Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness is Scott Jurek‘s story of how he came to ultra running, developed into a vegan, and his many race experiences. It reads like one great race report with some recipes throw in. It was well written and thoughtful, which to me are essential characteristics of a good book.
If you are not familiar with the concept of “ultrarunning,” these are distances further than a marathon (which is 26.2 miles), often much, much further and often involving formidable terrain. In fact Scott’s first big win was the Western States 100 in California. If this is the first you’re hearing about ultra distances you’re probably saying to yourself – “what the hell?” and “that’s crazy!” I still can’t imagine running one myself, but the more you listen to the stories of ultrarunners and what compels them, the more reasonable it seems.
Jurek does a great job of touching on the personal aspects in his life that both chased him into distance running, and were an asset to his success. Most of his childhood was spent helping care for his sick mother and his younger brother and sister, up in northern Minnesota. This stress, along with the strictness of his father, who kept telling him, “Sometimes you just do things!” when he asked why, worked together to create a persevering spirit who didn’t give up. And yet, despite learning that “sometimes you just do things!” Scott managed to take his own path, one that is different than many, many people.
In addition to ultrarunning being less than common, Scott is a vegan. That means NO animal products, and can present a challenge to the average person attempting it, but especially to the endurance athlete that needs protein and lots of fuel to maintain their body at peak performance. Not only does he manage to do this, but through this turn of events he also becomes one of the top runners in the sport, winning the aforementioned Western States 7 times in a row. A feat I’m pretty sure hasn’t been done before or since.
The thing that made me really love this book, though, was Scott’s apparent love for studying all aspects of life. He may have learned you don’t always ask why, you just do, but he still had the desire to ask, “how?” He didn’t just become a vegan, he researched nutrition, he’s tried multiple recipes and experimented with different aspects. He didn’t just start running a bunch of ultra races, he studied the greats of the past and running techniques and theories. Most impressive to me, and maybe not surprising given the nature of most ultrarunners I’ve read about, he studies life. He doesn’t just focus on his physical body, but has taken time to think about how to best “be” in our world.
This book if full of sections worth quoting, and I highlighted and bookmarked many things (I seriously love my Kindle, but that’s for another post). I went through them while writing this post to pick the one I most wanted to share, and I will leave you with it, and the recommendation to read this book…
“If you run long enough, that tends to happen. Whatever quantitative measure of success you set out to achieve becomes either unattainable or meaningless. The reward of running – of anything – lies within us… We focus on something external to motivate us, but we need to remember that it’s the process of reaching for that prize – not the prize itself – that can bring us peace and joy.”