Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guest Post: Eat and Run by Scott Jurek - a review

My friends are absolutely amazing. Marianne is one of them. One of the most driven people I know, she decided like a year ago she wanted to be a triathlete, trained hard and now is one! What! When I was offered the chance to review Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, a veggie athlete, on veganlicious, I knew Marianne was the perfect person for the job. Enjoy! xo Selene

Marianne Vander Dussen is a triathlete, a cycling advocate, and bibliophile. She is attempting to slowly convert from omnivore to herbivore while maintaining a very active lifestyle. Her recent obsession is writing about developments in sustainable urban infrastructure. She currently lives in T.O.

I first discovered Scott Jurek in Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run. I had taken the book out of the library on a whim, and within the week I had devoured his epic story of ultrarunning. Though Scott Jurek was hardly the focus of the book, his presence in the Copper Canyons presented a true challenger for the Tarahumara, the greatest running tribe still in existence today.  

For the legendary Jurek, a marathon is a mere warm up. Climbing mountains and dodging lightning bolts is the status quo. Not only does he participate in events that seem impossible for even the superfit, he wins them, often by large margins of time. But what Jurek stresses throughout his new book, Eat and Run, is that his vegan diet is an inextricable requirement for his success. He credits his speed, endurance, and energy entirely to a plant based diet (in addition to hours and hours of training). His love of food is held in balance by his love of running, each sustaining the other. The combination results in a superhuman ability to go impossible distances, past heartbreakingly gorgeous landscapes, to the finish line, often 100+ miles away.
Eat and Run begins in the brutal Badwater Ultramarathon, a grueling 135 mile race through Death Valley. The pavement is known to melt athlete’s shoes, forcing the competitors to run on the painted sections of the road to preserve their footwear. From the heat of the desert, the reader is invited into an intimate portrait of his childhood, revealing the roots behind the compelling desire to just keep running. From his mother’s struggles with Multiple Sclerosis, to his extremely disciplined upbringing, Eat and Run provides an unsentimental yet touching account of the conditions which enabled him to endure immense physical and mental pain on the race course.

The title itself refers to how a plant based diet plays such a crucial role in his development as an athlete. As if to drive the point home, each chapter finishes with a recipe. I have to admit, after I read the recipe for the Minnesota mashed potatoes, I had to prepare it for dinner that very evening. I quite enjoyed the frequency of the recipes, rather than having them combined as an appendix at the end of the book. Food is woven into Eat and Run as part of the narrative fabric, just as food is woven into the source of Jurek’s stamina. The recipes are tasty and definitely worth trying.

Another key theme which remained with me was the idea that endurance isn’t just a sport, it’s a philosophy. “Sometimes you just do things” is a chapter title, and also a mantra. Sometimes, you just keep going, regardless of the pain. The reader is guided through mountain ranges and vivid descriptions of injuries and body failures. And like the majority of us, Jurek also encounters life’s speedbumps, including divorce, his mother’s deterioration as MS ravages her body, and strained friendships. But the message endures with the same fortitude of an ultrarunner: sometimes you just do things.

I personally approached Eat and Run as an athlete. I competed in my first Half Ironman this summer, and it’s my dream to one day run an ultra. The book spoke to me, inspired me to keep making dietary changes, and made me want to dig deeper in myself and take the road less travelled. Even if you’re a casual runner, or someone who is merely interested in what it is that pushes people to go crazy distances, this book will motivate you to go beyond your comfort zone. Guaranteed.

Scott Jurek is a challenger of paradigms. Though outrageously intelligent (which comes across very clearly in the book), he prefers a “dirtbag” lifestyle, staying close to nature and forming deep bonds of friendship with likeminded people. Though he is a running legend, he eschews every commonly held belief of sports nutritionists in favour of veganism. His out-of-the-box thinking (at the time) was not based on moral opinions of environmentalism or animal cruelty, but was a pure result of trial and error. Plants make him a healthier, faster athlete. Ergo, eat only plants. It’s simple logic.

I highly recommend Eat and Run to anyone searching for adventure and/or inspiration. The story runs through races across the globe, and the pace is exciting and consistent. Whether you experience the joy of running in your own exercise regimen, are curious about fueling for events using a vegan diet, or simply want a good ol’ fashioned tale of a small town boy rising to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, this book is for you.

I give Eat and Run five bananas out of five. Don’t hesitate. Read the book. You’ll love it.

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