A review of Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek.
I was always pretty poor at P.E. Always the last one to be picked by any team. Scott Jurek wasn’t the fastest kid in his school either, nor the strongest or smartest. He was a shy kid with high blood pressure whom other kids teased and called “Pee-Wee”. His nicknames got worse.
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Jurker” was no loser though. He has since gone on to become arguably the world’s greatest ultra marathon runner. To the average person the idea of running a marathon is absurd. The races that Scott Jurek wins make marathons look like a 50 yard dash. His early life wasn’t easy either. His mother had multiple sclerosis and young Scott was burdened with many chores. This was no child’s play. But proved to be perfect training for life as a professional endurance athlete.
You don’t have to be a chef to cook great food.
~ Mrs Jurek
It also taught him how to cook. Through out the book are Scott’s favourite recipes. All vegan, all proven to be not only tasty but nutritious. If these dishes could help Scott win the Leadville 100 then what might they do for you or me?
Because of his mother’s illness he had more of an interest in health than the average kid. After being diagnosed with high blood pressure. He avoided pills, which he hated as they hadn’t done much good for his mother. So he learnt to control his blood pressure using his mind. Something that would prove invaluable in his later profession.
In his youth he started cross-country skiing. It was at a ski camp where he first came to learn that a plant-based diet meant more fibre, which sped food through the digestive tract, minimising the impact of toxins. The same diet also meant more vitamins and minerals. He noticed he recovered more quickly eating vegetables and they tasted great too.
Hippie Dan taught Scott how to run effortlessly and connected to their surroundings just like Dan’s labradors.
When you run on the earth and with the earth, you can run forever.
Like Dr Ruth Heidrich, I first learnt about Scott Jurek from Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run book. He was one of the elite runners who traveled to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara Indians. Scott was always their to cheer on the slower competitors, after he had finished a gruelling race.
We all lose sometimes. We fail to get what we want. Friends and loved ones leave. We make a decision we regret. We try our hardest and come up short. It’s not the losing that defines us. It’s how we lose. It’s what we do afterward.
His accomplishments are astonishing. For 7 years in a row he won the 100 mile Western States Endurance Run. Twice he won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile run from the bottom of Death Valley to Mount Whitney. He has won the 153-mile Spartathlon in Greece three times. He set a new American record by running 165.7 miles in 24 hours. The equivalent of running 6.5 marathons in one day.
What we eat is a matter of life and death. Food is who we are.
~ Scott Jurek
The fact that he has achieved all of this on a plant-based diet makes his story even more astonishing and inspirational. As you might have guessed this book is full of advice on strides per minute, hill climbing and other things that get runners excited. It also is full of advice on how to run longer, safer and with less effort. Which is the key to endurance racing, so I am reliably informed.
If you are getting started with minimal running shoes or even bare foot running you would do well to take what Scott writes on the subject to heart:
Beginners run. Out-of-shape people run. And for them forefoot striking might increase the risk of tendonitis or other soft tissue injury. That’s especially true for anyone who hasn’t grown up running barefoot through Kenya.
What’s important isn’t what part of the foot you strike but where it strikes. It should land slightly in front of your centre of mass or right underneath it. When you have a high stride rate and land with the body centred over the foot, you won’t be slamming down hard, even if you connect with the heel.
A great gift idea for non-runners, runners, vegans and especially vegan runners!
You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.
If you enjoyed Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run book…
You might like these books and audiobooks: