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Running Wild with Scott Jurek

Earth Day Q&A

“Even when I am working hard, I find the joy in running and being outdoors.” —Scott Jurek

Scott will join CEO Mark Tercek and other Team Nature runners in Alexandria, Virginia, this Earth Day (April 22) for the 2012 Pacers Parkway Classic. Scott and Mark are warming up to run the Safaricom Marathon this summer to raise funds for conservation and communities in Kenya.

Read on for Scott's responses to questions submitted by fellow Team Nature runners.

Scott, you are running for a great cause. What is your diet like?

Scott Jurek: I grew up eating a fairly standard meat-and-potatoes menu. I started exploring the benefits of a more holistic vegetarian diet during my college days. The clincher was reading Howard F. Lyman’s Mad Cowboy, which inspired my commitment to a plant-based diet for my own health as well as for animals and the environment.

I noticed several benefits for my running. My recovery times shortened, and I had fewer injuries and more energy. All my major race victories happened after I changed my diet.

It’s not just veganism. I focus on proper nutrition and where my food comes from. I even grind my own flour to bake bread. Greens are my favorite food, especially dinosaur kale. Overall, I’m always incorporating more raw and unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Do you notice a difference in your performance or mood when running in an urban setting versus in a rural setting?

Scott: The beauty of running is that you can enjoy it anywhere. In a race like the Spartathlon, which is 153 miles of pavement through Greece, I deal with monotony and discomfort by focusing on immediate tasks: technique, breathing, anything that helps my performance.

I grew up fishing and hunting in the Minnesota outdoors, and now I feel most alive when I’m running a mountain trail. The mountains make me feel my own small place in nature, like just another animal running, soaking up sights and smells. I’m still pushing my physical limits, but I feel this heightened sense of awareness in a wild setting.

How many miles do you usually log in a week?

Scott: I’ll throw in a 160-mile week and then back down to a more typical 100 or 110. I’ll also add some quality work — hit the track, hit some roads, do some speed training. For me, it’s all about mixing it up.

What advice would you give someone attempting any new distance?

Scott: First and foremost, listen to your body, paying attention to pace breath, hydrating and fueling. Train at your current fitness level, or slightly above — not where you want to be. Learn all you can from more experienced runners. I always enjoy running with older, more experienced runners and hearing their stories. They have taught me so much about running and life.

And lastly keep it fun! Even when I am working hard, I find the joy in running and being outdoors.

What do you make of the "unstructured" running shoe trend?

Scott: Running barefoot or with a minimalist shoe can help some runners focus on technique and increase body awareness. If it enhances your running experience, then I say go for it! I mix in some barefoot miles, and I have been using racing flats and lightweight shoes for years.

When I started working with Brooks in 2004, the Cascadia was the lightest trail shoe on the market and most trail runners thought it was too light, so the trend has definitely shifted. I do nearly all my training and racing in the Pure Grit, Pure Flow or Racer ST. My performance diminishes if I don’t have adequate cushion and protection, so I try to strike a balance.

How would you mentally prepare for an event that is unlike anything you've competed in previously?

Scott: I’ve raced on a city-park loop in France and run with the Tarahumara in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. My experience in vastly different environments tells me that the best mental preparation for any event is confidence. I mean the confidence you gain from following your training, eating well, taking care of your health, being in tune with your body and doing things that you feel good about.

No matter what an event throws my way, I’m able to adapt and sharpen my focus to the challenges at hand. For me, being in the right mental place involves things like running in the mountains, soaking up experiences from nature, and then also giving something back. That’s why I help maintain my local trails and why I’m happy to team up with The Nature Conservancy to protect the wide-open spaces where I love to run.

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