Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

In 490 BC, a messenger set out from Marathon, running to Athens with news that the Persians had been defeated whereupon he collapsed; some histories say the messenger may have covered the 26.2 miles up to four times with messages before his fateful run, making this the earliest recorded ultra run.

Today, ultra running is a recognized extreme sport. One of its earliest races was the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile grueling route through former Gold Rush country in California's Sierra Nevada. In 1999, Scott Jurek, who has been a force in this torturous sport, was an unknown and he took this race.

He proceeded to set the pace in this race and over the course of seven years set a course record and became known as leader in ultra running. Indeed, during the years since 1999, he has also had two wins in the Badwater Ultramarathon, just a short 135-mile run through Death Valley.

Jurek has also done something no one else has done, setting the US mark for distance covered in a 24-hour ultra run at 165.7 miles. And, in another honor for Jurek, he was only one of several elite runner invited to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara Indians, a feat he wrote about in "Born to Run."

One would assume that Scott would bulk up for this ultra run, but that isn't the case. Instead, Scott Jurek eats a diet that consists entirely of plants (one would assume those plants would include some plants that provide vital proteins that the body needs for muscle-building and replacement. In this context, when you speak of Jurek's muscle-building, it's not the kind of muscle-building that people who power weight lift do. The muscle-building here is the replacement and strengthening of the muscles he needs to run and remain in shape.)

That Scott can do this, based on a wholly plant-based diet, is amazing. His feats of running are nothing short of legendary. If one does the math, for example, one will find the 165.7-mile record he set for longest run in a 24-hour period is the equal of 6.5 marathons.

Interestingly, Scott began his life as a meat-and-potatoes, running-hating kind of athlete and it took him a long, slow time to make the change from meat-and-potatoes to becoming a true vegan. A vegan is a person who eats no meat-, fish- or milk/egg-based foods, preferring to obtain all his daily requirements of protein and other necessary dietary supplements through vegetables.

Scott has not only shown that the stereotypical ultra runner, is just that, a stereotype, but he has also blasted holes into what we think of as a basic diet.

In the book "Eat and Run," Scott not only encourages you to get out there and start running, but he also shows you how he has managed to do it without the type of diet people assume is necessary. Indeed, the book not only encourages you to get out there and run, but he also encourages you to veganism and gives you food tips and recipes that can make this happen. Yes, it is true that if something works for one person, it may not work for another, however, since veganism is a spreading phenomenon, it's only reasonable to assume that you will benefit from the work Scott has already put it.


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