A Running Book Per Month: “Eat & Run” finished; “The Running Dream” next

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The book “Eat & Run,” written by well-known and accomplished ultra runner Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman, provides insight into the life of an ultra runner.

"Eat & Run" by Scott Jurek will be the first book in my monthly blog series. (Vanessa Junkin photo)
“Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek is the first book in my monthly blog series. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

And, while it’s interesting to read about, I still don’t want to become an ultra runner yet — at least nothing beyond a 50K, or 31 miles. (And I haven’t done that yet, either.)

Reading about various aspects of ultra marathons, including extreme heat, throwing up, seeing hallucinations and just going to the point of exhaustion aren’t really too encouraging.

And the paces Jurek was writing about were incomprehensible, at least for me — I feel good about my times, but I’m far from breaking records or qualifying for Boston.

Readers experience Jurek’s feats of 100-plus miles through the book, and one of the main characters aside from Jurek — the book tells his story — is his friend Dusty, who paces him in races and helps push him along.

Jurek also writes about his mom’s struggle with MS, and consistently refers to his dad’s statement of “Sometimes you just do things!”

Some of the things he did I wouldn’t do — like running an ultra marathon with a sprained ankle. Or, just running 100 miles at once, even with good ankles. I also can’t imagine running for 24 hours, all around a course of shorter than a mile — something he also did. I like to change up the scenery, and I can imagine that would get boring. And this type of race was something he’d struggled with, according to the book.

I will note there was a time I didn’t think I’d do a marathon, but this seems different.

I always find it interesting to learn how people got into running, and I learned in the book although Jurek had run before, he really got into ultra running through cross-country skiing.

There was a chapter titled “The Central Governor,” that discussed a belief of Dr. Tim Noakes of how the brain’s “central governor” evaluates what has to be done in an athletic event and how the body can get to that goal.

“I think it’s possible Brian’s central governor, under tremendous physiological stress, caught sight of the finish line, believed the race was over, and pulled the plug,” Jurek and Friedman write (page 161), after describing how Brian — Brian Morrison — ran nearly 100 miles in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, but collapsed 300 yards away from the finish line. Jurek had been pacing him.

This was one particularly interesting part to me because — obviously, I don’t have any medical training — but I think something similar may have happened to me. I hadn’t put my body under as much stress as Brian — I had not run 100 miles, or anywhere even close to that. But I pushed my body too hard during the Dorchester YMCA Crab Run half marathon in April 2014, and suffered dehydration issues. I had already felt bad mentally toward the end — I thought of it as almost a drunken-like feeling — but I kept pushing on.

Then, when I got to the end, I recalled asking someone if I was at the finish line. It was obvious that I wasn’t, but I was so close. Maybe my body shut down in the same way. I didn’t actually finish the race, and ended up going to the hospital. (I was released the same day.)

A big part of the book also relates to the first part of the title — “Eat.” Each chapter ends with a recipe; unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a chance to make any of the recipes in the book yet, but I would like to try at least a couple. Jurek is a vegan runner, and it seems like that’s a big part of his life.

That’s also something I’m not going to do — become a vegan. I need my cheese, and chocolate. (I’m not a vegetarian, either.)

"The Running Dream," by Wendelin Van Draanen. (Vanessa Junkin photo)
“The Running Dream,” by Wendelin Van Draanen. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I originally planned this series to be posted on the first day of each month, and I’d like to get back to that. I finished the book Sunday, April 5 — it felt like work a little bit to have a deadline, but I am glad I’m going to be reading more and I enjoyed getting the chance to read it. Because of a busy schedule, I was not able to write this post until today. My next running-related book will be “The Running Dream,” by Wendelin Van Draanen.

This book was suggested by a Facebook fan/reader, and I figured a month when I’m already a little behind would be a great time to read this young adult fiction book. I also enjoy reading YA fiction — it’s been a little while — and I read another one of Van Draanen’s books, “Flipped,” many years ago, and I enjoyed it.

I’m reading another book, unrelated to running, now, but my next post in this series will be about “The Running Dream.”

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