018

“I got stung by a bee at the check-in table after the second event. I’ve had asthma, chronic bronchitis and allergic skin reactions to stings in the past, so the medics weren’t crazy about me jumping right back on the track for the next event until my pulse settled down. But since I was wearing my ‘Eat Vegan on $4 a Day’ tank, I wasn’t going to let the sting stop me. I was glad to know the bee population in Florida isn’t completely dead!”

“We also had a three hour delay from a huge storm system that was so dark, the lights came on. It rained throughout the day. The rain and wind on our backs was mighty fine. But coming around the track in the opposite direction, in our faces, not so much.”

Ellen was ambitious in this, her fourth State-level track meet. She entered six events: 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 metres. This comes at a time when the competitiveness of the games is increasing.

“The games used to be thought of as lightweight, not serious, and frankly, they just didn’t have a good reputation for serious competition. But Florida passed New York a couple of years ago as the third largest state. Because of our generally good weather, the boomers are arriving with a vengeance. It is not uncommon to see three 5K races on the same day or weekend, something you never would have seen 10 years ago.”

“People who are retiring or about to are looking for ways to fill up their days and spending hours in a gym or training is no problem. As a certified personal trainer and running coach, I’ve seen it first hand. So my age group at State was the largest field. A woman who is 4 years younger than me and usually beats me at local 5K races competed for the first time at State this year. She did two events and asked, “How can you do all 6 and place in them as well? That takes such stamina.” I view it all as the total distance I ran was less than 2 miles. Compared to a marathon, 6 events are a piece of carrot cake.”


Ellen found she was in excellent shape for each of the events, and incredibly managed to take a Gold in each event. She wrote all her times from two years ago on her arm and saw an improvement on them all, with almost a minute taken off the 1500 metres.

“Since my biggest time improvement was the 1500 meters, and that’s always been my best event, that’s my favourite” she tells us. “I believe that meat-eaters run out of juice, energy and air more quickly. At 5K races, I’ve heard people say as I pass at the end, ‘there goes that vegan energy.’ When I did Nationals the first time, by the time day 4 rolled around with the 1500 meters, I heard many competitors at check-in ‘scratching’ saying they were too sore or tired to continue to compete. I was a little sore, but not enough to quit.”

The Nationals

The National games are held every two years. “At the last Nationals in 2016, I got 3rd in the 4×100 meters, 5th in the 800, 7th in the 1500 and 400 meters. This year, I’ll be in the middle of my 5 year age group, so my odds may not be as good as they were two years ago when I was the youngest. I will remain positive because you just never know. 4 years ago, the best I got was 7th in my age group in the 1500 and was delighted with that.

“Getting a beautiful bronze medal for the relay from the National Senior Games was a trip. It is also great fun hanging out with many senior runners who increasingly, are now coming up to me and telling me they’re vegan too. The main thing is that vegans generally don’t get osteoarthritis, the degenerative version of the disease that comes with aging, as much as the general population. Animal protein attacks the joints in ways that plants don’t. Joints in motion also love to stay that way. Research shows runners have better knees than the population as a whole because we’re using the muscles all around the knees.” However,

Ellen hasn’t had everything go her way.

“I was diagnosed with a genetic autoimmune disease, psoriatic arthritis, back in January 2018. What I read online made me cry believing that I’d be lucky to be walking in a year’s time, let alone running. I really thought my running career was done. Then, my Vegan Sex co-author and cardiologist, Dr. Joel Kahn, put me in touch with Dr. Brooke Goldner, who had reversed her autoimmune disease, lupus, by drinking 64 ounces of green smoothies and a gallon (that’s 100 ounces!) of water every day. Dr. Goldner’s 2 books, including ‘Goodbye Lupus’ really helped.

“I posted before and after photos on my facebook page that showed my hands and fingers painfully cracked and bleeding. My fingernails were starting to come off and my finger joints swelling. And I was fatigued like I’d never experienced. I’d been eating vegan of course, but on the road traveling so much, I’d become more dependent on convenience foods and especially Clif Bars, sometimes 3-4 a day. Once I went back to whole foods and stuck to the plan, the disease began reversing. 3 months later, no signs. 6 months later, by the time I got in to see a local rheumatologist, she looked at all my joints and said, ‘Why are you here? You have no signs of inflammation anywhere in your body.’ I gave her Dr. Goldner’s book, but I’m not sure she believed it.

“As a result of all this, I dropped 10 pounds. I wasn’t trying to lose it and my body feels and looks better for it. I also believe that’s been huge in my performance improvement. I’ve seen equations for weight loss drops and race improvement times. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, but I definitely feel the new lighter weight has helped. My weight is the lightest it’s been in since my twenties.”

Ellen has also been eating beets and drinking their juice for the nitric oxide, which has positively affected her breathing. She’s hoping it will help her to success in the National games.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” she says. “This year, they’re in Albuquerque. Not cheap to hang out there for a week, but it must be done to show that vegans get plenty of protein, energy etc. I do it because so many have told me over the years that you can’t run/race on a vegan diet, while I’m holding one of the now, 148 5K or longer age group awards from a 5K or longer since 2006 ‘just’ on plants. The world we are handing to the next generation is a sorry mess. I can’t imagine what my three daughters and their generation will be dealing with. I hope they’re all listening and watching.”

Ellen’s profile

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