I just finished reading Eat and Run, an autobiography by Scott Jurek, arguably one of the world’s most famous ultrarunners. His name may sound familiar as he was one of the elite runners profiled in the book, Born to Run, which I read last year. He’s also famous for his entirely plant-based diet. In fact, the book focuses heavily on this aspect of his life as it was both a source of criticism and praise.
The subtitle of this book is “My unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness.” I don’t know how unlikely his journey really was to be honest. A lot of factors lead to his awesomeness as an ultrarunner, including a pretty challenging upbringing. With a terminally ill mother and a very demanding father, Scott was often forced to push himself to his limits as a young boy. This skill proves to be invaluable as he pursues his ultramarathon career leading to countless wins and records.
This book really proved that so much of running is mental. His guiding principle was “sometimes, you just do things,” a phrase he heard many times from his father growing up. His race stories were so detailed and inspiring that it made me want to put the book down and head out on a run.
I loved the race stories in this book. Scott is a very humble and honest writer and his stories of running 40, 50 or 100 mile races in some of the most intense conditions was inspiring, especially as I begin training for my first marathon – a distance Scott does as a warm-up.
My favourite stories were the ones where he was able to bounce back from rock bottom and come back to win a race. The book begins with him laying on the ground during the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2005, vomiting and feeling horrible. He had run 70 miles through a place where others have died walking and he still had 65 more miles to go. This particular event is known as “the world’s toughest foot race.” Apparently it gets so hot during this race, the soles of runner’s shoes have been said to melt on the scorching pavement!
Yet, despite these intense conditions, Scott is able to pull it together and find the strength and determination to cross the finish line with a new record. I can just hear the Chariots of Fire theme song now…
At times, I found it a bit hard to relate to Scott. With the exception of his long time friend Dusty who was simultaneously his enemy and his best friend, I don’t think he does a great job describing his friends and relationships. As his first marriage fell apart, I found it hard to empathize with him as I didn’t really feel very connected to his wife in the stories.
The book is not preachy on the subject of veganism. In fact, it is full of delicious plant-based recipes that have become his daily favourites. I’ve been experimenting with aspects of a plant-based diet over the past week and I’m interested in trying some of his recipes to see if they have any impact on my running performance. For anyone that thinks you can’t obtain enough nutrients from plants, this book proves you totally wrong. Scott Jurek is running as much as 150 miles in one race – a distance that takes the average runner months to rack up. He’s smart, and he knows a lot about nutrition and science. In amongst his amazing stories, his book is full of practical advice.
I really liked this book. It inspired me in a lot of different ways. While you may miss the detail of his friends and relationships, there is enough introspection in this book that you really feel like you get into the mind of Scott Jurek, which is a pretty fascinating place. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, this book is a great read for any runner.