My Run with an Ultramarathon Legend

I thought I’d share with you one of the most memorable moments of my running life.

In May 2015 I had one thing on my mind.  I wanted to run an ultra.  I had done four road marathons and countless half marathons by that point and was craving longer distance.  And craving trails. My first step was to spend an afternoon at the library checking out all the books on ultra running and trail running that I could find.

On a whim, I found Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.  It turned out he was kind of a big deal in the ultramarathoning world.  Scott had raced and won some of the toughest ultramarathons in the world.  Winner of Western States 100 seven times in a row!  Winner of Badwater in 2005 and 2006.  The list goes on!   (For the record, after reading about Badwater and then watching a ton of You Tube videos about it, I have much respect for anyone that even attempts it!).  I was now even more motivated to find my own ultra to run after reading Scott Jurek’s book.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for some inspiration or nutrition information.  Just amazing.

So, here’s the cool part.  After finishing up Scott’s book, I happened to be on Facebook and saw a post about him going for the Appalachian Trail record that summer. I could not believe it!  I live near the AT and it just seemed so bizarre that I had just read the book and he was literally running my way, in the midst of this journey.  So what did I do?  I started tracking him online and a few days later I found myself driving to a road crossing by the AT, dressed for my afternoon run.  I figured, what the heck?  If I don’t catch him, it wasn’t meant to be.  I’ll just get a nice afternoon run in on the trail.

As I pulled into the tiny parking lot I could NOT believe my eyes.  A Brooks van!  It HAD to be Scott Jurek!  I parked and walked over to the van and was greet by two trail runners, and none other than Scott Jurek who was inside the van with his wife Jenny.  “Hey there, are you headed out for a run?” he asked me.  I told him I was and he said he was just refueling and that I could join them.  The other runners had met Scott a few miles back and were going to continue on with him as well.  After saying goodbye to his wife, Scott led the way and the guys and I followed along.

Now, I have never met anyone famous in my life.  I always wondered what I would do if I did.  Would I be star struck and lose all capability of speaking?  Would I act like a total idiot and in this case, trip over my own feet?  Thankfully, no!  As we started on down the trail with Scott Jurek that afternoon, it didn’t take me long to realize that he was the most down to earth person you could ever meet.  I mean, the man had been running for over 23 days, over 1,000 miles, and here he was inviting us to tag along.  We continued on the trail, discussing running, where we were from, what we do for a living, etc.  We even talked about parts of his book.  The whole time I felt as if I had met up to do a few miles with an old running buddy.  I even had a chance to talk to Scott about my dream to run an ultra.  I told him I had just finished his book and that I couldn’t believe I was here running with him.  I asked him if he had any advice for me running my first ultra.  At the time I had tossed around the idea of a 12 hour endurance race.  He basically said fueling is key and that no matter what I decide to use, make sure to fuel regularly throughout the race.  Eat before you are hungry…even if you think you don’t need it.  Ultramarathon advice from a true legend.  I tell ya, I couldn’t have planned that better if I had tried.

About 2 miles in, we came to another road crossing.  Scott let out a loud appreciative howl before we emerged from the woods, letting them know he was coming.  One of those awesome fans snapped a pic and sent it to me.  There I am 3rd one back!

atwithsj

Scott invited anyone who was planning on running join in.   Our new and larger group ran a little farther into the woods and then Scott stopped to adjust his shoe and ended up addressing a question someone had about why he was on this journey.  He sat down on a wooden bench and proceeded to tell us about the dream had and his wife Jenny had to have a family someday.  They had been through a miscarriage and a lot of sorrow in the time leading up to his decision to tackle the AT.  They needed time away and hoped that it would happen for them in the future.

Once we started running again, I realized I had lost track of time.  It would be getting dark soon and I would have to turn around and run back to my car alone.  It was time for me to turn back around, so I called to Scott who was running a few people ahead of me.  I yelled goodbye and that it was an honor to run with him.  He said goodbye, and as I turned and ran I heard him shout best wishes to me in my first ultra and to remember to fuel properly!

As I ran solo back to my car I remember saying a little prayer for him and for Jenny about their wish to start a family.  I remember thanking the stars for lining up just right so that I could have this once in a lifetime opportunity.  I had run with an ultramarathon legend! Although Scott’s book alone had inspired me, running in his footsteps felt like a catalyst to my future.

Scott was pushing through obstacles, pain, exhaustion, and all the things that were out of his control to cover approximately 50 miles per day.  A a true test of endurance.  A chance to persevere. A chance to test limits and reconnect with nature.  In the middle of it all, he was taking the time to talk with his fans, answer their questions, and share the experience with them.

As you probably know, Scott Jurek went on to claim the Appalachian Trail record in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes.  Also, Scott and Jenny went on to have a baby girl this past June. . .born on Global Running Day, I might add!  (Check this Runner’s World article out here Scott Jurek Gets Global Running Day Surprise.) And just last month, one of Scott’s friends Karl Meltzer claimed a new AT record, almost 10 hours faster than Scott…but the amazing part?  Scott Jurek joined Meltzer in the last 31 miles.  I wouldn’t have expected anything else!

As for me?  I ended up running my first race longer than a marathon, the Ironmaster’s 50K, in Pine Grove Furnace State Park.  My first ultra was an adventure for sure, which I will save for another post;  however, Scott Jurek’s  fueling advice worked like a charm.

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