I finally got around to writing this up since I finished the book. I guess the main feeling I would relate about this book is surprise. Surprise because I was expecting the typical blow by blow of an athlete discovering their ability and then applying their skill in race after race with dutiful competition.
And you do get some of this, so if that’s what you enjoy, you won’t be disappointed. I think a good training and racing story can really stoke the motivation fires and help get me out the door and on the trail with renewed vim, so I’m always up for a good one.
My surprise stems mostly from how intensely personal this book gets. This is something you very rarely see in your standard athletic ego-stroke autobiography. I don’t want to give too many examples, for fear of spoiling the book for you, but one excellent example is his relationship with his ailing mother. When Scott was very young, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Normally in stories that take this turn you hear about the mother’s courage (which Scott does talk about) and how she never gave up (ditto) and how her struggles taught the author about perseverance, hard work, etc (and you’re left with no doubt here about the profound effect Scott’s loving mother had on him).
Where this story veers off the standard script (for the better) is Scott discussing how honestly complicating his feelings became, especially as a tween and teen and older. Imagine that as a 12 year old you get saddled with an adults weight in responsibilities — caring for your younger siblings, cleaning the house, cooking meals, doing the laundry — because your mother gets sick. Of course most of the time you would do these things willingly, but every once in a while, when you just wanted to be a 12-year old kid you might would resent the chores. Resent the responsibilities. Resent your mother.
Sounds harsh, but it’s true….for anyone, and if you don’t think you’d feel that way at least sometimes, you’re kidding yourself. Jurek doesn’t avoid this point at all — in fact he notes his frustration, and occasional resentment a few times, which as I think is very brave….and real.
I have to hand it the author for being real about this point. Everyone wants heroes; publishers included (see It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong), and we want them snowy white and perfect. Guess what….they’re not. Ever. And this book is a great reminder that great athletes, great people, are always complicated, messier, more real and genuine than story books would lead us to believe.
Again, Eat and Run is part autobiography and part recipe book, and this strangely fits quite well. The recipes fit neatly into the story sequences and provide a good segway from point to point in the story. The recipes don’t explain or inform about the previous passage or the one to come — they are truly page breaks — but with the over-arching theme of the book, they work. And they do a good job of encouraging readers to try them out — I’ve made a few and so far they’re all quite tasty.
This is a worthwhile book for any runner or non-runner, vegan or meat-a-tarian, athlete or bookworm. Enjoy.
He lives with his wife and two kids and runs multiple businesses in Grand Junction, Colorado.