Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegetarianism and Running

One year ago my dad sent me a Vegetarian Times article on Scott Jurek. The article highlights the benefits of being an elite athlete with a vegan diet and how such a diet has attributed to his successes as an ultrarunner. His on-the-run diet consists of bean burritos or homemade bread slices with hummus spread instead of the artificially sweetened energy gels. Outside of runs, Scott focuses on eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

With this natural vegetable protein, his body absorbs enough protein to sustain his energy levels and then some. At the time, I read the article and almost forgot about it because I thought that it would be too much effort, not to mention money, to mimick Scott's eating habits.

One year later, Scott Jurek showed up in my life again.

Garrett (boyfriend) was given a Men's Health article about the Tarahumara people in Mexico and how Scott Jurek went down to run with them back in 2006. This article covered how this ancient tribe living in the divets of canyon walls have mastered the art of long distance running, minus the injuries and minus the well-cushioned-hundred-dolla-a-pair shoes. Somehow an ultra race of 50 miles was set up to put up America's best - Scott Jurek - up against the Tarahumara, who run more miles in a day than some people drive in a day, since the age of five.

I felt like the article was meant for me because the Tarahumara live on mostly vegetables and the land, and also run. Now I was beginning to be inspired. I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Scott Jurek, what compelled him to go down to the Copper Canyon, risk getting shot by drug cartels, and then run on trails that, with one misstep, could propel a person off the cliff.

Of course, boyfriend came through again. He found out that there was actually a book on the Tarahumara and the race that Scott Jurek came down for. Boyfriend Garrett figured I would be enamored with the book immediately. I was a little perturbed that in the Mens Health article they didn't actually notify readers of this fact, but all is well. I found "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall (same author of the MH article) on for $14.58 and it arrived the next day.

I'm not going to summarize the book for you (go buy it for yourself!), but I'm going to recount what it has inspired in me.

Scott Jurek is my hero. Not only for his vegan diet or his running, but for his character and peace of heart.

As course record holder of practically all of the major ultrarunning races, Scott Jurek clearly has a gift for long distance running. However, in my mind, Scott's most enlightening characteristic is his simplicity, humble nature, and compassion for seemingly all people. After trekking across levines and switchbacking up mountains to win 100-mile races, instead of returning back to his hotel room to bask in a steamy jacuzzi, he stays vigil at the finish line (McDougall 125).

There were only a couple of chapters in this book but about him, but one thing was clear to me: he cares compassionately for all people and truly does treat them all with the respect and consideration that they deserve. After he was beaten by one of the Tarahumara, Scott bowed to the winner. I believe that this immense and genuine compassion for people, food, and life in general translates over to his success in running. I beleive that Scott truly runs for love.

Sigh. I want to go to Seattle and shake Scott's hand. Then I want to discuss the advantages of being a vegan while chomping on one of his black bean burritos. After that, I want to watch him run an ultra race, win, and then cheer on all the others who may be hours behind him.

Until then, I'll try to carry over my compassion for running into my compassion for other people. This book made me reflect upon how I treat others and how I should definitely be showing more compassion for everyone that I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Despite the selfish nature of this sports, maybe long distance running can make me a better person.


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