|Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek during his Appalachian Trail world record-breaking run.
Picture: Luis Escobar
Today is like Christmas Eve for me. I’m at ‘five-year-old waiting for Santa’ level of excitement because tonight I get to meet my running hero.
That’s right, I just compared Scott Jurek to Santa Claus. I’m slightly scared that just being in the same room will induce some serious losing-my-shit. Imagine if I get to speak to him? This day cannot go fast enough. For those of you who aren’t at the same disgusting level of fangirl-dom as me, here’s a bit of background on Jurek.
He took up running in his early teens and was by no means the fastest but was definitely the most determined. He trained between looking after his mother, who was living with Multiple Sclerosis, cooking, cleaning and caring for his younger siblings while his father worked.
Even after he began winning back-to-back ultramarathons, breaking records and being a genuinely awesome athlete, he was known for his humility. Jurek would camp at the finish line of ultras that he’d run so that he could cheer every single runner as they finished their race. I dare you to run upwards of 160km and then hang out in a sleeping bag on the ground afterwards.
Earlier this year he lost his senses long enough to take on a mammoth challenge – 3,522 kilometres of mountainous trail. The full length of the Appalachian Trail to be exact – a trail that defeats thousands of hikers every year. To put it in perspective, it takes a typical hiker between five and seven months to complete. Jurek did it in 46 days, eight hours and eight minutes, averaging about 80 kilometres each day.
|End of the trail. Picture: Luis Escobar|
I first came across Jurek when Christopher McDougall’s book Born To Run was recommended by a fellow runner. It follows one man’s journey to learn the distance running secrets of a tribe of an isolated Mexican tribe of Indians, who seem to be able to stay on their feet for days on end, with not a pair of jogging shoes to be seen. That man was Caballo Blanco, an American trying to escape the rat race while connecting with the tribe.
Blanco invited Jurek to race the best of the tribe. The book changed my attitude towards running. What kind of people enjoy running for days on end? These guys. Because they treat it as fun. And so it became exhilarating.
And then I moved onto Jurek’s own book – Eat & Run – which is part biography, part recipe book and part running advice. I love it because his story could be anyone’s. He didn’t start with natural talent or ability. He worked for his achievements. It made me realise that sometimes we limit ourselves unnecessarily. If you have enough self-belief and you put in the hard yards, you can achieve your dream.