Deal With It: On Scott Jurek’s Voice of Reason

When I first graduated from college and started life in the real world, I read at least a book a week — like any English major with hopes of striking it rich as an editor (note: that was complete sarcasm) would. Since transitioning into the start-up world and taking on far too many responsibilities on the side, the reading simply came to a halt.

I hated the fact that it did. And not long ago, since resolving to revisit a little sweet thang called “free time,” I’ve finally picked up a book again. I’ve even opened the cover and gotten past the dedication page.

Of the last three books I’ve read in the last year or so, all of them have been in one way or another tied to my beloved: running. It started last Thanksgiving in Hilton Head, when I first picked up Born to Run not long after finishing my very first half marathon (and hating the crap out of it). Naturally, after finishing this page turner, I signed up for half marathon No. 2 (the infamous snowy Manhattan Half Marathon) right away.

Since then, I’ve also read The Long Run by the undoubtedly inspiring Matt Long. Matt’s tale of determination, not to mention his stories of epic runs around the tip of Manhattan, up to the George Washington Bridge and beyond, rekindled my love of slightly longer runs once again.

Unlike before, I didn’t pick up Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run (coincidentally, the two things I love most; sold) because I needed inspiration. Quite the contrary, because I’m only able to run every other day (if that) due to my shins, all I want to do is run; from Jurek, I was in search of peace of mind.

Eat & Run is essentially the legendary ultramarathoner’s memoir, beginning with his childhood on the outskirts of Duluth, Minnesota through high school, college and adulthood. It outlines his journey to ultramarathon greatness with honesty for and insight to his evolution as boy, man, husband, friend, son of an ailing mother, and of course, incredibly talented runner. Even for someone who clearly doesn’t covet distance as much as the author (at least, I can’t for now), I also can’t deny the powerful effect that Jurek’s words have had on my mentality toward it since first picking it up.

What Jurek concludes impressively early on in life is that pain is very much a mindset — a mantra I’ve actually adopted when testing my own strength on the race track. In fact, Jurek’s entire life seems like a mastery of pain, both physical and mental, from his home life to training to runs both hard and long.

An excerpt from Chapter 9, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” in which he goes out for a training run in preparation for the Western States 100:

Difficulty would help. It had always helped. I was finally figuring that out. All the whys in the universe hadn’t granted me peace or given me answers. But the asking–and the doing–had creating something in me, something strong.

Reading Jurek’s constant pursuit — and ability to overcome — pain has really got me thinking about how often I complain during a single run about the myriad factors bothering me in a given moment. Even the best of runs are blighted by protests and grievances.

I’m tired. I’m hungry. My leg’s cramping. It’s raining. It’s hot. This hill sucks. This flat surface sucks. My laces are too tight. My laces are too loose. I’m chafing.

A big part of me can’t help but wonder as I delve further and further into Eat & Run, and as I read Jurek’s accounts of marked courage and strength (and his ability to subsist and succeed on an entirely plant-based diet at that!) why we’re all so inclined to dwell on the negative even when doing one of the most positive and natural things for our bodies. We were born to run, after all, weren’t we?

(I mean, I’m clearly not not complaining here.)

I unfortunately didn’t internalize this whole rant enlightened thought process until after I returned from Monday Morning’s short 3-miler, which took me from my apartment down to Gramercy Park, then northwest toward Madison Square Park and back home again.

Coming off a weekend of pure debauchery, I was impressed by the fact that I even got out of bed in time to sneak in a 45-minute workout (30 minutes outside, then 15 minutes of strength training back in my apartment). By the time I was sucking down fresh air, I was bitching and moaning like woah.

On the menu?

My legs are tired. My left calf is tight. Why is there so much dog poo near Gramercy Park? Ugh, a minor yet existent hill?

I could probably go on, but you get the point.

Maybe it’s time to focus on swallowing the complaints. Maybe it’s time to emphasize the good and ignore the less-than-ideal. Maybe it’s time to simply deal with it.

And maybe I’m being irrational.

Anyways, it’s just something to think about as I continue to plow my way through this amazing book. Because even if I can recognize those instances in which I am even thinking of complaining and shut my brain up for just one or two of those fleeting moments, it may nevertheless enhance the overall quality of those runs — especially those that take place on Monday mornings.

  • Do you complain while running?
  • What do you bitch and moan about on any given run?
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7 thoughts on “Deal With It: On Scott Jurek’s Voice of Reason

  1. I definitely have a tendency to bitch in my head so it’s something I’ve been trying to work on, too!

    Scott Jurek’s book is next on my list. I’m finishing up Born to Run and before that read Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography, A Life Without Limits. The pain threshold thing really is so key it seems!

  2. It’s funny that you wrote this because I have been trying to find a book on running to read this morning and now I have a few that come recommended. I too, bitch in my head when running and it’s funny because when I am walking home there is no more bitching, just happy post run glow.

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