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Scott free for the challenge

DECCAN CHRONICLE | SURUCHI KAPUR-GOMES
Published Oct 4, 2015, 7:08 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 2:58 pm IST
He ran over 260 kms in 24 hours and here, he reveals why
Scott Jurek
 Scott Jurek

Meet Scott Jurek. He ran over 260 kms in 24 hours and here, he reveals why and more importantly, how

There comes the crossroad in life when putting that one foot forward seems unsurmountable, the most difficult task of all. Yet, American Scott Jurek has done this time and time again, challenging life’s frailties and emerging victorious. Avowed to running the most testing and toughest of terrains, it’s his life’s purpose and also the reason Jurek is called the best ultramarathoner in the world.

Seven consecutive 160-kilometre Western States Endurance Run wins, two Badwater ultramarathon (the 200-kilometre race between Athens and Sparta) wins, the most difficult race in the world among many others, a book Eat and Run under his determined vegan and health-conscious belt and so much more. And humour through it all, as he jokes, “Nice to meet you over the phone,” in this telephonic when he was in Bengaluru to spread awareness of ultramarathoning and meeting likeminded individuals. Yes, Scott Jurek is the quintessential challenger of life’s hardships. If he has set his mind on a challenge, then it’s only a matter of time before he succeeds. And this is the lesson the Minnesota boy, who grew up amidst nature wants to propagate.

 

“India was a place I have always wanted to visit, its culture, history is amazing. I love to explore new cultures, seeing them through the eyes of a local, a runner and a vegan. The country is fantastic — it’s my first time. I’ve already had an amazing Indian thali, and am looking forward to meeting athletes. I’m amazed at the new food I am tasting, and the fact that India has so much for a vegan. It’s also the first time I ate with my fingers on a banana leaf —  the most challenging I must add. I love spicy food, and my host approved whole heartedly,” says the man who recently completed a lifelong aspiration — the Appalachian trail.

“The Appalachian is my biggest and most special and most difficult. Winning the seven consecutive Western States Endurance Runs was also something special in 2004 — a memorable experience — I kept trying, year after year. Each year, I learnt something different about myself. I have thought of doing it and felt that there was no way I could have. I found that though life is not easy, we are stronger than we think. You think you cannot go on, but you always find the extra five per cent to push.

Deep inside, you find that strength, it’s something you always had. Listen to your body, accept the challenge, stay motivated. It was very unique and since it was one of my goals to do a national scenic trail — the Appalachians were it. Incredible, the toughest things I’ve done and I am still amazed at the record and given that I had injuries. I’ve always been inspired by new places and that is why I am travelling to India, to bring a new sport here with Reliance Trends in the Run with the Best programme,” says Jurek.

And it was 46 days of sleep deprivation, 8 km a day, keeping to a strenuous set plan, adapting to change, staying focused that kept Scott placing one foot after the other, even with a knee and quad injury during the recent Appalachian trail. “The key to running, and the important thing is to still those thoughts or let them be and learning to still the mind through meditation. Also, pranayama is something I have learnt, I used to be somebody who never enjoyed yoga, but that is what has helped me,” he adds.

A mind that has learnt to strive above the ordinary, Scott, as a child had his share of turmoil. “It was a hard time and having difficulties helped me gain perspective. My mum suffered from multiple sclerosis. Growing up, my family didn’t have much, but we had the freedom to be out in nature, it was a simple life before her disease changed things and we learnt to adapt. It prepared me to face challenges as I saw such a strong positive attitude in her, and that taught me so much.” He also never tried long distance running until his sophomore year when he started cross training to prepare for Nordic skiing.

Scott who had a key role to play in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run penned down his own story when, he had been running marathons for over 20 years and finally got the help of a friend — Steve Friedman to write Eat and Run, a New York Times bestseller, that details his stellar accomplishments, his plant-based diet, that is nothing short of extraordinary.

“I have been able to share my story and hopefully people will get inspired, eat more healthy. I myself have been inspired by the people I have met, Eat and Run is the story about running, about becoming the best possible person, with a desire to challenge and overcome limitations,” reveals the man, who recently set a new American record by running close to 265 kilometres in 24 hours — the equivalent of 6.5 marathons a day!

And behind this incredibly dedicated runner is wife, Jenny, who he incidentally met while running. “Jenny has been a huge part of my success — she is the reason I was able to do the Appalachians. She loves running and climb and understands the challenges, and what goes into preparing. There is a mutual respect and understanding about the challenges and finding a partner who supports one’s drive is so important, she is the key to my career, we met through running, had mutual friends,” he says.

The runner might be a vegan, but he is quite the master chef, “I love to cook, we do a lot of cuisines at home — Indian, Thai, East African,” says Jurek, who hopes to retire soon and have children.

As a runner one needs energy and carbohydrates are his go-to, “Being a vegan, it’s important to get proteins too, and there are plenty of proteins in dals, grains, legumes, with the necessary amino acids, so yes, I eat a lot,” he admits. For someone who has surpassed each destination, leapt over barriers, physical and psychological, Scott Jurek regards Australian-Greek Yiannis Kouros and the late Olympian Steve Prefontaine, and the Marathon Monks as ultimate idols. He recalls his time with the Tarahumara Indians and says that their running history inspired him.

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