An Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
‘It’s easy to get wrapped up in deadlines and debt, victory and loss. Friends squabble. Loved ones leave. People suffer. A 100-mile race- or a 5K, or a run around the block- won’t cure pain. A plate filled with guacamole and dinosaur kale will not deliver anyone from sorrow.
But you can be transformed. Not overnight, but over time. Life is not a race. Neither is an ultramarathon, not really, even though it looks like one. There is no finish line. We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move towards that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.
Everyone follows a different path. Eating well and running free helped me find mine. It can help you find yours. You never know where that path might take you.’
This book had it all. Training tips, life advice, easy-to-make recipes, drama and bucketfuls of heart. Like the many other running books that I have read (see list below), I found this book to be endlessly inspiring in the context of what our human bodies are capable of. Like those other books, it also reiterated the spiritual benefits that can come with any solitary, endurance sport or activity. But for me, it was the searing honesty that stood out and made this story very real and relatable.
‘Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.’
Right from the very start, Jurek gives us an account of his early family life warts and all. This approach lasts throughout the book and never relents. He tells the reader about his constant struggles with debt, about his falling out with friends and also his heartbreaking divorce. He relays the lows as much as the highs and this makes his story so much more realistic.
Jurek’s highs include winning many of the top ultrarunning events in the world while also smashing and setting records worldwide. He tells his story as if anyone could lace up their runners and do what he did if only they had the same levels of focus and determination.
At no stage does Scott Durek tell us a boring story. Each chapter begins with a quote that influences him still today. Each chapter has a simple recipe and training tip. Each chapter has a different adventure, a new challenge and a collection of thoughts on what has made him the man that he is today. Anyone familiar with the ultramarathon circuit will recognise familiar names and adventures throughout but this book is equalling appealing for the uninitiated.
Whether you have run a marathon, occasionally run or have never ran in your life at all, you will relate to Scott Jurek’s story. This is because it is essentially about the common human struggle for happiness that we all experience. What I loved most about this book is that at no stage does the author attempt to force his own ideals down the reader’s throat. He simply tells his story, describes what works well for him and leaves the next step up to us.
‘Sometimes the best journeys aren’t necessarily from east to west, or from ground to summit, but from heart to head. Between them we find our voice’
‘Satori can be sought, but it cannot be held.’ (Scott Jurek)
- There is nothing like a good book about running to motivate you into lacing up those runners and pounding the pavements yourself.
- Scott Jurek constantly references Christopher McDougall’s Born To Run in this book and I would also strongly recommend it. It influences me even still today when it comes to my choice of footwear.
- Dean Karnazes collection of real life short stories in Run! is another insightful and entertaining glimpse into the world of ultrarunning. It is a very easy read and features some madcap adventures. One of them includes meeting Barack Obama while running on a treadmill. I recently read that Karnazes listens to audiobooks when out on his long runs.
- For something slightly different but no less inspiring, I would encourage you to consider author supreme Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Japan is not far behind Kenya when it comes to being a world leader in running so this is an interesting account of both the author’s and the Japanese attitudes towards running.