Book review: Born to Eat & Run

Running, and books associated with running, has reached a new peak of popularity, but this year’s most popular entry is destined to be Scopher MacJurek’s recent book, Born to Eat & Run.

Born to Eat & Run tells the amazing story of a pair of childhood buddies, whose love of dining and dashing unites them. But ultimately, it is their discovery of a hidden tribe of superathletes in Scotland that leads MacJurek to run unimaginable distances and win – all the while fueled on an unusual diet of Mexican and Scottish cuisine.

Subtitled My Unlikely Journey to a Hidden Tribe and the Greatest Ultramarathon Greatness The World Has Never Seen, MacJurek recounts a troubled childhood in the Scottish Highlands.

Growing up in the comparatively wealthy city of Inverness, MacJurkek was the son of an unsuccessful distiller, whose whiskey venture Blech’n’hork never fully got off the ground. Some blamed the failed business on the poor choice of name; others on the fact that the elder MacJurek insisted on using carbonated water in his whiskey. Whatever the reason, MacJurek didn’t enjoy the same economic freedom as his peers.

Nor did MacJurek fit in well. Although he played on the local rugby team where he distinguished himself with his fleet feet, MacJurek’s odd diet of brown rice burritos smeared with hummus and whiskey-soaked haggis set the youngster apart.

It was no wonder he gravitated to a wild lad sporting suspenders, a white shirt and mullet much in the style of the Bay City Rollers: Dusty Blanco.

Together, MacJurek and Blanco would run for hours at a time in the Great Glen, tirelessly picking their way through the narrow gorge and then after outings as long as five kilometres, they would race the last 100 metres hard, each endeavoring to outdo the other. Blanco inevitably won, just as he could pound back more green whiskey smoothies than MacJurek in their off-time together.

Their love of speed and constant hunger led to an inevitable hobby: dining and dashing. As MacJurek recounts in Born to Eat & Run, “We’d hit the Oakwood, Mustard Seed or Hootananny Inverness and order up these one-time incredible, multi-course dinners, things like the green curry with brown rice or the bubble and squeak on brown rice, and then when the check came we’d be out the door.”

One day in a green whiskey smoothie-induced haze, MacJurek happened to spot a photo in a magazine of what appeared to be a Celtic monk running down a rock slide.  Clear inspection revealed a man in a kilt in bare feet sprinting down a mountain of rubble. MacJurek had stumbled upon the Tulloch Clan, a small, all-but-lost group of wiry athlete recluses who resided in a side canyon off the glen.

Writes MacJurek: “They didn’t get diabetes, or depressed, or even old: fifty-year-olds could outrun teenagers and eighty-year-old great-grandads could hike marathon distances up mountainsides…And if being the kindest, happiest people on the planet wasn’t enough, the Tullochs were also the toughest: the only thing that rivaled their superhuman serenity, it seemed, was their superhuman tolerance for pain and hagmosas, a horrible homemade beverage brewed from sheep corpses and energy drinks.”

At the same time, MacJurek’s own pain tolerance increased as he began entering running races for the first time, such as the Montane Highland Spring Fling, a 53-mile endurance event, where Blanco paced him to the win. It would be the many of such events the pair would run together, Blanco placing his own running aspirations on hold to pull MacJurek to a win, all the while hectoring him: “Rhythm and form, MacJurker. Rhythm and form. C’mon, stretch it out! C’mon, you want to fucking be somebody! Let’s do this!”

Finally, Born to Eat & Run climaxes where you know it must: a duel in the sun between MacJurek and the fastest member of the Tulloch tribe in a 100-mile race from the Great Glen’s start to finish.

Born to Eat & Run is one of the year’s most inspirational reads, The book follows the transformation of a strange young man into an eccentric, haggis and whiskey fueled endurance athlete, who encounters a naive tribe of reclusive, ageless runners. Together, they will pioneer a new style of eating (Paleo-Celt) and turn the shoe industry upside-down, leading people who once cushioned their feet in unwieldy runners to charge barefoot over sharp, pointed rocks without a thought for the consequences.

Scopher MacJurek’s Born to Eat and Run is likely to influence and change the course of running forever. So pull up a green whiskey smoothie and enjoy the running read of the year.

About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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4 Responses to Book review: Born to Eat & Run

  1. Trevor says:

    Good one! I have a bad feeling about Blanco though… something tells me it ends badly for him in a glen, despite a group of friends and supporters traveling from afar to check out the local brown rice establishments and search for their legendary hero

    • subthree says:

      Ha ha. You’re thinking of a different book. In this one, he retires to Des Moines, bitter and disillusioned that he never gained proper recognition for pacing MacJurek to his wins. He opens a brown rice haggis food truck, but it doesn’t do well.

  2. Kevin Tulloch says:

    Hmmmmmmmmm I resemble some of them comments, pretty sure the Tulloch clan’s finley tuned, clean living athlete would prevail, you racist b’strd ;o) See you tonight if you are man enough…………………………

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