Under the Covers: Eat & Run by Scott Jurek
In my Under the Covers book series, I will rate each book based on its “Life Wisdom” value (from 1 to 5 wise owls). I will review books that inspire, motivate and teach life lessons. Some of our greatest wisdom comes from those whose journeys may be quite different from our own.
When we escape into their world, we can learn from their trials, tactics, and courage. Through their wisdom, we add to our own.
If you’ve ever run a marathon you know that it’s 26.2 miles of joyful hurt. You pray for a second wind, a boost of energy, that will carry you to the finish line.
Now multiply that by 4 or 6 if you’re Scott Jurek. An ultramarathon is more than 26.2 miles of running, usually in heat, altitude, hills and darkness.
Most of us will never know what it feels like to run 100 miles straight. If you read Scott Jurek’s new book, Eat & Run, you will have a better sense of what it takes, how it feels, and what you can learn from running ultramarathons. I found the book inspiring, gut wrenching, and glorious. Those who tackle this sport are complex creatures yet most live their lives simply.
Known as “Pee Wee” in school due to his small stature, Scott Jurek had high blood pressure as a kid. His father believed in hard work and taught his son a simple lesson that Scott lives by to this day.
“Sometimes we just do things.”
For Scott, that included taking care of his ill mother which may have lead him to become the ultrarunner that he is today. His winning resume includes dozens of 50 and 100 milers, including Death Valley’s Badwater event. He won the Spartathlon and holds the U.S. record for the most miles run in 24 hours.
The book isn’t just about running. It’s also about his vegan diet which he believes helped him become a champion. He was greatly influenced by the book, Spontaneous Healing, by Andrew Weil. Eat & Run is stocked full of interesting plant-based recipes, all of which I plan to try.
Here are a few life lessons I learned from the book (*my favorites):
“Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn’t sure he can accomplish.”*
It’s not how much money you make or where you live, but how you live. Choosing to do something that is difficult and overcoming the difficulty teaches you that you can handle anything life throws at you. If you never do something great in your life, usually it’s because you didn’t attempt it.
“Whether you get what you want isn’t what defines you. It’s how you go about your business.”
There is real value in a plant based diet.
The fiber in a plant based diet speeds the food through the digestive tract, minimizing the impact of toxins. Most Americans get twice as much protein as they need. Long distance runners must be careful as protein puts stress on the kidneys.
The Tarahumara, Indians known as super runners, eat food grown locally and rarely eat meat because it is difficult to get. They are lean, efficient and agile.
“The empty mind is a dominant mind.”
According to bushido culture of ancient Japanese warriors, we must let go of the past and future and focus on the moment. “Our lives are frittered with details.”
“Random thinking is the enemy of the ultramarathoner.”
It takes instinct and technique to search for that edge that separates greatness and breakdown.*
There is that instant when you think you can’t go on but you do go on. According to Scott’s friend, Dave Terry, “Not all pain is significant.”
“I measure danger against desire. All pain is a challenge and a harsh blessing.”
Ultramarathons do attract obsessive people.
It takes a special breed of person to train 3 hours a day usually alone. Recovering addicts, holy men and even wacky engineers and artsy types gravitate to the sport. There’s an element of self-loathing to endure the pain and loneliness.
Many ultra marathoners are chasing a state of mind where worries melt away and the beauty of the universe comes into sharp focus. “At the point of destruction, you arrive at that place where you can alter your consciousness.”
Scott Jurek’s 4 step process of dealing with anxiety.
- Let yourself feel the worry.
- Take stock. What are the facts of the current situation?
- What can you do to remedy the situation?
- Separate your negative feelings from the issue at hand.
Focusing on external things to motivate us is a mistake.*
There are always bigger rewards and more victories to be sought. It is the process of reaching for the prize that brings peace and joy.
Losing doesn’t define us. It’s what we do afterward that matters.
I highly recommend this book whether you are a runner or not. It is packed full of details of his many races but he doesn’t stop at ripped toenails and hallucinations. He transcends the boundaries of an ultramarathon by transforming the sport into a metaphor of life.
There is no finish line really. What matters is only how we move forward. Choose your path. Then put one foot in front of the other. You, too, are an ultramarathoner on life’s great path.
Since reading Born to Run last year which details the lives of the Tarahumara Indian runners, I consume 1 T of chia seed every day. Scott Jurek eats it too! Contains protein, essential minerals, fiber (!) and aids in workout recovery. Add to smoothies, sprinkle on oatmeal or salads, or use in baked goods. I purchase 5 pound bags on Amazon.