My chief criticism is that "Eat & Run" just scrapes the surface on many events in Jurek's life. Perhaps the title has both a figurative and literal meaning, never spending too much time on one thing. There are 21 chapters, but each chapter is only about 10 pages long. I think the book could have easily been twice as long given more character development and story telling. In the end, it felt like Jurek and cowriter Steve Friedman strung together a list of race reports.
Besides Jurek, the main character development throughout the book is about his life long friend Dusty Olson and his mom. Dusty is presented in chapter 1 with the greeting, "Get the fuck up!", in reference to Jurek lying down on the Badwater course. Early in Jurek's life, Dusty was a competitor to Jurek, but later, he became Jurek's #2 as he was a pacer in many of Jurek's ultramarathons. Their friendship seemed strained which probably was not helped by Dusty's insults and disparaging remarks towards Jurek, or as he called him, "The Jurker". At one point they stopped communicating altogether.
Jurek's mom had multiple sclerosis. This appeared to have a great influence on Jurek's path, to the extent that he became a physical therapist after assisting with his mom's physical therapy treatments. Maybe due to his mom's illness, Jurek had to do a lot of chores around the house, from cooking and cleaning to stacking firewood. His relationship with his mom was better than the one with his dad. His dad was the disciplinarian. If he asked why he had to do something, his dad would reply, "Sometimes, you just do things." This became Scott's mantra throughout his ultramarathons.
One character who received little description was his exwife Leah. He mentioned how they met in Minnesota and some of their early years living in her parent's basement, but there wasn't much introspection about how their relationship fell apart. On that matter, Jurek only said that Leah told him he wasn't funny or interesting, that they married too young and that she fell in love with another man and wanted a divorce. That was a pretty heavy blow in only a few short sentences.
To the casual observer on the internet, it would appear that Leah left Jurek for Ted McDonald, the barefoot runner whom Jurek befriended in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. The only mention of him in this book was in reference to the runners in the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon, "A man named Ted McDonald, who called himself Barefoot Ted because he recently started jogging without shoes." From the internet, it's clear that Barefoot Ted went to Greece with Leah and Jurek for the Spartathalon 2007, just months before Leah and Jurek split. Jurek devotes a chapter to this race in his book, but there's no mention of the storm that had to be brewing between the three of them.
Maybe I'm being a bit of a rubber necker here, but one of the theme's of Jurek's book is about how he had struggles in his life and how he overcame those struggles. A wife leaving you for a friend ranks pretty high for a struggle. I can only assume that Jurek is respecting their privacy or it is still too painful to analyze in too much detail. Or maybe I'm making too much of it. Sometimes shit happens and it doesn't matter who the names are.
"Eat & Run" ends with an epilogue about his record setting 24 hour run in France. I had the impression that this race was a redemption for him for both a personal and professional point of view. Personally, he spent his time in France content with his new girlfriend, Jenny. Professionally, he set a US record for a 24 hour run after a year of not winning any major achievements. He even transformed his mantra into, "This is what you came for." It was obviously the ending to his professional ultrarunning career as he stated that he had done what he set out to do and now it was time to rest.
My chief compliment to "Eat & Run" is that I appreciated Jurek's description of how he became vegan. The book was just as much about fuel for his runs as it was about how fast he ran. The book's title was fitting. He did go into considerable detail about how he fueled his runs, including recipes. It makes me wonder if this book will help popularize a plant based diet among runners.
In between reading chapters of "Eat & Run", I listened to a podcast interview of Dr. Timothy Noakes (http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes/6413/588-south-african-running-legend-tim-noakes-embraces-high-fat-low-carb-living/). For those not familar with Dr. Noakes, he is the author of "Lore of Running", a well respected book on the science of running. In the podcast, Dr. Noakes explained his personal history with weight gain and how he lost weight on an Atkins low carb diet after reading an Atkins diet book and Gary Taubes' books. This is a huge reversal from his opinion (or scientific work) as described in "Lore of Running" on the running performance benefits from eating carbohydrates. Dr. Noakes even suggests for folks to rip out the nutrition section from his book, or if you wait, he is rewriting the book.
Dr. Noakes' view on a low carb diet for runners is the opposite of Jurek's carb-filled, plant based diet for training and racing and winning ultramarathons.What's interesting to me is that Jurek stated in his book that he reveres Dr. Noakes for his scientific work to explain endurance running, specifically in regards to the central governor theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_governor). I'd love to hear Jurek's thoughts on Dr Noakes' reversal on carbohydrates, or his reversal on hydrating in general (http://www.irunfar.com/2012/07/waterlogged-a-dogma-shattering-book.html).