Monday, August 25, 2014

Eat & Run

I just finished reading “Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek.  This book was published two years ago, so it may seem a bit surprising that I just got around to reading it.  I’ve never been an avid reader, so I don’t read as many books as some of my friends.  I mostly read when I’m traveling, so I’m more apt to read magazines.  I tend to read books when they’re timely for me.

I’ve been a fan of Scott Jurek since 1999.  That was the year he won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run for the first time.  It was one year after my first ultra.  I had yet to do any trail ultras, but I had read enough about Western States to be intrigued.

I had no idea that Jurek would go on to win Western States six more times, nor did I have any idea he would later set course records in races like Badwater and Hardrock.  What got my attention was that a runner who grew up in Minnesota was able to win Western States, a race that had previously been dominated by runners from California.

I think the reason I admire Scott Jurek so much is because he excels at the same races that I find most difficult.  He owned the Western States course for seven years.  When I eventually attempted that race, it chewed me up and spit me out.  I dropped at the Michigan Bluff aid station after only 55.7 miles.

As the title implies, this book is about both eating and running.  Scott Jurek eats a plant-based diet and attributes his ultrarunning success not just to his training, but also to his diet.  I recently made my first steps in the direction of a plant-based diet, so I was interested in learning his perspective on nutrition.

There’s another reason this book was timely.  I recently started training for the Across the Years 48-Hour race.  When I’m training for an ultra, I draw inspiration from books about ultrarunning.  In particular, I like to read autobiographies of ultrarunners.

“Eat & Run” has a slightly unorthodox format.  At the end of each chapter, there’s a recipe.  Most of the chapters are also followed by training tips.  At first, this format seemed odd, but I quickly came to enjoy it.

I don’t read books in one sitting.  I usually read a chapter and then take a break.  The recipes and training tips gave my mind the diversion I needed.  Then I was ready to start the next chapter.  At first, I was only reading one chapter at a time, but I quickly found myself reading two, three or four chapters at once.

As for the chapters themselves, they tell two stories that are woven together.  The first story chronicles Jurek’s development as a runner.  It includes the events and relationships that led him to attempt his first ultramarathon.  It goes on to describe his training, his seven Western States victories, and his subsequent accomplishments as he conquered the world of ultrarunning.  It explains how his life shaped his running and how his running shaped the rest of his life.

Scott Jurek wasn’t always a vegan.  He grew up with meat and dairy products.  At the same time he was training and racing, he was also developing new ideas about nutrition and how it affected both his health and his running.  He didn’t change his diet overnight.  It was a gradual process.  This story gradually unfolds throughout the book.

I’ve been making incremental changes to my own diet for the past 13 years.  It was only about a month ago that I decided to see if I could remove meat from my diet.  I already wasn’t eating much meat, but dairy products make up a huge share of my diet.  At the time, I never seriously considered the possibility that I would ever give up dairy products.  I grew up drinking milk with every meal, and my favorite food is pizza!  After reading this book, I’m tempted to transition away from dairy products as well.  More importantly, reading this book actually makes me think I could do it.

I originally checked this book out of the library, but now I think I’ll buy a copy.  I’d like to be able to refer back to the training tips.  They’re practical and straightforward.  I’d also like to try the recipes.  I may want to re-read the book the next time I’m training for a 100 mile trail run.  Eventually, I plan to return to Western States.  I know I’ll want to re-read it then.


  1. I haven't actively tried to give up dairy, but lately I notice that when I eat certain meals, I feel horrible and have some GI issues after. The culprits: pizza, cheese fries, cheeseburgers, etc. (Easy to notice because I don't eat a ton of those.) That said, those are all very heavy, fatty, junk foods, so right now I'm unclear whether it's the dairy or the excess oil/fat. I don't eat much dairy outside of cheese in those types of foods, so I might have to embark on an experiment of sorts to figure it out!

    1. Most people have some degree of lactose intolerance. Most likely, the cheese is the problem.