People | Micah Risk.
Micah Risk, who are you?
Well that is a loaded question.
This is how I describe myself on Instagram: Mom, idealist, vegan, Janji corps.
It’s concise, but a pretty accurate portrayal of who I am. To dive deeper, I’m an athlete and I’ve been running A LOT lately (you might know me from Runner’s World covers Oct 2014 and Dec 2013). I’m also the co-founder of a software company, Lighter, that was recently highlighted in Forbes. I have a background in food policy and nutrition from Tufts University. I spend most of my time with my wonderful 7 year old daughter, Pru, and in my free time I’m an avid gardener and I’m learning more tricks in the kitchen from a professional culinary course.
Epic! fascinating life you live, so much goodness. When did you start running? What inspired you to start?
I don’t tell this story often, but here it goes. I was a bit lost in my fitness routine in my late 20s. I grew up playing soccer competitively and after that went away I had no idea how to structure my physical activity. Even more complicated was my personal life – a young mom and in grad school – I had limited time and resources. Brogan Graham, famed co-founder of November Project, hosted a 5k at the local gym I had been a member of, and the top 3 finishers received a free pair of New Balance shoes. So, I entered the race and I won a free pair of shoes! After that I signed up for a 9-mile race and came in as the first female finisher. After that a friend encouraged me to sign up for a marathon. The rest is history!
Wow! you were clearly born to run. What does running represent in your life?
My relationship to running changes with almost every run. Sometimes it’s goal-oriented and part of a very deliberate plan. I am naturally very competitive. But I try to keep running as a recreational part of my life as much as possible. My relationship to running is the healthiest when I’m having fun, connecting with my surroundings, my running partners, and myself. For me, it’s grown-up play time and I strongly believe it should be a fun, positive experience.
100%! That’s very refreshing to hear, especially coming from a professional athlete like yourself. I have a similar relationship to running, just as an ‘amateur’ runner. Agreed – ensuring that our work and life endeavours are fun is absolutely healthy approach!
I was inspired to learn that you follow a vegan diet, and was impressed by your brilliant food company ‘Lighter’ – a vegan focused platform. When and why did you decide to adopt this lifestyle?
I was 16 years old when I stopped eating animals as a new year’s resolution. At some point during that time I saw undercover footage of factory farms, where almost all animal products come from, and I was appalled. I knew right away that this was not a system I could participate in. I stopped eating meat, and as I learned more about the environmental and health benefits related to veganism, I soon removed all animal products from my diet. The impact our food choices have on the world is massive, and it is really subtle shift from one source of protein to another that can have a direct influence on the status of our planet’s health.
Absolutely! I commend you for syncing your values with your consumption choices. Quite the coincidence, as I too was 16 when I deciding to transition towards a plant-based diet. How has a vegan diet impacted your performance as a runner? in reference to endurance & strength?
Fortunately vegan (or plant-based) options are naturally great for athletes- both in terms of fueling ahead of a workout, fueling during a run, and post-workout recovery. A plant-centered diet is full of easily-digestible food (which means more energy!) and nutrients that and aid in reducing inflammation.
Indeed! I have experience the same benefits, and as a fellow Nutrition Practitioner, often explain and advocate these very points to my clients.
How would you say this way of eating impacted your life in other ways?
It’s influenced everything in my life. From my college and graduate school education, the environment I raise my daughter in, to the hobbies I have and the career path I chose, they are all influenced by food. Beyond that, I know that I am doing something amazing for myself through choosing foods that greatly reduce my risk for chronic disease (most deaths in the U.S. are preventable through lifestyle choices, including diet) and can only improve my quality of life as I age. As I get older and my daughter gets older, there’s not much more I can ask for than remaining active and in good health.
Wonderful and so true.
What is your go-to pre & post-run meal?
My go to pre-run meal is a simple bowl of cereal with raisins or banana pieces. Post run, I love a smoothie made with Vega One Protein & Greens, lots of frozen fruit, fresh greens, nut butter, and water.
How important is hydration to you and how much water do you typically drink?
This is one area where I need to be more disciplined, especially during hot summer months.
Yes! we must stay hydrated – an ongoing, common struggle for so many people. What do you eat/drink during long distance runs to replenish?
I keep it simple with water. I like to eat my calories and electrolytes.
I love that your Instagram profile reads ‘idealist’ – what does this mean to you?
Thank you! It can be very polarizing and intimidating to pick labels that are associated with specific political or ideological beliefs, so I try to stay way from those as much as possible. Instead, I want to convey that I’m a person that believes strongly in our ability to build a better world through calling myself an ‘idealist.’ It means being optimistic about fixing big, complex issues, and doing it in a way that embraces concepts like peace and kindness.
Beautiful! I feel you.
Where does your inner strength, and positive mental power come from, and how do these qualities impact your running?
I remind myself often of my own privileges and responsibilities. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to run around a city that’s safe, to have a strong body that loves movement, and to have the time and space to enjoy this life and this body. I feel very grateful for all of it. I also feel a sense of responsibility to use these privileges for good. That’s why I have embraced this opportunity to use running and my career as a platform to talk about how we can make changes that directly reduce suffering, build a more sustainable food system, and can even help people live longer, healthier lives.
Wow… yes to all of that! So well expressed.
Finally, what projects are you working on right now and/or stoked about for the future?
I’m working with an amazing biodynamic winery based in Chianti, Italy called Querciabella. They make the smoothest, most delicious wine I’ve ever had in my life! I’m also a running advisor for a group called Team Humane League. And I’m taking my daughter to Disney World for the first time ever next month. 🙂
Incredible! You are one amazing human being Micah. Thank you kindly for sharing all that you did with the Ciele community. I have no doubt you will continue to inspire the world with your meaningful work, and living as such a positive example – and strong role model for women and girls in sport and otherwise. Respect!
photo credit (Featured Image): November Project