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Burning Runner Extra: Improving My Time–And Diet

Focused on losing weight, feeling better and improving his performance, T.J. gives his intake an overhaul.

Written by: T.J Murphy

This past weekend I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon benefiting The American Cancer Society, finishing the 13.1-mile distance in a time of 1:51:04. As I mentioned in my first column, the core idea of the program is to turn the traditional idea of what fat burning is about on its head. As opposed to suffering through a diet, my aim is to make a game of it all, overhauling my diet and training for an improvement in my running.

Indeed, diet is involved, and my intent is to have some fun challenging myself to adopt a way of life that is more conducive to being lean, supremely healthy and running well. I’m not thinking of it in terms of restricting what I eat, but rather supplanting the junk that I’ve had in my diet with high-performance, wholesome food.

And diet should be involved for anyone wishing to burn off extra pounds. Running by itself is not always enough.  As Eric Ravussin, a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., told the NY Times, “In general, exercise by itself is pretty useless for weight loss.”  Research indicates that diet is more effective in creating weight loss and exercise is more effective in changing the ways we burn fuel.  In other words, use diet to burn off the pounds and running to keep the pounds off for good.

After getting back from Chicago on Monday I took a shopping list to the grocery store (click here to take a peek at it) to begin the first dietary challenge between now and December 5, when I’ll run my goal half marathon at the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll event.

My goal time? A bit more than 20 minutes actually. I’m looking to run sub 1:30.

I’ve decided to go the route advised by the likes of Brendan Brazier (author of “Thrive Fitness”) and ultra-running great Scott Jurek and follow a vegan diet—no meat or dairy products. I’ve also decided after talking to Brazier to chuck the coffee habit—as I mentioned before, I think coffee has too strong of a negative effect on me.

I think it’s critical to point out that ridding of excess weight is just one reason I’m overhauling my diet. The experts I’ve consulted with discussed how replacing a junk food  addiction with a clean, healthy diet leads to the following benefits: feeling better, sleeping better, a better mood, more energy, a stronger immune system and less of the inflammation that leads to sore, tired joints.

After giving it some thought, I decided against a plan that drew me into a vegan diet gradually, and rather decided to just jump in full tilt. Next Monday I’ll report on how it’s going and how it feels.

The following are my nutritional goals for the week:


1. Replace coffee with green tea.

2. Completely adopt a vegan diet.

3. Make fruits, vegetables and whole grains the principle focus of my diet.

4. Learn how to cook a new meal from the book  “Speed Vegan”.

Benefits I’m Seeking

  • Loss of fat
  • Improved mood
  • Higher energy levels
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Solid training


T.J. Murphy is a contributing editor to Competitor and the Editorial Director of Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines. Previous installments of his Burning Runner column can be read here. He can be reached by e-mail at