A Short Run with Ultrarunner Scott Jurek
Last week, I had the honor of running 3 miles with a running celebrity. Here’s a rundown of how I got to run with Scott Jurek on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), who Scott Jurek is and what he is doing on the A.T., and how I got myself in the background of some local news coverage.
Who is Scott Jurek? In the world of ultrarunning, he is a superstar. He has the US record for longest distance run in 24 hours (165.7 miles…or 6.5 marathons in one day at an average pace of 8:42 per mile), has won the prestigious 100-mile Western States Endurance Run 7 years in a row, and has won several other major events including the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles starting in Death Valley in mid-July, with 120 degree temperatures…). In combination with his running, he is also a major advocate for plant-based diets (vegan since 1999), and he co-wrote a bestseller Eat & Run in 2012.
Why is he on the Appalachian Trail? At the end of May, Scott began a 2,190-mile journey from Georgia to Maine in which he hopes to set the speed record for fastest completion of the entire A.T. Calling it his ‘masterpiece’ before retirement, his original plan was to beat the existing record of 46 days, 11 hours by up to 4 days, shooting for a July 7th finish in a record 42 days. By June 24th, he had already gone through New Jersey and was in Harriman & Bear Mountain State Parks in New York. He had completed nearly 50 miles the day before.
So that is how it happened that, around noon last Wednesday, I joined fellow NY-NJ Trail Conference crazy runners Josh and Melissa in a game of “Let’s see if we can find Scott, get a photo-op with him on the A.T. (where our trail builders are actively building the trail, in the area that the very first section of the A.T. was established in 1923), and run with him for as long as we can”. Up at the summit of Bear Mountain, we first realized it wouldn’t be a simple “Hey, how’s it goin’?” encounter when we spotted a bunch of local reporters with news cameras…and when we found Scott, he was surrounded by more than a dozen runners. But something seemed a little unusual, because he was wearing a bright yellow “guide” vest, had a dog running with someone in front of him, and someone else was right next to him holding his arm.
Scott Jurek guides Tom Panek on the Appalachian Trail on the summit of Bear Mountain
In the whoosh of Scott and everyone running by, and us joining the pack, it took us a few seconds to realize that Scott was guiding a blind runner up the A.T. on Bear Mountain. Most people attempting a speed record probably wouldn’t purposely do things to slow themselves down, but Scott decided to run a section of difficult terrain with his blind friend as a way to raise awareness for his friend’s guide dog non-profit. So we received an awesome inspirational boost right off the bat as we ran with everyone 1/4 mile up to the summit. There, Scott took a quick breather as the reporters talked with Scott and his friend, Tom; they first ran together in the Boston Marathon this past April, where Scott guided Tom to a 3:42 finish (read more about Tom here: News12 Hudson Valley story, LoHud.com story, Observer.com story). We listened in and had fun taking some photos, like the one below of Melissa and Josh in front of the in-progress interview.
Melissa and Josh in front of an in-progress interview with Scott Jurek and Tom Panek
The interview finished up, Scott said goodbye to Tom, and we joined in with the entourage of runners that had grown to about 15. We passed Perkins Tower, spotted the Manhattan skyline, and then started our descent of Bear Mountain. I’ve been on this section of trail many times before, as the Trail Conference has been building new trail here for more than 10 years. It includes a stretch of incredible rockwork, including more than 800 handhewn granite steps (put in place with help from more than 700 volunteers), and it was pretty cool being led by Scott down this trail.
Scott Jurek leads an entourage of runners down the Appalachian Trail on Bear Mountain
A quick shout out to Melissa (bright ‘Trail Crew’ shirt above), who didn’t have her running shoes, but couldn’t pass up the chance to run with Scott and so ran nearly 3 miles in athletic sandals!
We all wound our way down the mountain in mostly-single-file, and then took maybe a 10-minute break while Scott refueled. At this point, some runners in our group decided to stop, a few more runners joined in, and we decided to follow along a little further. Scott finished his fueling, and then was nice enough to accommodate any photo requests while we started walking. The three of us tag-teamed with the camera, and so we got the photo up top of me and Scott at Hessian Lake. Aside from this photo time, it seemed like most were trying to respect Scott’s space. The group of 20 now ran through the Bear Mountain Zoo (Scott took a quick stop to watch two big bears playing) to get to the Bear Mountain Bridge. Scott led the group across the Hudson River, where he hoped to cover another 30 miles for the day, but we decided to make that our stopping point and watched as the group started across the bridge.
Scott Jurek leads the group of runners across the Bear Mountain Bridge
We ended up running with Scott for about 3 miles, and it was an honor being able to join him on 0.14% of his incredible Appalachian Trail journey. And lucky for us, our cars were back where we started…3 miles away and more than 1,000 feet of climbing…which meant we had a bit more time to reflect back on Scott’s inspiration! A fun 6 miles for the day, up and down Bear Mountain, with an ultrarunning celebrity, two cool co-workers (thanks Josh for putting this “Let’s see what happens!” plan together), and a bunch of other great runners sharing in the adventure.
Later that day, we discovered some of the news articles, and found video that they had shot up at the summit of Bear Mountain. Check out the short video on News12 Hudson Valley’s website. My royal blue Trail Conference shirt and pale white legs make a few appearances, including the shot below of Josh, myself, and Melissa behind Scott and his wife Jenny (who is serving as his main support crew!).
Trail Conference representation on News12 video!
Scott is currently in Vermont as of Tuesday morning (June 30), with just less than 500 miles to go; you can follow his progress on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ScottJurek. It’s tough terrain the rest of the way, but here’s hoping he gets to the end in Maine around his goal date to set a new speed record!
I’ll end this fairly long post with a great quote from Scott from his Bear Mountain summit interview that we listened in on:
Reporter Question: What have been some of the struggles?
Scott Jurek: Some of the biggest struggles I would say are, each day, trying to get myself to get out and do the same thing over again. I mean, when I finish at night…I mean, two nights ago, I finished at 1am in the morning, and the next morning I’m waking up at 5:30 and hitting the trail again. And that’s the biggest thing, is every day I’m like “Oh man, I just finished 50 miles!”, you know, so jubilant, and then I remember right away that I’m going to have to wake up and do that again. So, as much as I love being out here, it’s a struggle, and life is a struggle, and it’s in times like that that you learn the most.
Valentine’s Day Breakfast on the Farm
This past Valentine’s Day weekend, Heather, Nolan and I bundled ourselves up and drove to a big farm in the black dirt region of Orange County, New York. Upon our arrival, we parked the car near some farm machinery, wandered through a large, cold barn, and eventually found ourselves in one of the most interesting ‘restaurants’ in the area…although I would hardly call it a restaurant by any conventional means.
Rogowski Farm (www.rogowskifarm.com) is just north of the NY/NJ border in the hamlet of Pine Island (near Warwick), and along with supporting a CSA, hosting farmer’s markets, and growing a diverse array of produce, they offer fresh-from-the-farm breakfast every weekend throughout the year. The fresh, local ingredients immediately made a wonderful impression on our tastebuds; our simple veggie omelettes with bacon and sweet potato home fries were just outstanding, and both Nolan and I could not get enough of the ‘just-came-from-the-pig’ bacon!
But this farm-to-table experience was much more than just amazing food, especially since breakfast was prepared, cooked, and consumed all in the same open area. The setup was very comfortable, with tables of different sizes and styles (matched with chairs that are themselves different styles). On top of the tables, no two coffee mugs were alike (at least from what we could see!), and a carafe of hot coffee just appeared on the table once we settled into our seats (which was perfect for a cold February morning). A few small chalkboards described the morning’s options – nice and simple. Friendly waitresses, delicious homemade hot chocolate, a tableside chat with the farm owner, bringing Nolan up to the chef for him to say Thank You…what a great breakfast.
So it goes without saying that I’d highly recommend a farm breakfast at Rogowski Farm, where you can support local farming and fill your belly with deliciousness.
Lincoln Memorial at Night
I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial twice…sort of. My first visit was more of a run-by, as I passed Lincoln around the 11-mile mark of my Marine Corps Marathon. I was honestly more focused on keeping my eyes peeled for Heather and my parents, who were planning to be there (luckily I spotted them loudly cheering among the sea of crazy spectators), so I didn’t really check out the building itself.
However, I was back in Washington D.C. just about a month later, and the Lincoln Memorial was one of a few places we checked out on our short trip. The way all these structures were lit at night made them even more striking, and I thought the view of Lincoln sitting in his own columned Parthenon from this angle looked a bit majestic. It was a chilly November evening, but I was glad to have the chance to experience this significant site and be reminded of this country’s history.
So Happy Birthday to Lincoln and Washington this month (rolled up into today’s Presidents’ Day). And not to be forgotten, Happy Birthday today to my 9-year-old niece, Madison!
Jeremy’s Childhood Stuff: Care Bears
Ah yes, Christmas day 1985…what a glorious morning that was. My sister got some ‘Princess of Power’ and Ken dolls, my brother got some Transformers (including an awesome Optimus Prime huge truck), a motorized Construx set, and a belt…and I, I got a box full of awesome Care Bears figures (I also got a huge red Tonka firetruck on Christmas Eve). Of course, I don’t remember any of this, being a little more than 2.5 years old, but luckily we’ve got some great photos to fill in the gaps (thanks Mom and Dad!).
I may not remember that morning, but I do remember the Care Bears figures. My mom said I played with them quite a lot, and I especially can think of playing with a green one with a shamrock and a lion one.
Flash forward almost 30 years, and I’ve finally grabbed tons of my childhood toys, games, trophies, sports memorabilia, junk, etc. from my parents’ attic (so stay tuned for more childhood memories centered around this stuff!). Amongst all the goodies, we found a beat-up bag full of 20 Care Bears figures, and with a little scrubbing, they look almost brand new! The photo below shows them all lined up after their cleaning, and now they are ready for Nolan to play with himself. Maybe he’ll like playing with them as much as I did!
In case you are interested, the inspiring names of these figures are (from left to right, front to back): Good Luck Bear, Cheer Bear, Tenderheart Bear, Grumpy Bear, Bedtime Bear, Love-a-Lot Bear, Funshine Bear, Birthday Bear, Grams, Baby Hugs, Baby Tugs, Champ Bear, Share Bear, Professor Coldheart, Cozy Heart Penguin, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Swift Heart Rabbit, Bright Heart Raccoon, Brave Heart Lion, and Cloudkeeper.
Outdoor Shower Visitor
Really, how great are outdoor showers after a hot, sandy day at the beach?!? Down on Tybee Island in Georgia, our rental cottage last June was quite awesome, and it included a nice outdoor shower with saloon-style doors that even Nolan enjoyed. One day, as Heather was de-sanding herself, this little green fella gave her quite a surprise. He was comfortably clinging to the shower-side of the one saloon door, and after our showers and a few photos (he let me get rather close for this shot), he moved around a bit before disappearing later that day.
Toppled Nolan on Christmas Eve
Taking photos of infants can be fun, lots of fun actually. It can also be fairly frustrating, but mostly fun.
A year ago, on Christmas Eve, we were attempting to take photos of Nolan in his Christmas pajamas in front of our tree. Nolan, however, had other plans, and he didn’t really feel like sitting nice in front of the tree. Instead, he plopped down on his back and started trying to grab any ornament he could reach. It was, as usual, funny just to watch him play around, and it’s nice to get non-posed photos of babies just being babies. We’ll see tonight if Nolan wants to get Christmas Eve photos in his pajamas again…and if he won’t mind sitting still in front of the tree for a second or two.
Have a Merry Christmas tomorrow!
I recently discovered a number of photos I had taken with 35mm black & white film and thought I would share a few of my favorites. I enrolled in a photography course my senior year of college (and even did some on-campus work as a film lab monitor), and was able to use my Grandpa’s old 35mm Minolta to learn a bunch of things that I still recall today when I’m shooting photos. I haven’t shot any non-digital photos in quite a long time, but I really enjoyed doing so for that course as well as for a few years after that. As soon as I got my first digital SLR…I didn’t really make any time for 35mm film.
I cannot really recall where I took this flower photo, but I like how the lighting brings out the textures and details of the petals and interior.
When is the last time you shot a camera with film??