Rich Roll, Vegan Ultra-Athlete, Recovered from Alcoholism and the Standard American Diet

One day, Rich Roll, a 41-year-old father of four, was out for what he planned would be a five or six mile run. Maybe it was the plant-based vegan diet he had recently adopted, or some primal, ancestral energy stream he had suddenly tapped into, but on that particular day, Roll didn't want to stop at six miles. He didn't want to stop at 10, or 17. After a whopping 23 miles, a distance he had never before come close to running, a stunned Roll finally decided to head home and strip off his sweat-soaked shorts and socks. This was a stark contrast from his state of being six months earlier, when he experienced chest pains upon walking up a single flight of stairs. After his impromptu near-marathon run, he knew his new lifestyle choices were unlocking some powerful strength and health. But he still could not have anticipated that within a matter of a year, he would be tackling the Epic5 endurance race, one of the most grueling voluntary physical challenges on the planet, which entails completing five back-to-back Ironman competitions within five days on five different Hawaiian islands.

Roll's miraculous health transformation was not the first metamorphosis he had undergone. About ten years before his health scare on the staircase, Roll had entered into recovery from alcohol and drug addiction and ceased the decades-spanning abuses he had inflicted on his body and mind. He began a successful law practice and met his health-minded, vegetarian, yoga-instructor wife, now the mother of his four children.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.