How often do autobiographies of vegan endurance athletes get published? Well apparently, this summer they are coming out at a rate of every-other-week. Two weeks ago Rich Roll released his Tour De Force Finding Ultra. This week we saw the release of ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run.
Jurek, like Roll, is a plant-based vegan who first came to fame after being highlighted in Born to Run. Similar to Roll, much of his book focuses on how his diet helped him overcome insurmountable odds, including running ultra marathons with broken ankles and toes to become one of the world’s greatest ultrarunning athletes.
While autobiographical, Jurek keeps his sport on center stage throughout his narrative. Often skipping over much of his life outside of running, the book is really about his journey of training and racing. For instance, Jurek’s first marriage and subsequent divorce only earn a few paragraphs of comment, while entire chapters are comprised of specific races.
He does give a sold account of his childhood, which was largely a lonely experience, growing up in a relatively poor family in Minnesota (he admits his family used “government cheese” during times). Much of his childhood was spent helping to care for his mother, who was afflicted with MS; while also having to suffer the harsh discipline of his father. While Jurek resists the urge to view his childhood with rose-tinted glasses, he does believe that it was the rugged discipline that his father instilled in him at a young age which helped him achieve success as an ultrarunner. His mantra in life was something his father often told him: Sometimes you just do things.
Perhaps Jurek’s happiest memory during that time took place on the slopes. Throughout high school, Jurek was a competitive skier. In fact, he started running as a way to maintain his endurance during the off-season. His best friend, Dusty, who Jurek admits is a more natural athlete, but who also lacked the discipline to train and become a professional athlete, convinced Jurek to enter his first marathon and then his first ultra in 1994, where he placed second, right behind his friend.
By 1998, Jurek was traveling around the country and placing well, if not winning nearly every ultra he entered, often setting new course records along the way. Then in 1999, Jurek began moving towards a vegan diet and won the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Seen as one of the most difficult races, Jurek won the race an unprecedented seven times in a row, and crediting veganism for much of his success (during his second Western States victory, Jurek was completely raw).
Throughout the book, Jurek’s writing is as fluid and smooth as his running stride. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the book is that Jurek finishes the end of each chapter with a tip on how to improve one’s ability to run and then a recipe. Few books will inspire you more. In fact, throughout the book, only the desire to see what happens on the next page kept me from lacing up my shoes and going for a run.
At his recent book launch in New York City, Jurek led a fun run which attracted nearly 100 people in Central Park and then packed the seats of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. (He signed my book, “Anthony, Be Somebody.” Doesn’t he know I already am “somebody?”)
Anyway, if you are looking for an inspiring and fun read, run over to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Eat & Run today. Be sure to check back soon, as I plan on sharing on of his recipes.