Paul Youd smiling with a baseball cap on with ‘Vegan AF’ spelled out on the cap


Paul Youd

Never too old to run: 85-year-old vegan ultra-runner Paul Youd

We at V-Land UK caught up with Paul Youd, the 85-year-old vegan ultramarathon runner, who shared some of his story with us. We couldn’t wait to question him about his running and fundraising, and more importantly we wanted to delve into his reasons for taking on such hard challenges at such an advanced age. So, let’s get started.

V-Land UK (V-L): Firstly, we want to thank you for taking the time to speak to us Paul. You have run so many ultramarathons at such an advanced age, and we must ask: is it as easy as you make it look? 

Paul Youd (PY): Well, I’d better start by saying that I’m walking at the moment - after breaking my leg last year. However, since 70% of ultra participants walk them, I’m in good company. And no, I have to say, I don’t ever find them easy. But there are highs and lows. 

I’ll never forget my very first ultra - when I was climbing Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Somerset. My overriding memory of that day was the weather - it was appalling. The rain was torrential, the wind was whipping across, and there were thunderstorms around. Conditions were brutal - and I heard later that several people had gone down with hyperthermia. 

Whilst climbing that muddy, stony trail, attempting vainly to control my poncho, I remember saying to my companion, “You know what, mate? There’s nowhere else I’d rather be!” All my senses were on full alert - I felt so alive! And from that moment, I was hooked.

V-L: Your transition to veganism is quite an interesting one, you gave up meat to avoid mad cow disease and eventually went vegan when you realised what was happening in the animal agricultural industry. What was it specifically that revealed the true nature of the industry to you? 

PY: It was learning about the horrors of the dairy industry that sparked my move towards veganism - and around the same time there was a TV programme about the fate of male chicks - who don’t lay eggs, so they are disposed of on the day they are born. Well, I didn’t want any part of that, so I gave up all animal products. To my shame that didn’t happen until I was 65. Part of the reason for my animal rights activism is to try in some small way to atone for all those years of hurt I caused.

V-L: You told The Vegan Society that your transition to a vegan diet cured your osteoarthritis. This is hugely significant! What other benefits came with the diet change?

PY: I was diagnosed with COPD, caused by smoking in my youth. I was discharged from the Lung Clinic after 6 months because I was so fit - and now I don’t think I’ve got COPD any more. I certainly don’t suffer from any chest complaints. 

Oh, and another benefit of being vegan is that I sleep easy with a clear conscience!

V-L: We see that you have taken part in several fundraisers and have raised such a large amount of money in the process. What is it about Viva! that makes you choose them for your fundraising?

PY: I initially fundraised for Dean Farm Sanctuary - when I started doing my ultras, I thought I would switch my fundraising between sanctuaries and groups that took part in some form of direct action. But Viva! encompasses a whole range of animal-friendly activities, I thought I would just stick with them. Makes the admin a whole lot easier!

Paul Youd smiling before running a marathon, wearing a Vegan Runners shirt

Paul Youd

V-L: You have inspired a lot of people, vegan or otherwise, with your story Paul. What advice would you give to those new to running?

PY: Run easy. Have a look at 80/20 running, where 80% of your runs take place in heart rate zone two, which is very slow, but it trains the cardio and respiratory systems to work more efficiently. The result is you run with less effort during higher intensity runs. 

I’m inspired by some of the athletes I’ve heard interviewed on Rich Roll’s podcast, which are great to listen to when you’re out there running (or walking). Some of these include David Goggins, Fiona Oakes and Courtney Dauwalter, but there are many more - each with an inspirational story.

David Goggins in particular has given me several mantras which carry me forward when things are tough: Be uncomfortable; become comfortable with being uncomfortable; we can all do much more than we think we can. When you think you’re done, you’ve nothing left - you’ve only used up 40% of your resources.

And, when I’m out there on the trail, I’m doing it for the animals. And no matter how hard it might be for me, animals have it far worse. So I just get on with it.

V-L: As well as being an active member of Vegan Runners UK, we see you are also an ambassador for the Running on Plants campaign. How did you find the experience through the month of June? 

PY: I found it very beneficial! All the training plans, exercise routines I found very useful. I was pretty much up to speed with plant-based nutrition, but I know others would have found it to their advantage. I myself knocked a couple of minutes off my 5k walk over the 30 days.

V-L: To run such large distances your nutrition must be on point. Are there any foods or products you recommend eating before an ultramarathon? 

PY: Yes, I take a shot of Beet It Sport Nitrate 400, before each day of an ultra, and another at the halfway mark. It produces nitric oxide which helps deliver more oxygen to your muscles (and I think it is recommended by over 230 sports organisations). The effects kick in about 3 hours later. 

V-L: Lastly, we want to ask what’s next for Paul Youd? Are there any challenges you’re currently working on? 

PY: My next challenge is in early August - the SWC50, a 50k loop from Minehead along the coast to Porlock, over Dunkery Beacon, then back down to Minehead again. I did this last year accompanied by film producer Tom Pickering, for the film I Could Never Go Vegan, due for release ‘shortly’. 

Then at the end of September, I have a 50k ultra over the Chilterns. My overall target is to do 100 ultras - a mixture of actual and virtual - by my 100th birthday. If I do three of each, every year, I should get there. I’ve done 11 so far, and I’ve just embarked on a virtual trek from Lands End to John O’Groats, which I should complete sometime in the New Year. These virtual ones have the benefit of making sure I get out there and put the miles in so that I’m fit when an actual ultra comes around.

Good luck with your upcoming ultras Paul. You’ve inspired so many and have certainly had a positive impact on others. If you’re interested in reading about more inspirational plant-based athletes check out: how does a plant-based diet help these famous athletes? and elite vegan athletes: 5 Olympians you didn’t know were vegan.

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