BENNINGTON -- Tim VanOrden will do whatever it takes today to get his body to the top of a 62-story skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles before hundreds of others.
But unlike his competitors, he is only fueled by fruits and vegetables, some nuts and some seeds, and he eats them only in their natural state: uncooked, unprocessed and unrefined. He is a raw vegan athlete and has been for the past three years.
That is when a mysterious illness caused him to quit his job and try something entirely new. That is when he started running up mountains, then buildings, now in snowshoes and on the track.
More than 70 miles a week
Since then, he has sold off many of his personal possessions to finance his new passion, training more than 70 miles a week, often up mountains, and eating what he believes is the healthiest diet out there.
He is not selling anything, other than a lifestyle. He has created a Web site. He is working on a book and a documentary. He is trying to reach as many people as possible.
"The air is so dusty and dry it literally scorches your trachea to the point where it feels like you're going to die," VanOrden said wearing his self-designed, dry-fit shirt, with the name of his Web site, RunningRaw.com , printed on the front, and his slogan, Powered by Raw Foods, on the back. "You can't breath. Everyone who finishes the race is gasping and holding their throat, and they're screaming and moaning because it hurts so bad."
VanOrden's running journey started on the Paseo Miramar trail in Pacific Palisades, Calif., known for its steep climbs and scenic vistas.
He had been working in Los Angeles as an actor and photographer, adhering to a vegan diet on the advice of a woman who told him that all the movie stars ate that way to stay young looking.
However healthy his diet was -- he ate that way for six years -- the stress of living in Los Angeles finally caught up to him. Eventually, he could not get out of bed. Paralyzed by extreme fatigue, he quit his job.
VanOrden had met people who called themselves "raw foodists," but he never thought anything of it. Now, although skeptical, he was at the point where he was willing to try anything to get better. "At first, I thought why would I want to do that?" he said. "That's stupid, and what do you eat? Bird seed and wheat grass and carrot juice."
But instantly after eating raw foods, he felt better, and after six months, he told himself that he was going to eat this way the rest of his life. His family and friends were supportive.
"When I went vegan, they all thought I was crazy," he said. "It's like, 'Oh no, he's in California now, he's like one of those freaks,'... But when I went raw that didn't happen because they really saw a dramatic difference in me."
VanOrden has been training like a man possessed, but he still only consumes about 1,500 to 2,000 daily calories, less than most inactive men at his weight. It is hard for him to eat more. The 2-pound salad he will have for dinner will only give him about 300 calories. His theory is that his diet has eliminated a large percentage of his caloric need, as he does not require the caloric energy most people do to break down processed and fatty foods.
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