“Salvation is always within reach. You can’t reach it by thinking or by figuring it out. Sometimes you just do things.” – Scott Jurek, “Eat and Run”
I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I’m not much of a reader. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading – I love it. I can’t seem to start a book, read a few pages and put it down to rejoin society. I have to read the entire thing in one sitting. Even if the book is mediocre, I have to know how it’s going to end. I especially don’t read much during the school year. Things are more chaotic and reading is the first thing that falls to the wayside. I don’t have a Kindle or any special apps on my iPad because I don’t read often enough. When I read, I still buy books.
I recently placed an order on Amazon and came across Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run. I love to eat, and we all know that I love to run so it inevitably ended up on my doorstep a few days later. I read it like a normal person, by taking breaks and using bookmarks. It was intriguing because it was written by a seriously bad ass ultra-marathoner who consistently wins races and sets crazy records all over the world. An ultra-marathon is considered anything longer than your standard, run-of-the mill 26.2 mile road race. Most people can’t even fathom the idea of running a marathon, and this guy is just warming up when he hits the 26.2 mile mark. I think his furthest documented race was something like 162 miles. At one time. In one day. I kid you not.
Even more interesting is that he’s 100% vegan. Not something you’d expect from someone who often requires 7,000 calories per day. If you’re running 100 miles at a shot, why go vegan? Scott studied the relationship between food and performance and began experimenting, which resulted in his vegan diet. He wasn’t always interested in diet, being vegan or even a vegetarian, for that matter. He grew up in Minnesota and ate traditional meat-and-potato meals and didn’t follow a vegan diet until his adult life. He ate whatever he wanted until he realized he could perform better with different types of food fueling his body.
Personally, I don’t hate on any foods. There literally is nothing that I don’t care for and I’m adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. I subscribe to no specific dietary label, though a little over a year ago a friend introduced me to the world of macrobiotics. While I can’t call myself macrobiotic by any means, it seems to make sense and appeal to my lifestyle. I incorporate bits and pieces of macrobiotics into my daily life, but I don’t limit myself with diet restrictions.
One night I’m eating tempeh, tofu, or some kind of vegetarian dish and the next I’m grilling up grass-fed New York strip steaks. I eat fish. I eat dairy (when it agrees with me) and I love cheese. Oh yeah, and if you haven’t noticed by all of the cupcake pictures I regularly post, I have quite the sweet tooth. I love to eat, and I give my body what it wants. I mainly follow a vegetarian diet, but I’m definitely not a vegetarian. Most days, I’m eating lots of fruit, making smoothies, cooking brown rice or some other type of grain, steaming veggies, or sauteing some sort of soy based meat replacement item. Other days, it’s some form of buffalo chicken whatever for dinner and something stuffed with Nutella for dessert. I love it all, and I eat it all. I chose quality ingredients, and eat unprocessed foods as often as possible. Everything in moderation.
His book encouraged me to incorporate even more variety into my diet. At the end of each chapter, Scott shares some of his recipes. There are roughly two dozen vegan recipes spread throughout the book. As I began reading the ingredients, I recognized and already use many of items. The combination of ingredients he uses is interesting and appealing. I finished the book two weeks ago and I’ve already been pretty busy in my kitchen. Adzuki Bean Chocolate Bars, Cocoa-Chia Pudding, Coco Rizo Coolers, Lime Tempeh with Brown Rice, Indonesian Cabbage Salad and Red Curry Almond Sauce are just a few of the recipes I’ve tried and enjoyed. As I’m writing this, I can smell his Apple Cinnamon Granola baking in my oven and it smells divine.
Putting the food aside, this book is inspirational regardless of your diet and exercise choices. It’s so much more than just his journey into veganism, and tells the story of how he became the unlikely ultramarathoner that he is today. He discusses his difficult relationship with his father and the phrases he grew up hearing during trying times. Later, these phrases became the mantras that set the tone for his success. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself subconsciously repeating some of those mantras during training runs and races and found comfort in those same words.
I was reading his book as we were driving to Vermont, and I was planning to try to run the Shires of Vermont Marathon. I’d been told that I had femoral stress fracture only three weeks earlier, and I was not cleared to run. But my body felt fine. After only making it a few chapters into his book, I had my mind made up. I was going to run the race, because sometimes you just do things. I didn’t know why, but I knew it was going to be okay. I was aware that I had to take it easy and run with no expectations. I knew there was a good chance that I might not cross the finish line, but I had to try. Sometimes you just do things. I’m glad I tried, because I finished the race. Slowly, but I was grateful for every step I was able to take, and for the steps I’ve taken since that day. It gave me the confidence I needed to pace a friend at the Buffalo Marathon just one week later. When we signed up months earlier, I promised I’d run with her and I intended to keep that promise. Sometimes you just do things.
I’ve opened his book almost everyday since I finished reading it. Mainly to reference recipes, but sometimes I just like reading excerpts that are particularly inspiring. The book ends by saying, “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 toward that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.”
If you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book to add to your summer reading list.