While on vacation on Cape Cod, I picked up Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman, hoping to be able to spend some quiet relaxation time in the hammock reading. It was a nice, pleasant thought, but I should have known better than to think I would have time to read. Once I got back to Buffalo, the book sat on my end table for a couple of days, taunting me. Finally, this past weekend, I dove in.
First impressions are extremely important to me when reading. If the author isn't able to hook me in the first ten to twenty pages at the most, it's game over. Eat & Run opens up with Scott battling through one of his many ultramarathons, completely puking his guts out, laying in a cooler full of ice water, and thinking about giving up. Not a bad start, I suppose; it was enough to keep me interested.
I don't have much concern about spoilers in this review, as all you would really need to do is look up his race history on Wikipedia. The narrative of this story follows the many races in which he took part (and mostly won). Accompanying the race recaps, he includes a very interesting and well-written review of his childhood and early adult life leading up to his racing, which really did set the stage for who he is today. The majority of the book is spent following his ultramarathon running. I have to admit, toward the last couple of race chapters it was a little bit monotonous, though he at least kept it moving forward through personal stories and other interesting information.
The book wraps up covering the past couple of years, during which he has undergone several life changes that have really tested him more than any race could. It kind of left me with a bleak outlook on ultramarathoners, seeing how most of them have some kind of glaring character flaw or life issue that lead them to pursue such an extreme sport. I suppose, though, that if you are agreeing to run hundreds of miles at a time, you must have something a bit different than the rest of us.
The book does end on a happy note, encouraging people to push forward, to enjoy the journey. He ends with the suggestion to enjoy the path as much as the goal because that is what really matters, anyway.
What I Liked
I liked this book. Once I opened it up, I finished it over the course of about seventy-two hours. I really enjoyed his personal story, to see and get at least a cursory view on what makes him push forward when everyone else would stop. "Sometimes you just do things." That was the key phrase of the book, and it's stuck with me a bit and has given me something to think about as Ellie and I prepare for our first half marathon. Another major part of this book dealt with his dedication to veganism and healthy eating. As someone who is working to get my own diet and health under control, I am excited to know that I can push the limits physically while on a very healthy diet. Each chapter ends with training tips and vegan recipes—a nice touch.
What I didn't Like
There was very little in this book that I didn't care for. As stated above, I thought it was a little bit monotonous by the last race or two he talked about, but that was about it. The sport after all is a little bit repetitive. That about sums up this category.
Overall, read this book if you are interested in more of the psychological thoughts behind one of the top ultrarunners in the world. Read it if you are interested in the sport and/or if you are interested in living a thoughtful, healthy life. Read it if you are interested in vegan or vegetarian training. Don't read it if you are looking for thorough training tips to get through your runs.
Two thumbs up in my book; I truly enjoyed it and am looking forward to trying out some of the recipes Scott has come up with.