How Catra Corbett overcame addiction and became an accomplished ultra-runner, fueled by plants

One hundred 100-mile races is a feat that few people achieve. For 56 year-old Catra Corbett, this is one of many achievements on her running resume. Read on to learn how this meth addict turned vegan endurance athlete found redemption through ultra running and plant-based eating.

Ultrarunner and vegan, Catra Corbett, is a force of nature. At age 56, she has run 100 miles (or more) over 100 times, (and counting!). She also holds the fastest known time for the 425-mile long John Muir Trail, completing it in 12 days, 4 hours, and 57 minutes. And these are just a few highlights from her impressive running resume.

However, Catra Corbett wasn’t always a champion athlete. In her teens and 20s, she dropped out of high school, struggled with drug addiction, and found herself in jail. She outlines her incredible and intriguing story in her memoir, Reborn on the Run, and we think you’re all going to want to get a copy after reading this interview. 

3 vegan burrito bowls in clear rectangle containers on a gray background

When did you go vegan and why?

I’ve been vegetarian since I was 9 but I didn’t commit to an entirely plant-based lifestyle until I got sober almost 27 years ago. My motivation to become vegan was fueled by my love of animals, as well as my desire to pursue a healthier lifestyle as I healed from addiction.

What changes did you notice after going vegan? 

I was not yet an athlete when I became a vegan, however, I found that it helped me stay sober in the early days. Focusing on nourishing, plant-based foods was another way for me to take charge of my well-being (and life). During this period, I struggled with depression, and going vegan helped with mental health too. 

Learn more - Performance starts with nutrition

What do you typically eat in a day?

My day-to-day diet varies depending on my training and racing goals. I eat lots of salads with nuts for plant-based protein and fats and snack on fruit and coconut yogurt. When I’m running, I usually carry packets of almond butter and Muir energy gels for on-the-go snacks. Long runs require frequent fueling.  

Coconut cut in half on blue background

What supplements, if any, do you take?

I take a multivitamin as well as turmeric, elderberry, and vitamin D, to support immunity, and joints, and fight inflammation. I also take B12, BCAA, calcium, collagen, and CoQ10 to promote recovery, support my bones and heart, and fill nutrient gaps given that I’m a vegan. 

What do you typically eat on a race day?

Ultra-marathons burn a lot of calories so fueling before, during, and after the run is critical. Before a race, I usually drink a smoothie with plant-based protein powder for breakfast. 

While I’m running, I munch on a variety of snacks including Muir energy gels, almond butter packets, fruit, chips, and soup. I’ll also eat vegan cookies for extra calories. 

To stay hydrated, I use Tailwind Nutrition powder, which offers a combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes, and coconut water.

Overhead shot of two berry smoothies on a white background

What are your go-to vegan meals and snacks?

I eat a ton of salads and try to focus on whole foods for most of my meals. Occasionally, I make vegan mac and cheese. I also like vegan “tuna” salad made with garbanzo beans. Fruit, coconut yogurt, and almond butter are my favorite snacks. 

What are your favorite vegan products for training and racing?

Muir Energy gels, Kramp Krusher electrolyte chews, Tailwind Nutrition drink mix, and Garden of Life protein bars. I’ve found that these products are easy to digest and keep me well-fueled.  

Vegan spelled out with scrabble tiles on a gray plate, on a white background

What recommendations do you have for other athletes interested in going vegan?

Just go for it! It’s never been easier to follow a plant-based diet because there are so many alternative meats and food choices these days. When I first started following a vegan lifestyle, it was pretty much just tofu and wheat-based foods. Life as a vegan is so much easier now! 

Want to learn more about nutrition for runners? Check out our Ultimate guide to nutrition for runners.

Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.