“Running takes me to incredible places, places that I feel are important. We need to protect, conserve and utilize them in a fashion that everyone can enjoy them.” —Scott Jurek
On Friday, June 8, Scott led some 200 runners on a three-mile fun run from The Nature Conservancy’s Worldwide Office to the local Pacers running store in Arlington, Virginia. Several dozen more crammed into the shop to hear Scott discuss his new book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Path to Ultramarathon Greatness (see event photos).
Earlier that day, Scott sat down for a wide-ranging web chat with staff across the organization. Nature.org brings you the highlights.
Nature.org: Three weeks to go until the Kenya marathon. Are you feeling ready?
Scott Jurek: Yeah! Given that I ran 34.2 miles around Manhattan on Tuesday, I’m feeling ready. A lot of people assume 26.2 miles is a drop in the bucket for me, but running fast for 26.2 miles is definitely challenging. I’m looking forward to it and really excited.
Nature.org: There may be some extra motivation with the wildlife lurking in the background.
Scott: Definitely. As a child I remember watching animals like that on TV, or reading about them, so it’s been a lifelong goal to get over to Africa, and I’m stoked about the opportunity.
Nature.org: You’ve got one Team Nature race under your belt already. What motivated you to work with The Nature Conservancy in the first place?
Scott: Growing up in northern Minnesota, I spent vast amounts of time hunting and fishing in wild places. It was just a part of me, and it’s continued now with running. Running takes me to incredible places, places that I feel are important. We need to protect, conserve and utilize them in a fashion that everyone can enjoy them.
Nature.org: Your book is called Eat & Run for good reason. Can you tell us about your nutritional philosophy?
Scott: Sometimes people get scared off by the words vegan and vegetarian. I just look at it as eating whole foods, plants, and it’s definitely not something that’s scary or depriving. It’s really changed my life. I became interested in the diet more from a long-term health standpoint. Because I really wanted to continue running — not just when I was 20, 30 years old — I wanted to be running when I’m 40, 50, 60, 70 and lead a healthy life. Over time, though, I started realizing that what I eat really impacts the world around me. Eating lower on the food chain is definitely better for a lot of species on the planet.
Nature.org: Do you have a favorite recipe among the 21 in your book?
Scott: I have to say the lentil-mushroom burger. This is a totally plant-based burger that really blows people away when they try it. It’s amazing. It’s great for summertime, too, so I have to say check that one out.
Nature.org: Do you see a connection between ultrarunning and conservation?
Scott: We’ve got to take care of the trails, and we’ve got to take care of the land. That’s becoming more evident now, and more people are getting involved. We’re moving towards positive change. That’s exciting and I want to be more involved. I feel that’s what we’ve got to be doing as runners.
Nature.org: Can you talk a little about the value of nature to people, in your world?
Scott: In the world of running, it’s why I think you’re seeing an explosion of trail running and ultramarathons. For a lot of people, getting out to the trails is their way of connecting with nature. I mean nature is everywhere, but the trails and the mountains and the wild places are where people go to experience another level of nature. I think John Muir said it best: Tired and weary individuals are taking to the mountains and finding their home.
Nature.org: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while running trails?
Scott: At the Western States 100 in the Sierras, this bear was about 25 feet from another racer, and it was just staring him down. The runner didn’t want to move because he was freaked out, and I came up the trail and had to scare off the bear. I’ve seen a lot of wildlife on the trail, but that was a unique race experience.
Nature.org: Sounds like good practice for Africa.
Scott: Hopefully I won’t have to chase off a black rhino!