Friday, June 8, 2012

My Fun Run with Scott Jurek

Today, I ran alongside Scott Jurek and Chris McDougal in Lincoln Park and I finished the run ahead of them. It sounds impressive but it was pathetic really. Chris was stopping to take pictures and chat and Scott stopped to high five all the runners.

Just in case you don't know who these people are, I'll give you a quick introduction. Chris McDougal is a journalist and author who wrote the very enjoyable and influential book Born to Run. Scott Jurek is one of the most dominant ultra-marathoners of all time. He has won the Hardrock Hundred, Badwater, The Spartathlon and won the Western States 100 an amazing 7 times in a row. He took silver in the 24 hour World Championships and holds the U.S. record for distance run in 24 hours (165.7 miles). He is a great champion of positive culture in ultra community and is known for staying behind after he wins to cheer all the runners home.

Scott Jurek and The Fool
The fun run was part of Fleet Feet Chicago's Eat and Run event. Fleet Feet is a chain of really cool running stores that are known for their awesome staff and their community involvement. Eat and Run is Scott's new book about his life, his ultra running and his evolution to becoming a vegan. Just as Born to Run was never meant to suggest that everyone should run barefoot, Eat and Run is not intended to force vegan lifestyle on people. It merely offers alternatives and encourages improving and diversifying your diet. Chris McDougal was there to bring fire power from his success with Born to Run. Scott said that Chris was working on a new book and I'd be curious to see what it is about.

The event went like this...
6:30pm - A 3 mile fun run with Scott and Chris in Lincoln Park
7:30pm - Scott and Chris gave a talk in one of the movie theaters (right above Flee Feet)
8:30pm - Scott and Chris signed books

I headed over on the bus and got there just in time. They were smart enough to have an equipment check. I would say around 250+ people decided to run. They were taking groups of people out to a rally point in Lincoln park. When everyone was there, Scott and Chris showed up. They gave a brief welcome, asked us to give a moment of silence for Micah True (Caballo Blanco), a character from Born to Run who recently died. The event raised $3,000 for his fund. Scott is very tall and moves like a lanky puppy. Chris is a giant of a man who daintily runs barefoot. We headed out on a 3 mile loop and I started toward the back of the pack. I hadn't run for a while because of my calf issue, but it held up well enough. In fact, it felt really good to run on fresh legs. After relaxing into it, I decided to pick up the pace because I wanted the experience of running alongside Chris and Scott. I caught up with Chris fairly quickly. He was running on the grass instead of the crushed gravel. He looked like he was having a good time chatting and taking pictures with people. I got a really favorable impression of him from the way he was interacting with folks. I ran faster hoping to catch Scott and was just starting to think that I had missed my opportunity when I noticed him right at the side of the path at the halfway point shouting out "Hey. I made a high five station." It was such a nice gesture. Scott comes across as a really warm and genuine person—just as I imagined. I felt so good at that point that I put some speed into the run and finished really strongly.

Photo courtesy of Scott Jurek on Facebook

Back at Pipers Alley theater, I got my bag, got some free Cliff bars (they were one of the sponsors) and water and then jumped in line to buy Eat and Run and another copy of Born to Run, so that I could get signatures. It was a good call. They sold out and people were disappointed. After the purchase, I headed into the movie theater. They had a giant fan moving air around but with a full house of 400+ people and 250+ of them hot and sweaty after running, the temperature was a little too much. I eventually cooled down with the extra water they handed out. Scott showed a short movie that his friend had made for him to promote Eat and Run. There were a few things in the film that I'm sure the book goes into in more detail that I wasn't aware of. Scott's mother died of multiple sclerosis, he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and he works as a physical therapist. It was 9 mins but you can see a bit of it here:

When Scott and Chris gave a talk, I realized just how funny Chris McDougal is. He really is a great speaker and a fun personality. Scott took a jab at him for eating meat and Chris said that if a plane crashed, he would eat Scott first because he is home grown and organic. It was a fun conversation. Scott said that he had the honor of running with the legendary Ann Trason and that she had beaten him once. He said that Ann came alongside him at around mile 30 of a 100 mile race and said "You don't look so good" and then suggested "You've been running too much" When Scott agreed with her, she said "Oh well, I'll see you later" and she took off to win the race. Scott did another sweet thing which was to bring down two young Amish runners that he had run with and came into town just to see him. Apparently, they were sent to him by Bart Yasso. There is Runners World Article on the subject. Scott and Chris wrapped-up the talk with a strange balance contest and gave away Brooks shoes to the 4 or 5 winners.

When the theater cleared out, many people got in line again to do the book signing. It wasn't a terrible wait and it was well worth it. Scott was really great. I told him about my experience going mostly vegan and coming off asthma meds for the first time in my life. That got me another high five from the legend. He suggested that dairy could have had a lot to do with it and I agreed. He was nice enough to take a photo. I then moved on to Chris. He said "Hi. I'm Chris" like I had no idea who he was. I found him to be super friendly and thoughtful. I thanked him for his book and the inspiration and he took a photo with me too.

Chris McDougal and The Fool

Before leaving, I changed out of my running clothes, caught the 72 bus home. I reflected on the event and it put a smile on my face. I got to run, listen to and take pictures with the author of one of my favorite books and a god of ultra running. Who could ask for more of a Thursday evening? Well, maybe I could. I liked Scott so much, it would be a dream to go running with him and talk to him a little more. He's just that kind of person.

You can pick-up Eat and Run at Amazon right here.

And if you still haven't read Born to Run. You really should.

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