Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Reading: Eat & Run

As much as I enjoy a good western or sci-fi novel, the genre I most enjoy hunkering down with is non-fiction. Especially if the book's topic is one about which I am passionate about, and Eat and Run by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman, is that and more. Equal parts autobiography, running advice book, diet/nutrition treatise and inspirational story, Eat and Run is a book I have returned to quite bit over the past few months (at one point tweeting out its cover on a bus ride to a high school track meet that met with resounding support from some of my son's collegiate teammates), and with my own return to plodding, found myself once again engaging it early this week with a fervor that found me reading straight through the final 120 pages in three sittings.

As suggested by the book's subtitle, Eat and Run is written as a narrative explaining "My [Jurek's] Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathoning Greatness." Though I am went into it with a knowledge of Jurek's feats and backstory as a result of having read numerous articles and interviews with him in running magazines, he is probably most recognizable to the non-runner as one of the characters in Christopher McDougall's uber-successful Born to Run. Jurek does briefly revisit the events of that novel, while telling of his success in the world of ultramarathoning.

As one who doesn't "believe in secrets"(Eat and Run, 155) when it comes to training, Jurek also imparts on the reader a variety of practical recipes, dietary experiences and insights garnered from his personal experiences as a champion athlete in one of the most grueling ports imaginable. For those who have never run an ultramarathon, Jurek also offers detailed descriptions as to the impact on the body during the course of such a  race in a manner that clearly paints for the reader an image of the pain and glory. "my hypothalamus was pumping antitdiuretic hormones, which told my kidneys to mitigate fluid loss by concentrating my urine. ... without enough water, dehydration would thicken my blood." (97).

At the heart of the novel, and Jurek's story to this point in his life, is his relationships with his father, mother and the sport he continues to love. Two attributes further elevate its potential for enjoyment: the inclusion of accessible vegetarina recipes which the reader is invited to try and the multiple book titles and authors Jurek references as influential that are sprinkled throughout. I found myself frequently dog-earring recipe pages (which, along with basic running advice, conclude each chapter), and starring margins that include potential future reading materiel.

After finishing Eat and Run while waiting to board a flight to visit a high school friend, it was clear why my son's teammates were so enamored with Jurek memoir/handbook: he clearly and sincerely speaks to the nascent mystic-philosopher that lies in most distance runners, even those (like myself) who enjoy the practice of reading and recollecting about races more than competing in them myself. I highly recommend this book to athletes (runner and non-runner alike), as well as those searching for some meaning in their physical activities, and look forward to sharing my copy with others.

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