Five Things I Learned from Scott Jurek

I first read about Scott Jurek in the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. He is one of the world’s greatest ultramarathoners and the book narrates how he experienced the unique opportunity  to run with the Tarahumara, a reclusive tribe from the Mexican Copper Canyons, known for their super athletic capabilities.

I also got to read his book Born to Run where he chronicles his unlikely journey to ultra marathon greatness.  He highlights how it is important to have an iron will and a strong mindset in this sport. He also emphasises the significance of food as fuel and how the right food can contribute to athletic performance and recovery.

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Scott Jurek shares stories of running, ultra marathoning and living on a plant-based diet.

So imagine the joy I felt when my husband told me that he was in town for a talk. I quickly asked Jonel of FrontRunner, the organiser if I may be accommodated considering that it was only a few hours before the event. I told him that I am a huge fan and that I can just stand if all seats were already taken. I was so happy when he said that I could join.

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Scott Jurek Live! at the ADB Theater last December 10. Event was made possible by FrontRunner.

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In a roomful of expectant runners and ultramarthoners. Onscreen, you can see Scott running with one of the Tarahumara’s best runners, Arnulfo Quimare.

There is nothing like listening to your idol as he talks about a topic that you are passionate about, especially if it validates some of the principles that you already live by. The timing of his talk was also perfect since I was still struggling physically and emotionally about the recent injury I went through at the Singapore Marathon.  So allow me to share the five things I learned from Scott Jurek.

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Scott talks about “Going the distance.”

You Have to Really Want It

Training for something takes a lot of time and resources. You have to make sure that this is what you really want to do and get better at. Otherwise, you are better off expending your effort elsewhere. Remember that what you focus on expands and improves so be mindful that you only prioritise the things that make your heart sing. You have to want it enough to know more about it so you can tweak as you go along towards mastery of the sport.

For instance, training during race season usually takes up two hours a day and even longer on weekends. These hours could have been used to spend time with friends, to sleep longer or to have a bit of downtime – all important things. But training is much more  important and takes precedence.

Let Go of Control

As you get better at something, you have to be able to accept as well that there are a lot of factors not within your control. With improvement comes the knowledge that there is so much more to learn as well as humility that allows us to respect the unknown and embrace the setbacks. But letting go also gives us the courage to get out of our comfort zone to see how else we can push beyond our created limits.

This lesson was particularly poignant in light of the recent running mishaps I went through in the past month. As I shared in previous posts, I questioned why these things happened given that I was careful and that I prudently prepared. But you can just really do so much. It is hard but it is worthwhile to be able to hold two very polar truths in your head – that you are in control of your destiny and that there are simply some things that are not within your control as you go down your chosen path.

Turn Setbacks Into Advantages

In the face of the unexpected, start by embracing the setback and accepting the emotions that come with it. Then get past the emotion so you can take stock of the problem and find a remedy to the situation. Only when you go through these steps can you put a positive spin to the unfortunate event.

Scott Jurek shared his experience of running on a sprained ankle for a hundred miles. It seemed like my Singapore Marathon experience of running for thirty-seven kilometres on an injured ankle paled in comparison. But his story resonated with me because it was the process I went through as well in the first five minutes of my injury. I had to accept that my ankle was swelling like a golf ball, let myself feel the wave of emotions from hurt to anger to frustration then start being objective about what needs to be done. Only when I got to pull myself together that I was able to assess that nothing was broken and that I could still run (painfully) but that I had to be careful and not put extra pressure on the left leg. So I ran   supported by my arms and core, slowly feeling better that I am able to still continue the race despite what happened.

Always Be Present

In long distance running, you have to be able to turn off the mental noise to keep your mind strong. It is easy to just think about how long you will be running, drift off and let all sorts of thoughts run through your mind. This will leave you spent and unfocused. Instead stay in the now by focusing on your form and stride, being mindful of your technique and how your body moves, staying conscious of your breathing. It is this internal coming together that will allow us to go on, to always have the “little more to give” even if we think we have given it our all.

I think being present is one of the key reasons why I finish races. I try not to think about the distance but compress the goal into smaller chunks that I can easily hold in my mind at any given instant. Especially if I’m having a tough time I really take it a kilometre at a time, just happy to advance to the next one, resetting my form and stride as I cross each kilometre marker.  I have also taught myself not to listen to any music during training and racing and instead just listen to the sound of my steps, the sounds around me and my personal mantra, “This is what you came here for”.

Look Beyond Your Goals

It is not just about the PRs or joining your must do races. It is truly about following your passion, continuing to learn more about it and eventually sharing this to others. It is also about giving back to the community and to the family who have supported you in your journey.

I guess this blog is my way of saying thank you to the world that has given me this unique opportunity to pursue my heart’s desire. I hope to give more as I continue on my path of learning more about running, racing, traveling….. and life as a whole.

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