Thursday, May 13, 2010

swooning for scott jurek

If you've read the wildly popular book Born to Run, a recent issue of Runner's World, or just about any forum that deals with running and/or veganism, you know who Scott Jurek is. A vegan ultramarathoner who holds a slew of ridiculous records, such as winning the Western States Endurance Run (a 100 mile trail race!) seven consecutive times, and holding the course's record time (15:36:27). Also, he's really cute.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about Jurek (written by Mark Bittman) because today, Jurek is competing in the 24-Hour Run World Championship (you can follow along in real time on Twitter, which is much easier than following along on foot). According to Bittman, "[i]t is a grueling race to determine how many miles runners can complete on a 1.4-kilometer road loop (about nine-tenths of a mile) in a 24-hour period." Sounds terribly boring to me (I hate running the same thing twice, let alone over 100 times) but I hope Jurek wins. (The record he's trying to beat is 162 miles. Insane!)

Besides being a great runner and great looking (I have mentioned how cute he is, haven't I?) I love the fact that Jurek is also a vegan. You can read the whole article for yourself, but I'm going to excerpt my favorite part. This section speaks to me, because it echoes my own culinary upbringing and I appreciate those who come around to veganism the long way. Also, I need to take up ultrarunning ASAP. When you're biggest dietary challenge is consuming enough calories, you're doing something right!
“The whole issue,” [Jurek] said, “is exactly that: getting enough calories. The first thing to worry about isn’t so much what you eat, but how much you eat. You have to take the time to sit at the table and make sure your calorie count is high enough. And when you’re a vegan, to increase your calories as you increase training you need more food. This isn’t an elimination diet but an inclusion diet.”

Jurek grew up in Proctor, Minn., eating cookie dough, canned vegetables and his share of fast food. When his mother, Lynn, developed multiple sclerosis (she died this spring), he and his siblings began cooking, but the food was, he said, “very Midwest — meat and potatoes.” In college, his diet began to improve, and as he “saw how much disease is lifestyle related,” he began eating “real food, eating the way people have been eating for thousands of years.”

He made the transition to less meat and more fish, then eventually knocked out dairy and other animal products entirely.

“It’s really a mental barrier,” he said, and he obviously has experience overcoming those. He said he needed 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day, “and I get that all from plant sources. It’s not hard, either. I like to eat, and I don’t have to worry about weight management. All I need is a high-carbohydrate diet with enough protein and fat.”

He said he spent a great deal of time shopping, preparing and cooking food — and chewing. He is among the slowest and most deliberate eaters I know, and there is something about his determination at the table that is reminiscent of his determination on the road: he just doesn’t stop.
Three cheers for vegan athletes, and best of luck to Scott Jurek as he races the day away!