I’ve been following Scott Jurek’s progress on the ultra racing scene for the past few years with great interest. I first learned of him – as did many, many others – while reading Chris McDougal’s bestselling book, Born to Run.
Jurek took the ultramarathon scene by storm, winning race after race, breaking records, and continuing to push himself harder and faster with each new year. Eat & Run fills in the backstory of this legendary runner, his transition to veganism and ultramarathons, his early years at home in rural Minnesota, and his recent successes in racing. More importantly, and of great relevance to us here, Jurek used to run to work – 6 miles each way – to his job in Seattle!
I had a similar upbringing as Scott. We’re about the same age, we grew up in the Midwest hunting and fishing, tried track in high school without much success, and then began running long and far while making the transition to veganism (not to mention, we’re both Polacks). But at one point in our lives, we diverged. He ran mountains, killed the ultra scene, and made healthy, competitive running his profession. I ran short, local races, had (and continue to have) great running adventures, and I’m more than happy just to finish a 50K.
It’s hard not to over-promote yourself as a professional runner. Your whole career revolves around running, winning, looking good, and marketing yourself. Do you know who Dean Karnazes is? If you even follow running just a little bit, you probably do. He is the king of self-promotion. But that’s his job, and he does it well.
Similarly, Jurek spends most of the book talking about himself – not only filling in the history of his running career, but also about how awesome he is. Don’t get me wrong – I think Jurek is an amazing ultra runner and his race times and records are phenomenal. But, the book reads more like a curriculum vitae with recipes, than a story about the connection between food and running.
I was expecting to hear more about being vegan and why people choose to become one – not just “I ate vegan and felt better,” and “Is being vegan going to hurt my running?” The book is called Eat & Run after all. Sure he talks a bit here and there about Hippie Dan and others who gradually changed his mind about eating meat, but I was hoping to see something beyond,
“What we eat is a matter of life and death. Food is who we are.”
Scott Jurek, Eat & Run, pg. 57
That line in particular, could have been expanded into an ongoing lesson, interspersed throughout the book, about the animals themselves and the short, torturous lives they live before a piece of them finds their way to our plates.
Instead, Jurek says that the “…healthier he [I] had eaten, the faster and stronger he [I] had become.” Sure, but what about the other part of that seemingly simple equation? He had been running and training his ass off for a long time! Dude, I’m vegan, too. And yes – I feel better since becoming one, but I can’t discount the effect that solid training has had in making me a better runner overall. It cheapens training by saying otherwise.
Aside from that, there is the big unanswered question: What the hell really happened between Jurek and Dusty? Friends don’t text you out of the blue after a couple of years, saying, “You fucking loser” (pg. 204). They were close. And then – suddenly – they weren’t.
There’s more to that story, dammit. Hopefully, Dusty will write a book about it someday. If so, you’ll hear all about it here.