We interrupt this week of Best of Lists to bring…
I’m going through a bit of a Scott Jurek phase right now that started with reading Born to Run and was helped along when he recently distance-ran the shit out of the Appalachian Trail. It helps that he grew up here in Northeastern Minnesota and before he ever won a big-deal ultra or pimped a plant-based diet in the pages of The New York Times he was cruising the local trails and gorging himself in the Miller Hill Mall food court.
Truly, his accomplishments are remarkable and he chronicles a bunch of them in Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, part memoir-part pep talk-part recipe book for the kind of person who requires 6,000 calories/day (that can be eaten while on a 100-plus mile pleasure cruise through dizzying altitudes).
I hate these kind of disclaimers, but I’m going to toss one out anyway: This is a good book … if you’re into that kind of thing. And I am. Right now. I’m ultra-curious and plant-based diet curious, so I’m the target market.
Jurek starts with the unlikeliness of becoming a runner at all. He grows up under rough conditions with a seemingly awful dad and a mother with MS. But he takes pleasure in running and so that’s what he does, forging a friendship with a character — a local legend famous for his larger-than-life running antics. (Drink. Then run a marathon to the start of the marathon then run the marathon kinds of things.) Then he undergoes some lifestyle changes, then takes them further, then BAM. He’s living out west and running for multiple hours multiple times a day. Then he’s the “it”-guy of the ultra scene and the whole Born to Run thing happens and sometimes he overcomes great adversity — ever barfed from dehydration in Death Valley? Ever considered consuming olive oil mid-race? Ever severely injured an appendage before a big race?
Pain, for Jurek, is something to weigh then probably just run through on the way to the finish line.
His story takes it race-by-race in a way that reminds me of when my brother played high school golf and used to regale us with the minutia of every hole — “And then I shanked it into the rough and I was still about x-many meters out, so I grabbed my 7 iron and then I thought, hmm, maybe I’ll try my 9” — and there is an on-going, probably too on-going, theme that is “AND I DID THIS ALL WITHOUT EATING MEAT EVER.” Plus, each chapter ends with recipes for things like Indonesian Cabbage Salad with Red Curry Almond Sauce or a cheese spread made from miso, nutritional yeast, and Dijon, and 8-Grain Strawberry Pancakes.
Aside: (A better blogger would probably make every recipe in this book ala that recipe-by-recipe with Julia Child book Julie and Julia.)
There are fun little nuggets of value for a lesser runner-lesser plant-based person, like Run When You Can! which has inspired me to constantly wear running clothes in case a spare moment to run occurs. He also incorporates enough biographical details and training runs to make a reader wonder “But aren’t there only 24 hours in a day?” and, unfortunately, “How do you find people to love you when you are almost always running through the woods?” He is also pretty me-heavy, which is understandable given the genre, and maybe just feels heavy because he comes from a place where people seem to kind of apologize for successes.