Advice- and vegan recipe-filled memoir from an ultramarathoner.
As a child, Jurek frequently asked his father why he had to do chores instead of playing with friends. He invariably replied, “sometimes you just do things!” This phrase, repeated throughout the book, became Jurek’s mantra through his many ultramarathons, where being merely physically fit isn’t enough and psychological resiliency is a necessary component of success: “will wasn’t just a matter of strength but a matter of focus...to run [an ultramarathon]...my mind was what mattered.” The author begins with a frank account of lessons he learned from a difficult childhood with a strict father and a mother with multiple sclerosis. The middle of the book, mostly a description of Jurek’s vegan diet and ultramarathons raced and won, shows the author at his least reflective. At a difficult moment in a race, his friend and frequent pacer Dusty Olson motivated Jurek by asking if he wanted to “get chicked” (to be outrun by a woman). The author brags that the term, Olson’s coinage, is now a part of the ultrarunner vocabulary. Jurek briefly mentions his wedding and subsequent divorce but says nothing about his marriage, giving the impression that at the height of his career, training and winning were the only things that mattered. The divorce, combined with the death of his mother, contributed to a win drought; during these sections of the book, the author displays genuine introspection. Readers who push through the middle of the book will be pleased to find that Jurek has come to recognize that “a plate filled with guacamole and dinosaur kale will not deliver anyone from sorrow” and that achieving goals is often less important than striving toward them.
Uneven, but patient readers will be rewarded with lessons about persistence and the joy of running.