Book Review: Scott Jurek in Eat and Run
April 9, 2013
[Warning: possibly a little spoilery]
Sometimes I do it to tweak PiC, or at least he thinks so, but this time I picked up the book he chose because I’ve already finished all my library books and his looked moderately interesting.
I’m not a runner and certainly don’t ever see myself marathoning but I love a well told story, particularly one of achievement, so even though I had never heard of Jurek, the book flap sounded promising enough. I’m so glad that I did.
It gave me insight into a person who knows how to endure because he learned long ago that sometimes, that’s just what you do. This resonated. It gave me insight into a journey of growth and coping, of discovery and delight in pushing yourself. This resonated. It gave me insight into the life of a runner, then an ultra runner, and how they endure through their races. This… suggested ways I could support PiC in his bid to be an ultra runner.
Written with Steve Friedman, in Eat and Run, Scott tells the story of his life as an elite athlete and as a vegan starting from long before either of those things were relevant in his daily lexicon or the running world. He was a meat and potatoes Midwestern kid managing a difficult home life who found the world of running almost unintentionally, derisively dismissed as “the flatlander” on his entrance into his first major 100-miler, and slowly transformed himself, step by step, into the elite athlete he is today.
Honestly, I say again, I’m not a runner, never was more than a sprinter in my best days, but reading this about made me rise up and go out for a long run.
Never self-effacing, Jurek also doesn’t sound like someone wrapped up in himself. He doesn’t sound like anything but a remarkably human guy who’s managed to figure things out one step at a time, painfully sometimes, and with all the steps forward and back that comes in a normal life. It’s not all about the wins, though there were those, it’s about the experience of the runs, what he learned from it, who he was at the time of the race.
That might be what struck me the most: he was incredibly focused on the running in his life, perhaps sometimes to the detriment of his personal life, occasionally giving rise to self-doubt over whether he’d made the right choices years down the road.
He doesn’t succumb to the doubt but he acknowledges it, he acknowledges that he wasn’t necessarily 100% sure of the choices he made in his life and he acknowledges the possible mistakes. I really identified with that as I’ve wondered many times in the past year how my actions failed my mother and whether she would have been better had I this or that.
Then there was a period of time he lived in debt to run those races and of course, as I’m highly allergic to debt in my post-debt life, that made me cringe a little. Still, I understood. Given the results, I mean. I would have loved to hear more about how this part of his life came together. Because I’m nosy …
The recipes he discovered, developed or loves are seeded throughout the book, linking into his forays into healthy eating and ultimately veganism, and his narration includes notes of what worked best for him during races. Once, the idea of dispensing with the medication entirely would have sounded like a pipe dream to me, living in chronic pain, but the timing is good. I’ve given up my medications this year as a regular routine and instead only take them when I can’t endure any longer. Incorporating more healing foods into our diet sounds appealing and he shows how easy and delicious it can be.
There’s precious little ego in this book, so long as you don’t think that telling your own story is ego (I don’t), just a hell of a capacity for endurance.
He sees himself as an Everyman, and sees in everyone the potential to achieve just about anything. Whether anyone can run an ultra (looking in the mirror skeptically), his modest and welcome all-comers approach makes me want to get to know him a bit more.