Seven Western States 100 titles in a row, victories at Badwater, the Spartathlon and the Hardrock 100, and one of the stars of Born to Run. Names don’t come any bigger than Scott Jurek in ultrarunning. The American athlete, who famously trains and races on a plant-based diet, made an appearance at the Bloomsbury Institute in London this week to promote his 2012 book, Eat & Run.
The Midwesterner talked candidly about his upbringing, the future of ultrarunning and why Boulder is the endurance mecca of the world. In the crowd were 220 and London-based writer Louis Waterman-Evans. Here’s Louis’ take on a memorable evening…
Well, today was a day of running-related activities, as most days seem to be of late. No running itself, but first up was a meeting with Robin Harvie, author of Why we Run. In the evening I had the fortune of seeing Scott Jurek talk at the Bloomsbury Institute.
The talk began with Jurek opening up about his upbringing, which he claims made hardened him to the rigours of ultra running. Living in pretty much the middle of nowhere, having to chop wood and go hunting/fishing for food were fundamental components in his daily routine. Getting into running later on, he attributes his exposure to the sport to colourful characters such as Hippie Dan and Dusty, who spurred Jurek on through his harsh banter.
Throughout the talk, Scott gave a truly humble view on his accolades and a great account of his life and the role ultrarunning plays in it. Talking less on veganism than expected, he instead focused on races he wants to be involved in pre-retirement and post-retirement plans such as putting on a race and running in the middle of the pack for fun instead of going for the win. Even now as he approaches 40, I sense he’d really like to take back his 24hr US record from Mike Morton before hanging up his shoes.
ON BAREFOOT, BORN TO RUN AND BOULDER
I asked a question about barefoot running. He’s positive of the movement, saying that it’s brought back a lot of fun to running, as well as getting people to think more about their form and style. Does he train barefoot himself? Only after a long run round a flat field for a cool down. That said, he sees the value in it and talks of the Brooks Pure range he helped design, which give the runner a more shallow heel but still offer much of the comfort and support needed in long races.
He cracks jokes at Christopher McDougall’s storytelling abilities in Born to Run and his playing up of the race out in the Copper Canyon, but nonetheless tells of the wonders of the Tarahumara. “If you ever get a chance to head out there, get out to the Canyon,” he says. Maybe one day, Scott.
On living in Boulder, the Mecca of endurance athletes these days, he says how they all support each other and reinforce the will to get out and hit the trail. Talking about the mix of elite cyclists, climbers and runners, he speaks about the will to train being so much greater when you’re feeding off the energy of all these other athletes. He jokes at how he thought it was just a place for rich yuppies, but now a resident he has found it reinvigorating to be in such a healthy place at a time when he’s coming to the end of his career.
Even though he may be 40 in a few weeks time, one thing for sure is that Scott Jurek will not be leaving the world of ultra running any time soon.
Louis Waterman-Evans is a London-based freelance writer. Follow him at twitter on @marathonandmore and read more at amarathonandmore.wordpress.com
We’ll be featuring more from Jurek in issue 294 of 220.