Am I just jaded because of my injury and the fact I haven’t been able to run for months? And even before that, because I couldn’t run like I used to run pre-Fuji and pre-permanent degenerative injury? Or did Scott Jurek’s novel lack something? Or am I just jealous of the fact he has such a well-distributed book backed by a big time publisher? Am I jealous of Scott’s success even? Possibly a bit of all of that, but I’m certain also that there’s something more at play.
I’ve read other great running auto/biography’s and have been inspired, enthralled, obsessed, impassioned, and unable to put them down. I read Dean Karnazes’ three books and remained riveted. I couldn’t put Lisa Tamati’s “Running Hot’ down until I’d finished it. Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run”? It was like discovering a new religion. I finished Scott Jurek’s “Eat & Run,” and while having thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I just felt deflated.
Don’t get me wrong, Scott’s is an autobiography with a hell of a lot of bang for its buck. He’s won 7 Western States Ultra Marathon races in a row for crying out loud! This guy is a running legend and an absolute ultra marathon superstar. And he’s also as humble as they come. This guy can run! What he can’t do is write. Which is why he enlisted Steve Friedmen to co-write this novel. What is lost, unfortunately, in this partnership, is the passion and love, the obsession even, for the sport. Steve, “Eat & Run” declares to all, is not a runner. It does this in the acknowledgements section as well as on every page of the book. I’m not a qualified reviewer, so I’ll just outline here what I liked and what I didn’t like.
I liked the race stories, about Scott pushing on despite broken and sprained limbs, in spite of horrendous heat and god awful stomach distress. I loved Scott’s account of his actual racing, chasing down those ahead, keeping in front at all costs, taking on all challenges head on with nothing short of mad determination. I couldn’t get enough of this. I even enjoyed the story throughout of Scott getting into his Vegan diet, trying new things, experimenting with foods, even experimenting with a raw food only diet! In fact Scott’s account of his slow transformation to Vegan eating and living and making it work for distance running is what makes this book readable and worth a look by not only runners but those looking at changing their eating habits. Scott even had me considering Vegan if only momentarily! Julia would never allow it!
What didn’t work for me was the blatant over production that Steve Friedmen quite obviously brought to this novel. If I had read the catch phrase, “sometimes you just do things” one more time, I think I’d have felt the need to seek Friedmen out and thump him, and in explanation explain, “sometimes you just fucking do things!” For crying out loud, I got the message after the first chapter. I didn’t need it hammered into me every chapter after that. And unfortunately, with over-production came a loss of innocence and exploration and wide-eyed wonder that can come with ultra running that Dean Krazenas in “Ultramarathon Man”, and Christopher McDougall in “Born to Run” both captured so perfectly and managed to inspire cult followings. For Scott, unfortunately, in “Eat & Run” at least, it all just seems to have come so easily. Nothing was hard about running, and unfortunately Scott’s mum’s illness even comes across as watered down, despite the trauma and sadness I’m certain it must have brought Scott.
Scott’s book “Eat & Run” is a good read. I enjoyed it as I have all the running autobiographies I’ve read. And my respect for Scott as a runner has gone up immensely. A true and worthy legend of the sport! But just as his comeback race in 2010 lacked suspense, intrigue, wonder, suffering, and excitement, so too did Scott’s book. Still worth a look, but don’t get too excited!