As the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the nation's largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, Gene Baur seizes every opportunity to raise awareness and understanding about the effects of factory farming and the cheap food system in our country. Marathon running has given him a new outlet for his energy and a unique way to advocate for animals. We caught up with Baur shortly after he finished the Boston Marathon.
What compelled you to switch from casual running to marathons?
I had been a runner for decades, and fellow runners supportive of Farm Sanctuary started sending me information about organized races. I signed up for my first official half marathon in 2009 and was encouraged by the experience. I met my girlfriend, a triathlete, in 2011, and she was training to run the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C., later that year. We ran together and I decided to sign up for the Rock-n-Roll marathon in D.C. the following spring. My girlfriend gave me a training program, which I followed, and I completed my first marathon in around 3 hours, 28 minutes.
What has your experience been finding vegan running shoes and other gear?
It has been very easy finding vegan running shoes and other gear. Companies that make running shoes have been using vegan materials because they are lighter and better than leather. And, running shirts and shorts tend not to include wool, leather, or other animal products.
Where is your favorite place to run?
I grew up running on trails in Griffith Park, in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles, and that remains my favorite place to run today. I enjoy the warm weather in Southern California and like spending time in nature amid the sprawling metropolis below.
How do you promote the animal-welfare cause through your running?
As a long-time vegan, I like to demonstrate that vegan foods can support significant athletic feats, and I share nutritional information about the efficacy of plant foods with fellow athletes. One of the best ways to promote animal welfare is to not eat animals, and thankfully, plant-based foods are loaded with everything a human body needs to thrive. In addition to marathons, I've completed a number of triathlons, including an Ironman, which entails swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running a 26.2-mile marathon.
Have you had any memorable conversations with other runners about veganism or Farm Sanctuary?
I have had numerous conversations with runners about veganism, and about Farm Sanctuary. Runners seem interested in living healthy, mindful lives. Most conversations happen before or after races, but some happen during races too. Approaching the 20-mile mark during the LA Marathon in 2013, I was running with the 3:25 pace group. The group leader noticed my shirt, which had a picture of a cow on the front and "Go Vegan" on the back. He told me how he went vegetarian after looking into the eyes of a cow and connecting with her.