Book Knowledge Sharing – 1
I have been wanting to, for a long time, to share what I have found interesting in the various books on running that I have been reading. I do not want to be presumptuous and call it ‘Book Critic’ or ‘Book Review’ since I have no intention of posing as an expert on the topic of the books that I read, hence will be titling my series as ‘Book Knowledge Sharing’
About the Author – Scott Jurek
I have known of Scott Jurek from a little bit after I first saw the film on Badwater Ultra (http://www.badwater.com/ ) shared by my running friend Amit Sheth when I saw that he was a two time winner of the gruelling event. I also later learnt that he had a whole string of endurance running event wins including Western States 100 (http://ws100.com ) Spartalathon (http://www.spartathlon.gr/en.html ) etc.
Those who have read Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run will recollect that Scott Jurek is prominently featured in that book as the runner who almost beat Arnulfo in the race with the Tarahumaras ( http://www.chrismcdougall.com/ )
His own website gives more details about him at http://scottjurek.com/
Background of the Book
Scott Jurek is a Vegan and does not consume ANY animal product. So this means no eggs or animal milk / dairy or honey. It is also referred to as a plant based diet.
For any runner / athlete it throws up the immediate question, “How do I get my proteins?” Vegans hold out that the animal / dairy / poultry industry has bombarded the message so strongly in the public mind that without consumption of their end products, there is a strong fear of being deficient in meeting the protein needs.
Vegans also hold out that many of the modern diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension are caused by excessive consumption of animal products that are laden with cholesterol. A plant based diet, it is believed, can reverse many of the symptoms of such lifestyle diseases.
Scott Jurek’s book proves, and rather convincingly, that one can be a vegan and yet a champion athlete.
What I found interesting?
His Background and True Grit:
Scott Jurek’s life history is so amazing. The eldest sibling of a rural Minnesota family that was not financially well off, he took care of the family while also taking care of his mother who was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive nerve affliction that even today has no known cure. He did not share a good relationship with his father also. His childhood and early teens were one of depravation and hardship.
As he started his career in endurance sports he soon realised the importance of proper nutrition. His education and career as a physical therapist soon bought out to him the correlation between the Standard American Diet ( SAD ) of animal meat in each meal and the prevalence of all sorts of lifestyle diseases.
It is really remarkable that in a society that is so strong on animal meat in its food habits, Scott chose to take the difficult path of adopting a Vegan meal plan.
His take on the Tarahumara:
On what he saw in them he says, “ What I saw in the Tarahumara was a group that ran and ate as their ancestors had run and eaten…they ate meat, but they ate it the way generations past ate it – on the rare occasions they could get it – it was a precious commodity, not a staple”
His approach to others’ being not Vegans:
Here I tend to agree with him when he says, “I am healthier and can run faster and longer because I eat a plant based diet. But I do not preach to my carnivorous friends or lambast anyone who has a baked potato slathered with butter and sour cream. Anyone who pays attention to what they eat and how it affects them, will naturally move toward plants – and toward health”.
The eternal debate, Scientific training v/s free form:
Most running forums have this eternal debate going on about running scientifically and running free of any planning. He sums it up well by saying, “Exercise is simpler and more complicated. We need to move. But should training be an intuitive free form affair or a structured science? I try to let science steer my training while remaining open to the animal joy of running.” And he too echoes a sentiment that all of us will joyously concur with, “ I take days off when I feel I need them, even if my training plan does not call for it.”
The Desi touches:
For Indian runners the following points of the book will be more interesting.
– He has widely read and adopted many yogic practices in his training regime. Including asanas and pranayama. He is a strong believer of the practice of breathing through the nose while running.
– When he was injured with a swollen ankle before his Leadville 100 run, an Indian, Imtiaz, applied a balm of powdered pepper and turmeric paste on his ankle to promote rapid healing. He reflects his deep respect for Ayurveda throughout the book.
– He has a number of Vegan recipes all along the book including many items that he uses to fuel his long runs. Runners may find them interesting. He also specifically mentions the Baingan Bharta, Dal and Basmati that Imtiaz cooked for him.
– When running the Spartathalon event and he was dead exhausted, a rustic Greek woman gives him water and then pulls a sprig of Tulsi ( basil ) leaves and asks him to put them in his waist belt / running pouch. She then pulled one of the leaves and stuck it behind his ear. Regular temple goers ( especially from South India ) will immediately recognize this established practice that is still followed. He goes on to further add, “Suddenly I felt a lightness and strength. Whether it was her kindness, the water, or the basil ( which I discovered later is the king of herbs, the word basil deriving from the Greek word ‘basileus’, which means king; it is revered as a symbol of strength and good luck in Greece ) my mind shifted.” Way to go Tulsi J
For any runner, who needs a dollop of motivation, it is a must read. The story of his life and Ultra career unfolds in the most compelling manner. It was unputdownable for me and I read it non stop in the flight from Dallas to Mumbai. Please read it whether you subscribe to the Vegan thing or not.