These Endurance Guys Are Literally Fueled by Plants

According to Wikipedia, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that affirms one’s prior beliefs or hypotheses.

It’s something we’re all guilty of, and this post is an example of me indulging in confirmation bias.

I’ve been a vegan for nearly 13 years, and I’ll admit that over the years I’ve often actively searched for information that would provide validation for such a decision.

Two of the best sources of confirmation bias that I came across were the autobiographies of Scott Jurek and Rich Roll, two incredible endurance athletes who realized their success while eating a plant-based, vegan diet.

Their books were two of the five books that I reviewed as part of my first attempt at blogging, Sportsographies.

This post will feature my 2012 review of Scott Jurek’s book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. Next week I will share my review of Rich Roll’s book.

First some background on Scott Jurek from his web site, which has been updated since the 2012 review.

“Named one of the greatest runners of all time, Scott Jurek has become a living legend.  He has claimed victories in nearly all of ultrarunning’s elite trail and road events including the historic 153-mile Spartathlon, the Hardrock 100, the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, and—his signature race—the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, which he won a record seven straight times. Scott has also taken the running world by storm with his 2015 Appalachian Trail speed record, averaging nearly 50 miles a day over 46 days—and the United States all-surface record in the 24-Hour Run with 165.7 miles: 6.5 marathons in one day. Off the trail, Scott is a New York Times-bestselling author for his memoir, Eat & Run, has been prominently featured in countless publications, and is a star of the international bestseller, Born To Run.  More than just a champion, Scott is a true student and ambassador of the sport, known to stay at finish lines cheering until the last runner crosses. When not racing, he donates his time to many non-profit organizations and is an avid volunteer in the areas of environmental conservation, fitness, and health. A passionate advocate for vegetarianism, he follows a 100% plant-based diet, which he credits for his endurance, recovery and consistent twenty-year racing career. He believes that everyone can run an ultra and everyone can access their body’s innate capacity to heal. Through writing, public speaking, and consulting, Scott takes joy in encouraging people of all fitness levels to take the next step toward vibrant health. Scott currently resides in Boulder, CO with his wife, Jenny, and newborn daughter, Raven.”

Jurek’s goal in writing the book was to show the reader how he transformed from the inside out, and how the reader can do likewise.

The book follows a chronological path, starting with Jurek as a youngster in Minnesota. He notes the influence of his mom, who suffered from multiple sclerosis (which inspired his becoming a physical therapist), and his dad, a hard-working man who often told his son,  “Sometimes you just do things!” That philosophy became central to Jurek’s character. After a successful high school career as a cross country skier, Jurek goes o college o pursue his therapy degree. It was during this time period that Jurek began to take his running seriously, as well as his diet.

His first long-distance race was the Minnesota Voyageur in 1994, a 50-mile race. His first major ultramarathon win was the Western States 100 in 1995, which he went on to win six more years in a row. At this point, Jurek was also fully committed to a vegan diet. Here is an excerpt where he shares the benefits of a vegan diet:

“The better I ate, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I ate. Since going vegan, I had lost a layer of fat—the layer that came with eating the cookies and cakes and Twinkies and cheese pizza that so many omnivores and even vegetarians gulp down. I learned that I could eat more, enjoy it more, and still get leaner than I had ever been in my life. When I went vegan, I started eating more whole grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables. My cheekbones seemed more pronounced, my face more chiseled. Muscles I didn’t even know I had popped out. I was eating more, losing weight, and gaining muscle—all on a vegan diet. My recovery times between workouts and races got even shorter. I wasn’t even sore the day after 50-mile races. I woke up with more energy every day. Fruit tasted sweeter, vegetables crunchier and more flavorful. I was doing short runs in the morning, working 8- to 10-hour days, then running 10 to 20 miles in the evening. I felt as if my concentration was improving every day.”

Jurek is impressive not only for his athletic ability but for his mental toughness as well. Pain, physical and mental, is guaranteed in an ultramarathon, and the stories of what it is like to run an ultramarathon are eye-opening. Jurek even finished the last 45 miles of the Western States with torn ligaments!

Jurek also shares the emotional pain he went through after his divorce and the death of his mom as well as his financial difficulties. What kept him going were his running and positive attitude. He also talks about the falling out he had with his best friend Dusty.

However, by the end of the book, Jurek is happily re-married,  is back on friendly terms with Dusty, and just set the American record for distance covered in a 24-hour run, an astonishing 165 miles.

In addition to the great stories about his races, each chapter concludes with tips on training as well as a plant-based recipe. It’s a nice combination since I have always felt that to be truly healthy, you need to focus on both diet and exercise and that ultimately, diet is the key to long term success.

I highly recommend Scott’s book, it is inspirational and full of practical tips to become a better athlete and a healthy individual.

Update: Jurek had a new book published in 2018, North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail, that chronicles his record-breaking run on the Appalachian Trail. I have not had a chance to read it, but it has 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and if it is anything like Eat & Run, I am sure it will be well worth reading.

30 thoughts on “These Endurance Guys Are Literally Fueled by Plants

  1. I guess we only have to think what elephants, speedy race horses and maginificent bulls eat. They don’t need meat… but cheetahs do… hmm. Many of us would happily do without meat, but cows ( in this country ) eat lovely healthy grass and we love cheese! I’m no scientist or farmer, but don’t we need animals to fertilise the land, churn the soil and create the countryside we love?

    1. good points, Karen. I try not to push my vegan beliefs on others, all I ask is that people think about their diet, much like it sounds like you are when you ask such questions. thanks for commenting!

  2. I have a friend who does triathlons and ultra-marathons. I will have to ask him about his diet, because the feats they accomplish are amazing. Thanks for a great read!

    1. Thanks, for your comment, Brad. I’m sure most people who compete in these events eat a typical American diet. It’s just nice to know that you don’t have to eat like that, and you can still be successful.

  3. I love vegan food, it makes me feel good physically and mentally. However, as I burn calories very quickly I do eat cheese, milk, yogurt and icecream. I also eat some chicken, So I’m not completely vegetarian but I feel good with what I eat.

      1. Here are some of my favorite books on plant-based eating: The China Study, The Food Revolution, The Engine 2 Diet, Thrive, Eat to Live, Finding Ultra, How Not to Die, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Movies I’ve liked have been Fast Food Nation, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Fed Up, Food Inc.,

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