Did you know this past Sunday was ‘World Vegan Day’? It was also ‘National Bison Day’ in the United States, apparently. You could celebrate both at once by simply not eating a bison. Or perhaps display an artificial bison in your living room, adorned with baubles and tinsel. But we’ll park the bison for now (yet another phrase crammed with euphemistic potential) and return to the meat-free matter at hand. To celebrate World Vegan Day, I had been invited by ethical powerhouse Matthew Jones to partake in the Vegan Runners Virtual Race – a two-stage challenge that involves ‘running a minimum of 5k on the 1st November and try to avoid eating any animal products for the day’. I quite like the use of the word ‘try’ there, as it conjures up a host of accidental animal-consumption scenarios: ‘I opened my mouth to talk and a ham sandwich flew in…I thought I was eating a banana, turned out to be a lamb roast…I don’t remember passing out, but when I came to I was on the bathroom floor surrounded by empty Pepperami wrappers’.
Now, I’m not a vegan, but I was happy to give this a go. Why? To broaden my horizons? Further explore the moral, ethical and physical benefits of a meat and dairy-free lifestyle? Indulge in my 200-a-day mung bean habit? No, no, I had a much better reason than all of that bollocks: if you officially signed up for the challenge, paid your entrance fee, completed it and emailed some proof, you got a medal through the post! A MEDAL! YEAH! Pass me the nut cutlets, I’m going in.
So, part one of the challenge was to go for a run. Logistics decreed I had to be in Whitby on Sunday morning as my daughter was playing football, and I planned to utilise that for a scenic run through the town. I’d drop her off, blast out a run whilst she was warming up, then dash back in time to see her game/collect my Father of the Year award before you could say ‘I’ve got a ridiculous calorie deficiency and this beetroot carpaccio isn’t cutting it’.
With the daughter duly deposited with the coach and other kids, off I set. I was aiming to average less than 8 minutes per mile, so the pace would be steady-yet-decent. To make things just that little bit more interesting, this past weekend – in addition to including a day for celebratory Vegans and proclaimed bison – was Whitby Goth Weekend. This meant the town was full of people. Hundreds and hundreds of people, gathered together to share their love of the alternative lifestyle. Goths, punks, steampunks, emos, bikers, metallers… as you can imagine, I fit right in as I dodged between them in my bright yellow running kit. There was this one chap who looked, well, imagine if Ozzy Osbourne – never the picture of health – had been particularly unwell and was now close to death, and his dying wish was to have an unruly blond perm and comically oversized Celtic alter cross hung around his neck. That. Still, each to their own.
The gathered goths had a nice day for it – the sun was blazing and the skies were clear and blue. Actually, is that what the goths would want? They’d be melting under all those layers of velvet and leather. Plus it’s a bit cheery. Leaden skies and mizzle would surely be the preferred ambience-builder. Still, it was good weather for the lone, mental runner. I even paused to take a photo.
Whitby is many things, but one thing it is not is flat. And having ducked and weaved through 400,000 (estimated) costumed revellers, there was a sizeable climb up out of the bay before heading back in the direction of the football field that was playing host to the latest blood-and-thunder clash in the Teesside Junior Football Alliance under-11 girls’ league. Now, a few things to note here:
a) The running part of the challenge was complete when I hit 5k, or 3.1 miles in old money
b) I was so hot and sweaty it was utterly ridiculous. ‘IT’S NOVEMBER FOR CHRIST’S SAKE’ I declared out loud to no-one in particular.
c) Kick-off was imminent
However – and I can’t explain this so don’t make me try – I have to, have to, run over 4 miles or it doesn’t count. Wait, what? I know, I know. This meant having to run around a deserted industrial estate opposite the football field until the magic 4 miles was reached (4.1 to be precise, in 33 minutes), for no reason other than the reason I can’t explain because it’s not a reason. Anywho, by the time I got to the game it had already kicked off and they were 2-0 down. Gah. They would go on to lose 7-1. But the real drama came when a fellow parent asked me if I wanted a cup of tea, only for me to accept the offer but then go into a fabulously over-elaborate monologue about why I couldn’t have milk in it.
Which neatly leads me into part two of the challenge: diet. Could I go the whole day without meat n’ cheese n’ milk n’ stuff? Pfft, this is me: I respond best when I’m challenged to do something for a meaningless medal. Of course I could. I’ll even present you with a breakdown of what I had and show you a picture of each. It’ll be a bit like one of those proper blogs that people like.
Breakfast – peach slices nestling on a bed of crisped rice with some coconut drink sloshed over it. ‘Twas alright was that.
Lunch – roasted vegetable cous-cous with red pepper and half a finger bun. And before anyone questions the validity of my bun, I double checked that it was vegan. No milky bunnage for me.
Tea – right, look at this. I cooked this. From actual ingredients and everything. Its red lentil dhal and it’s one of the three recipes I can make without poisoning loved ones and/or burning the house down. I have to say – objectively, of course – it’s extremely nice.
Look, here’s a picture of me cooking it.
Move over Jamie Oliver and, erm, Gary Rhodes? Is he still a thing? I’m out of touch. There was that bloke with the moustache who was on This Morning. What was he called? Was it Kevin something? Brian Turner! Thank you, Internet. Although a Google search for ‘moustached chef’ was surprisingly unhelpful. He’s got a CBE. But wait, ‘Brian Turner has honorary doctorates from both Leeds Metropolitan University and Sheffield Hallam University’? Can you do that? Just collect honorary doctorates like other people collect Panini football stickers? Can you call yourself ‘Dr’ with an honorary doctorate? Moreover, can you call yourself ‘Dr’ twice if you’ve got two? ‘Please welcome to the stage Dr Dr Brian Turner CBE’. Clearly he’s playing both institutions off against each other in a quest to be named Chancellor of one of them, stepping ever closer to the dream of having a 14-foot bronzed likeness of himself placed prominently in a Yorkshire university campus and the university library renamed as the ‘Dr Dr Brian Turner CBE Information Resources Centre’.
In the evening of World Vegan Day I went to the cinema to see the latest James Bond effort and took a peanut-based vegan snack with me. In retrospect, ‘nuts with Spectre’ sounds like a follow up to ‘Tea with Mussolini’. To me. And only me, I suspect. I acknowledge I have failed to include a picture of my nuts. But you all know what nuts look like.
So, there you have it. I ran. I avoided consuming flesh or indeed any animal products at all for a whole 24-hour period. Who says there are no more heroes anymore? The Stranglers did, in 1977. But they were wrong, as it turns out, because money raised from the cost of entering the virtual race goes to help Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. But, will I be embracing the vegan lifestyle on a more permanent basis? Well, no. Alas, the lure of the cheese is too strong. Captain. But I have dabbled with vegetarianism in the past. I’m not wedded to meat (there’s a mental image – ‘we now pronounce you man and “wife”. You may kiss the kebab’) and despite my gentle mockery of vegan fare earlier in this post, I’m rather fond of planty provisions. But for now I shall remain as an omnivore *tofu prices crash* with an open mind. But, never mind all this shite, WHERE’S MY MEDAL, MR POSTMAN!?