Monday, June 17, 2013

Eat & Run

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman.

“Sometimes you just do things!” - Scott Jurek (and his dad)

I read the book at a wedding in Puerto Rico and had plenty of time to enjoy it without the kids being around. It kept me interested all the way through and I was sad when it ended. I guess that's the mark of a satisfying read.

If you've read Born to Run or if you are at least semi-interested in ultra-running, you know Scott Jurek. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a book release event in Chicago. Christopher McDougal was MCing the event and we all got to go on a fun run with them. Some of you may remember my post about it. Well, this was the book that I got signed at that event by both men and here are my thoughts without going into any major spoilers.

Scott Jurek is a rockstar among ultra-runners. As you can read in Wikipedia, he has won many of the sport's most prestigious races multiple times, including the Hardrock Hundred (2007), the Badwater Ultramarathon (2005, 2006), the Spartathlon (2006, 2007, 2008), and the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (1999-2005). In 2010, at the 24-Hour World Championships in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France, Jurek won a silver medal and set a new US record for distance run in 24 hours with 165.7 miles. He is now 40 and still going.

As well as his great wins, Scott Jurek has a great brand. He comes across as the boy next door. He seems kind and humble. He is known for waiting at finish lines to congratulate people. But, that is never the whole picture of a person and I like that Scott lets you have a little glimpse into his pain, his ghosts and his darker sides in the book. He doesn't expose everything but you walk away feeling that you got a taste of something more than the Scott Jurek in the media. Even with some of these warts, he is still a very likable person.

The theme that goes all through the book is diet. For me, it wasn't a huge ah ha because I eat a very similar diet. For others who know nothing about being a vegan, it's probably more educational. The term vegan isn't actually accurate. Scott's diet is more about whole foods (not the store). Let's face it, some vegan food can be unhealthy too. Over the years, Scott has gone into diet in great detail and has become knowledgeable. He approaches the subject in a way that I think even steadfast meat eaters can respect. I didn't find him to be that preachy but he is excited about what his diet has done for him. The recipes that are sprinkled in with the storytelling are good and I have tried some of them. My only complaint is that they aren't removable to keep in the kitchen after you have finished the book.

The book gives you a sense of Scott growing up in the countryside near Proctor, Minnesota (not far from Duluth). You learn about Scott's struggle to understand his father and his "sometimes you just do things" philosophy and you feel his heartbreak with the on-set of his mothers debilitating disease. You learn about the fun characters that shape his life, especially his best friend Dusty Olsen who helped him discover distance running as training for their competitive nordic skiing. Scott is honest about how he has used running to deal with issues (not necessarily hide or run away from them). One dark moment in his life is when his wife leaves him for a friend (I believe it was Barefoot Ted but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere). He shares some interesting behind the scenes stories about his races and you even get to hear about the new love in his life. All of these topics are touched upon but the book is too short to go into them in detail. I would love to have gone deeper but maybe this is what Scott was comfortable with. The area he gets into most is his relationship with Dusty. For many years, Dusty gave up on his own hopes and dreams to help Scott win races through his pacing and his friendship. Who else could say "get up Jerker" when Scott was face down on the ground at Badwater? Scott needed him and asked too much of him. Remember, there are no huge monetary awards for ultra, so Dusty didn't get anything out of it other than the satisfaction of helping someone he loves. In this article on, you get a sense of Dusty's complaints. It's clear that their bond is beyond friendship. They are brothers, so they cross boundaries with each other. In the book, you see the relationship struggle and you find yourself wishing Scott would just make things right again. Dusty is an amazing character. You could write a book on Dusty.

If you are curious about how the gentlemen signed my book, I'm happy to share. Scott said "Simon, be somebody." This is very Jurek. It's not about status. It's more about goals and achievements - doing things that matter to you, to others or to the world. Chris signed it with "Simon - Run Wild" which is strategically vague I think.

I'd definitely recommend this book. It's an interesting read for anyone who is fascinated by ultra-running. It's worth reading even if you aren't interested in the diet aspect of it. Jurek is a pretty amazing runner and it's worth hearing about some of the feelings, events and people who shape him. I was really surprised to see the confidence, ego and drive that are inherent in a fierce competitor and winner. I feel like this side of Scott Jurek is often hidden in the media but you instinctively know it has to be there. You can buy Eat and Run here:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Come on, give me a little comment.

Subscribe by email