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Finding Ultra: From overweight and unhappy to elite (vegan) athlete

Rich Roll


By Briana Rognlin for

If Rich Roll’s before and after photos don’t capture your attention, his story of going from overweight and unhealthy to becoming an elite (and much happier) athlete will.

Laid out in his new book, Finding Ultra, Roll’s transformation isn’t just impressive on a physical level (although his completion of five Ironman-distance triathlons within one week is astonishing); it’s also inspiring to anyone who feels stuck in a rut, as he did just six years ago.

To learn more about how he went from an overweight, unhappy recovering alcohol to an elite athlete with hundreds of miles of competition under his belt, we talked to Rich about his new book and how he got to where he is. Check it out:

How would you describe yourself before you became an athlete? I was an athlete in high school and college, so I had experience being an athlete, but when college sports was over, that was it, and life became about law school, my job, career, getting married, raising kids, and all that “normal” stuff. So as I approached my 40th birthday, athletics, fitness, health and all of those things weren’t really a part of my life at all.

My life was really just about moving up the corporate ladder, and health-wise, I felt terrible. I had put on a lot of weight, I was lethargic, depressed, unmotivated, and I was like that Henry David Thoreau quote: “The mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation.” I’d done everything I was supposed to, I’d followed the rules, gotten into the good schools, got the right job and all that kind of stuff, and found myself dissatisfied and disillusioned.

And on some level, I guess, I felt cheated; I had everything I’d asked for and yet here I was dissatisfied. There was a hole in my spirit, so to speak, and a yearning for something more.

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