Recent race results, part one: Jurek

October 13, 2007

I first became aware of Scott Jurek at about the same time that I became aware of 100-mile races in general. My initial reaction to the existence of such races was a mixture of incredulity and defensiveness: “Why would anyone want to run 100 miles? Maybe some people are just too slow to run a decent marathon, so that’s the only way they can feel like a champion.”

As for Jurek himself, it was easy enough to put him in a box. He was “that Western States guy.” He captured a few other titles here and there, but the main thing he did to distinguish himself was win the Western States 100 year after year. A notable achievement, and yet I wondered whether he had any special aptitude for anything beyond this one particular race.

These days, it’s getting a lot harder for me to dismiss Scott’s abilities and accomplishments. This is partly due to my own firsthand exploration of ultramarathons; like many others before me, I’ve discovered that having more road speed than someone else does not necessarily allow me to keep up with him (or her) on a rugged trail. But it’s also because Scott has recently displayed much more versatility than I originally gave him credit for.

In the summer of 2005, a couple of weeks after his seventh consecutive Western States victory (ho, hum), Scott made his Badwater debut. This 135-mile road race through Death Valley and up the side of Mount Whitney bears little resemblance to Western States, aside from the heat, yet Scott won handily and set a course record (24:36). The following year, he defended his Badwater title and also triumphed at the Spartathlon, an even longer road race (153 miles), against an international field including four former victors.

This past July, he took on the Hardrock 100. This absurd competition includes 33,000 feet of total elevation gain, almost twice as much as Western States, and takes place entirely at high altitude (average elevation: 11,186 feet). Another win, another course record (26:08).

Then, two weeks ago, he won the Spartathlon again over another stellar field.

Since it no longer seems reasonable to minimize such feats, I guess I’ve started to envy them instead. Questions such as “How come he won his European road race, and I was only 11th in mine?” come to mind.

The answer to that question may be extremely complicated and not fully known to me. But one component of it is simply the fact that Jurek has paid his dues. He’s been an ultramarathoner for over a decade. Upon a foundation of hard training and healthy living, he’s done the necessary experiments to figure out what he can do and how he can do it.

In comparison, I’ve been doing ultras for about three years.

Maybe I’ll eventually enjoy success that, in my mind, is comparable to Scott’s. Maybe I won’t. Whatever my own potential is, I won’t achieve it unless I do a better job of controlling the impatience that I’ve displayed this year.

Patience can take many forms. One form is to train more and race less, which I hope to do next year. Another is to pause to reflect on what’s already happened and to seek out good examples to follow.

Congratulations, Scott, on another fine summer of racing. And thanks for continuing to be an example worth following.


  1. Greg,Great comments on Scott. Also, do not dismiss your year of ultras. Setting goals, and resetting them if and when you get close, always lets you have a future goal, and without goals, one won't strive to meet them.I wish you continued success in your running and in the rest of your life.

  2. Hey, did you not win two national championships this year (50K and 100K)? I agree that Scott is phenomenal, but you aren't too shabby a runner yourself. Maybe a shabby dresser, yes, but running, no.

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