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Ultrarunner reveals what it took to run across Death Valley — twice

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Some runners do 5K races, others attempt half-marathons and marathons, but there is another breed of runner who go further much further.

How much more?

Six-and-a-half full marathons, back to back, in a single day. That’s what ultrarunner Scott Jurek did, running a staggering 165 miles in 24 hours to set a US record.

And if you’ve ever wondered what it takes to run 135 miles across Death Valley in tempartures that don’t drop below 100F even in the middle of the night, then Jurek would be a good person to ask. He’s done it twice.

Jurek is one of the world’s best known ultra-runners, due in a large part to his appearance in the best-selling 2009 running book ‘Born to Run’.

But he had made a name for himself long before his ‘Born to Run’ fame, being an established champion in the ultra-marathon scene and regarded as the best in the US. That in turn led to an invitation to pit himself against the long distance prowess of the legendary Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, as chronicled in Christopher MacDougall’s ‘Born to Run’.

Jurek has now written his own book about his unlikely path to ultrarunning greatness. In ‘Eat & Run’ he traces his route from his youth, where he originally competed as a skier, to his emergence as one of the greatest ultra-distance runners of the 1990s and 2000s.

“I ran, and kept running, because I had learned that once you started something you didn’t quit, because in life, much like in an ultra-marathon, you have to keep pressing forward,” writes Jurek.

The 135-mile race across California’s Death Valley, the Badwater UltraMarathon, has been labelled ‘the world’s toughest foot race’. When Jurek took up the challenge in 2005 he was already a darling of ultra distance running. But even his impressive string of victories in 100-mile races across mountains and canyons had not tested him to the limit the way Death Valley would.

Jurek’s experience in the Badwater race is a major hook for ‘Eat & Run’, however there is much more. It traces the Minnesota-born runner’s life in fascinating detail, from his childhood troubles to his immersion into the oft overlooked world of ultrarunning and his celebrated races with the Tarahumaru runners and beyond.

Along the way Jurek became a committed vegan. The ‘eat’ in the book’s title refers to the vegan recipes that tail each chapter. Throughout the book Jurek often refers to the meals, and how he discovered them and used them as a competitor.

‘Eat & Run’ is a fascinating read that moves along quickly and reveals what makes an ultra-runner tick, and what drives them to keep running far beyond the limits of most others.

It also contains many tips for runners, whatever their standard, interested in learning how to improve style and form, how to run faster and longer, and how to stay healthy — whether they want to become vegans or not.

Jurek and his co-writer Steve Friedman have done a fine job in making ‘Eat & Run’ an easy to read, compelling page-turner that is likely to appeal to seasoned runners, beginners and even non-runners.


‘Eat & Run’ is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

No stopping: Scott Jurek's fascinating book details his unlikely path to ultrarunning greatness, including twice competing in 'the world's hardest foot race' - the 135 miles of the Badwater Ultramarathon across California's Death Valley.
Ultrarunning great: Scott Jurek

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Published January 31, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 31, 2013 at 8:56 am)

Ultrarunner reveals what it took to run across Death Valley — twice

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