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North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

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From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him. When he set out in the spring of 2015, Jurek anticipated punishing terrain, forbidding weather, and inevitable injuries. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every day, for almost seven weeks. He knew he would be pushing himself to the limit, that comfort and rest would be in short supply -- but he couldn't have imagined the physical and emotional toll the trip would exact, nor the rewards it would offer.

With his wife, Jenny, friends, and the kindness of strangers supporting him, Jurek ran, hiked, and stumbled his way north, one white blaze at a time. A stunning narrative of perseverance and personal transformation, North is a portrait of a man stripped bare on the most demanding and transcendent effort of his life. It will inspire runners and non-runners alike to keep striving for their personal best.

292 pages, Hardcover

First published April 12, 2018

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About the author

Scott Jurek

9 books407 followers
SCOTT JUREK is a world-renowned ultramarathon champion who trains and races on a vegan diet. He has prominently appeared in two New York Times bestsellers, Born to Run and The 4-Hour Body, and has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other media. Known and admired for his earth-conscious lifestyle, Scott is also a highly sought after motivational speaker, physical therapist, coach, and chef. He has delivered talks to numerous organizations, including Microsoft, Starbucks, and the esteemed Entertainment Gathering. He lives in Boulder.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,021 reviews
Profile Image for Kendall.
113 reviews3 followers
July 15, 2018
Perhaps I'm not ultra runner material. A new version of an old joke . . .

Question: So you go to a party, how do you find the vegan ultra runner dude at the party?

Answer: Oh, don't worry. He'll find you.

Scott Jurek's book copy bills him as "one of the greatest runners of all time" and "a PASSIONATE vegan" (as if there were some other kind). While I enjoyed his tale of breaking the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trial, I could not for a minute imagine enjoying his company on the trail.

Although the book has a nice voice and is well-written, Jurek approached this feat as if he was "one of the greatest runners of all time," which is to say with insufficient humility, insufficient trail knowledge, and insufficient planning. This hubris combined with an illiberal liberal chauvinism against anything southern or rural made Scott an uninviting trail companion from my point of view.

Anyone who can't get out of their own driveway until 0200 because they can't get their sh*t together is off to a bad start. The bad start culminated in much unnecessary suffering and physical risk. The original plan was to break the FKT by 4 days. Jurek risked his life (and the lives of his friends) while wasting away to nothing and barely beating the mark by 3 hours.

Jurek gamely treats this struggle as some kind of heroism, but he's lucky he didn't die or seriously injure one of his crew through this folly. First responders must regularly place their lives at risk or forever live with the images of unprepared fools whose bodies were plucked from the wilderness. Lack of preparation or insufficient respect for the risks of wilderness travel is not entertaining.

Some of the better portions of the book were written by Scott Jurek's wife, Jenny. Late in the book, she observes, "Looking back, I could see we were underprepared and naive." Uhm, YEAH. And given the number of ultra-runners and AT through hikers who were their personal friends there was no excuse for it.

My problem with this book was roughly similar to my dislike for "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, an author I usually adore. If one is going to enter a world like the AT (or any sport or profession), become a student of that world FIRST. Using a lifeline to call a friend after you're already en route and injured is not how this is supposed to work.

Be hungry. But be humble first.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,079 reviews2,607 followers
April 12, 2021
I'm a longtime fan of armchair travel, and one of my favorite sub-genres of travelogues are hiking memoirs. I've lost track of how many trail books I've read, and "North" was a pleasant addition to the collection.

I've been trying to improve my running stamina lately, so I did a search for running memoirs in an effort to keep me motivated. My search turned up Scott Jurek's name, who will be familiar to those who read the also-inspiring "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.

Scott Jurek is an ultramarathoner, meaning he competed in (and won) 50-mile and even 100-mile races. But after turning 40 and experiencing a bit of a mid-life crisis, he decided to attempt breaking the speed record of running the Appalachian Trail, which is a 2,200-mile route from Georgia all the way up to Maine. (Even this decision to run the trail is a bit controversial -- a number of thru-hikers, as they are called, think the trail should be walked and appreciated at a slower pace, rather than trying to speed race it.)

Considering that there were a lot of news articles about Scott's attempt back in 2015, I don't think it's a huge spoiler alert to say he did set a new speed record for a north-bound AT hike, although it was only by a few hours. (A new record has since been set.) But knowing the outcome isn't the point -- the point is hearing about his journey along the trail. This brings me to one of the aspects of "North" that I especially enjoyed, which is that Scott wrote the book with his wife, Jenny, who was his "crew" for the race, meaning she helped manage his meals, organize supplies, and plan the schedule. They also had some running buddies help out, with folks taking turns running with Scott up the trail and keeping him motivated.

So the book alternates perspectives, we'll hear from Scott about his experiences (mostly in chronological order, with a few flashbacks to previous outdoor adventures), and we also get to hear Jenny's side of things, and I got a true appreciation of how difficult it is to crew for someone during a race, especially one as long as 2,200 miles. Sure, the athlete who is out there running is putting their physical limitations to the test, but the patience and skill and endurance of the people behind the scenes is also tested!

Overall, I really enjoyed "North," which I listened to on audio. I also downloaded a copy of the ebook to see the photos included in the book, which was worth it. (The physical contrast between Scott on Day 1 and Scott on Day 46 was just as jarring as Jenny described.) I would recommend "North" to anyone who likes running memoirs or books about the Appalachian Trail.

On a personal note, "North" helped me break out of months-long reading rut, and for that I'm grateful.
Profile Image for Sabine.
593 reviews76 followers
August 1, 2018
A very raw look behind the curtain of how much a body can and has to endure on these attempts of a Fastest Known Time on the long distance trails.

This book made me drop my rose tinted glasses that made me think what a wonderful but challenging effort this was. Judging by what a trained and experienced athlete he is and how many ultras he has done already I would have never assumed how hard this actually was on Scott Jurek and his wife.

A very inspiring journey.
Profile Image for Heather.
337 reviews
August 3, 2018
I was looking forward to reading this book because I liked Scott Jurek's first book and I remembered following his attempt to break a speed record on the Applachian Trail a couple of years ago. Unfortunately this book is not very good and I was disappointed by it. It's actually by both Jurek and his wife (although I notice Goodreads lists only him as the author) as she was his support crew for his attempt at Fastest Known Time for northbound on the AT. Most of the chapters have a section by him about what was happening on the trail and a section by her about what was happening behind the scenes. There were a couple of problems with that though-first was that it wasn't always clear when the narrators were changing, they needed a symbol or something before her sections and second was that although his wife is a good writer, there wasn't really much more for her to say beyond I was reorganizing the van and making vegan smoothies while waiting for Scott to finish running. I also didn't like how much they both complained about other runners and fans who came out to cheer Scott on or wanted to run with him. If he didn't want people to know about it, then he shouldn't have posted his tracking on social media! Jurek also had this annoying fake humble way of talking about himself and how his friends told him how much they admired him for how he handles all of his fans. There was also a lot of anti-local, anti-Southerner stuff at the beginning that wasn't necessary. Another problem was that Jurek didn't do a good job of explaining how he was able to accomplish this really impressive feat or sharing with us how hard it really was so I didn't feel like I learned anything from reading about what he did. As a reader I got kind of immune to reading about his mileage and how many thousands of feet he was climbing a day because it just repeated over and over. This book is a good example of someone who achieved an amazing feat but isn't so good at writing about it. I don't recommend it.
Profile Image for Nate Hawthorne.
333 reviews
April 25, 2018
A great read. I remember tracking Scott when he made this attempt. It is a great view behind the curtain to see what inspired the trip. You know you are not in the same league when he talks about running through injury and still clocking 30 plus miles a day. Fun to get a glimpse inside the mind of an elite athlete.
Profile Image for Kaspars Koo.
347 reviews39 followers
May 29, 2018
Scott, thank you for bringing us with you to this adventure and those places. Sometimes happy places, but mostly dark places.
I loved that the book was written from 2 perspectives - Scott's and his wife's who was crewing for him. It was interesting not only because it gave 2 perspectives of the event, but also because crewing for such an event comes with its own set of challenges. And they both saw the Appalachian Trail from their own perspective.
I also loved how true was the book. I had an opportunity to see the book's opening presentation by Scott and Jenny and it was clear to me that they don't know how to be fake and that is true also for their writing.
However, I would have liked Scott to dive deeper and reveal more of his mental struggles and thoughts during the run. He started this adventure to deal with his problems - mainly, being an aging athlete who also struggles with motivation. The book does not fully reveal how he managed that. Then again it seemed like his mind was not functioning properly for a big part of the journey. Maybe he did not get all of the answers. Or maybe there were things he did not want to share - that is his right and that is understandable. For any other book might have given 4 stars because of this, but this one is just too unique and I am too grateful the author for sharing his experience to do that.
Overall, a great book which I highly recommend all runners and outdoorsy persons. The cast that appears in the book is also badass.

Last side note - during the book presentation I asked Scott "What was that helped him get through the lowest points?". Before he answered there was a little hesitation and a look. I think I saw his soul in his eyes. It felt like just for a second he went back to those lowest points and emotions he had. I instantly felt sorry for asking the question and after reading the book I understand what I saw there.
By the way, the answer, of course, was "other people". It will be clear why when you read it.
Profile Image for Francis Tapon.
Author 5 books34 followers
March 14, 2018
“Imagine running 84 marathons. Consecutively.”

That’s what running legend Scott Jurek asks you to do in his newest book, North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail.

It comes out April 10, 2018.

Warning: if you know nothing about Jurek and Appalachian Trail records, then there are spoilers in this review.

In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes. That’s an average of 76 km (47 miles) per day.

North is about how (and why) Scott Jurek beat that record on July 12, 2015.

Scott Jurek finished 3 hours and 12 minutes faster than Davis.
Jurek’s wife, Jenny Jurek, likes to call her husband Jurker. Meanwhile, he likes to call her Jlu (pronounced “jay-loo”). Jenny supported Scott throughout his race.

Other running legends, such as David Horton and Karl Meltzer (aka Speedgoat), also encourage Scott in key parts of his attempt.

Jurek’s literary agent, Richard Pine, pushed Jurek to write another book. Jurek doesn’t drag his feet when he’s running but he sure did when it came to writing this book. It’s now three years since he set the record—it’s
already ancient history.

A year after Jurek’s record, Karl Meltzer (aka Speedgoat) ran the Appalachian Trail southbound in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes—that’s 10 hours faster than Jurek. He was 48 years old when he pulled that off.

Just like Speedgoat helped Jurek set the record, Jurek returned the favor, thereby showing great sportsmanship.

In 2017, a year after Speedgoat’s record, a 26-year-old named Joe McConaughy (aka Stringbean) raised the bar even further by finishing in 45 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes—that’s 10 hours faster than Meltzer and 20 hours faster than Jurek.

What’s remarkable is that McConaughy wasn’t just his 48-mile-per-day average but that he did it unsupported, unlike Jurek and Meltzer. He beat the previous unsupported recorded by nine days.

In short, McConaughy has the story most thru-hikers want to hear. Nearly all thru-hikers are unsupported and proud of it. Ultra-runners are a different species.

Although Jurek’s Appalachian Trail run is old news, it’s still a fascinating tale for those who are either into ultra-running or thru-hiking.

Indeed, if you’re not into ultra-running or thru-hiking, you will probably find North boring. It’s a blow-by-blow account of his many challenges. For those who are familiar with the Appalachian Trail, thru-hiking, or ultra-running, you’ll identify with what he’s saying. Others will not.

Therefore, for the Appalachian Trail fan, thru-hiker, or ultra-runner, it’s 9/10 stars.
For others, wait for McConaughy’s book (if it ever comes). Or wait until the next speed freak sets a new record.

Disclosure: The publisher gave me an advanced copy with the hope that I would write an honest review.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
346 reviews223 followers
April 28, 2018
Thanks to Little, Brown for sending me a copy to review!

The Appalachian Trail is some 2200 miles (favorite fun fact from this book: that's half the circumferance of Pluto), and this is the story of how Scott Jurek ran the whole darn thing in 46 days - breaking the fastest known record. That means an average of 50 miles of trail every day, a mentally and physically punishing challenge for even the strongest ultra-athlete.

I've hiked sections of the AT, so I really enjoyed being able to follow his journey through parts of the trail I've loved! At its best, this story gives fascinating insight to what goes into a long distance challenge like this: the large team that rotated through to support and keep Scott going, the planning of mileage and logistics, the large amounts of Clif bars consumed. Interspersed with Scott's perspective are his wife Jenny's thoughts, which rounded the narrative out nicely.

Overall, I wanted more. Jurek dips into his reasons for taking this on, and I wish he'd gone deeper into what it meant to be an aging athlete and where this journey took him emotionally. Scott and Jenny include plenty from their personal lives, but it felt like they were toeing the line when it came to really telling the whole story - and I completely understand that it's their right to choose what they want to divulge. At the same time, I think the book would have been stronger if they had either gone all the way into the personal or just stuck with the athleticism.
Profile Image for Perttu.
29 reviews
May 2, 2018
A fascinating story of Scott Jurek running almost consecutive 2200 miles. The journey is filled with ups and downs; introspection and retrospection; injuries and desperation.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who takes any interest in running - even of the regular kind, not of the superhuman, ultrarunning variety which Scott does. An additional recommendation goes to the audiobook edition which is read by Scott and Jenny themselves. The story really comes alive. I listened to most of the book while running myself, and several times I laughed out loud when Scott did his Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer impression.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,188 reviews18 followers
June 20, 2018
This is a painful journey (literally for the authors and vicariously for the reader). For myself although I do wish to take a long trail at some point in my life I definitely do not want to go anywhere close to this fast, but it was a valiant goal and a rather astonishing achievement considering the problems he encountered near the beginning and the toll the trip was taking on his body by the end. I understand better now why a woman held the record previous to this attempt.
Popsugar 2018: a book by two authors
Profile Image for Ivo Stoyanov.
209 reviews
April 20, 2021
Пътеката на Апалачите е едно от най-големите предизвикателства за всички любители на преходите , тя е нещо повече от маршрут, тя е нещо свещено, много бегачи , планинари, любители и професионалисти, бегачи откриват себе си по пътя , търсят отоговори за себе си , за живота , търсят спасение ,а мнозина намират и смъртта си .
Скот Юрек , гони рекорд в тази надпревара. Дали рекорда е най-важното в живота му или всички отговори ще намери по пътят на север към Катадин?
Някой ден ще измина част от този път с любимият човек до мен .Вярвам, че когато това се случи , ще има нещо магическо в този миг, какъвто е всеки миг на този свят .
Profile Image for cat.
994 reviews27 followers
July 10, 2018
Evidence of the reality that I will read *anything* that is about thru hiking the AT or the PCT. In reality this one was about thru running the trail and it was that fact (and the fact that Scott and party didn't actually sleep on the trail) that made this book a blah read for me. Not enough trail magic and enjoyment! Oh well.
Profile Image for David Huff.
153 reviews46 followers
January 25, 2020
There are goals, there are audacious goals … and then there are the “OMG, you’ve got to be kidding me!” kind of goals.

“North”, by Scott and Jenny Jurek, is a fantastic account of the adventurous achievement of one of those third-level (OMG) goals.

Scott Jurek, a phenomenal distance runner, could well be called the Michael Phelps of the ultramarathon world. He has had many notable victories, and records, in most all the well-known ultramarathons. These are races, by the way, that typically cover a 100 mile or greater distance.

That’s right, one hundred miles. To most ultra runners, a marathon (26.2 miles) is a training run. As an avid runner myself (planning my next marathon this November), I am in awe of the ultramarathon community.

Needing a new challenge, Scott decided in 2015 to attempt breaking the existing speed record for running (yes, running) the Appalachian Trail, which at that time was 46 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes.

Let that sink in – the Appalachian Trail, extending 2,189 miles from Georgia to Maine, covers every imaginable type of terrain and weather. Runners on it don’t just run – they climb mountains, slog through mud, deal with roots, rocks, animals, forests, storms, ticks, rivers --- you name it. And, to break the record, Scott would have to cover an average of 50 miles or more a day. Running, wherever possible. Every day. For 46 days.

This book is the fascinating, first-person, day by day account, of how Scott broke that record, wonderfully assisted by his wife Jenny. She led his “crew” – a rotating team of volunteers, mostly from the ultra running community (a unique and very interesting culture all its own) who came from all over the country to pitch in along the way. They ran sections of the trail with Scott, and also helped Jenny manage meals, sleeping arrangements, pep talks, first aid, schedules, timetables, and so much more. Kind of a “mobile pit crew”. Overnight accommodations for the Jureks (and sometimes team members) were usually in the Jurek’s well stocked van, nicknamed Castle Black. Or sometimes in a shelter or lean-to along the trail. Motels and hot showers were an occasional luxury.

Oh, and spoiler alert – Scott faced some knee and leg problems in the early days of the race, which impacted his overall schedule. This made the race to the finish, on Mt. Katahdin in Maine, even more dramatic and nail-biting, as Scott broke the previous record by a mere 3 hour margin!

This was an enjoyable and fast-paced read, and a very inspiring look at what the human spirit, and body, and teamwork, can achieve – especially when pushed unimaginably far beyond any previous challenges. Even if you’re not a runner, or an athlete, this story will make you want to go out and achieve a big goal you’ve maybe always dreamed of, and will remind you of the valuable lessons about yourself that you will learn along the way.
222 reviews
June 14, 2021
Dnf'd after finishing chapter 4 (28%).

Jurek was just too annoying all the way through the chapters I read.
I really wanted to read an epic tale of adventure and/or running, but all the way from claiming that "people sometimes can't believe we call each other by those casual nicknames" (Americans, please chime in: is a relationship not a relationship in the US unless you only call your partner "dear"?) to weird pseudo-deep shit like "my roots are the calculus of who I am", to calling the surrounding rocks "unknowably ancient geology" (dating is a thing), this book made me roll my eyes so hard with such high frequency that I almost feared they'd get stuck permanently looking up and back.

The book could probably have been really good, had Jurek had a professional writer help him out. As it is, the writing seems desperate to be flowery and deep, and comes off as a mediocre middle school kid's essay.

A small thing that didn't sit right with me is to name two out of three Barkley winners. I don't know if this is the case, but that seems like a non-accidental slight. It probably would've been easier to name them all, but for some reason Jurek chose not to.

A big thing that didn't sit right with me is Jurek's complete lack of preparation and respect for his surroundings. Embarking on a big trip in nature like this can be dangerous, and it seems he only succeeded through a combination of luck, pure talent, and pigheadedness.

I am happy to put this book away unfinished, and hopefully will never follow an impulse to pick it back up.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,832 reviews10 followers
May 11, 2018
I read Scott Jurek's first book and gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars. I loved his story. He had such a strong determination. He was led to something he truly loved and shared that in a great first book. So when he came out with this second book, I was so excited to read it.

I'm disappointed that I'm disappointed. This one didn't work for me. I listened to the audio and I think therein lies the problem. I usually like when authors narrate their own memoirs, but it did NOT work for me here. His wife's voice was grating and he sounded so clinical. I really wanted to like this one, but it wasn't meant to be. I admittedly skimmed parts of this.

I liked his journey, but the audio execution wasn't for me. So 2 stars.
253 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2018
I suppose fans of Scott rated this higher, but I couldn't get past his self-aggrandizement and criticisms of others (sometimes by using their real names!). I do admire his perseverance ... what an accomplishment, but the book was uneven. The first half wasn't much a travelogue (I guess he had to distinguish it from "A Walk in the Woods") as he let us in on his mid-life crisis. Then the second half was about all his aches and pains ... so we never found out if he figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. I couldn't understand he and his wife "wanting to do this by themselves" if he was advertising his journey along the way. What did they expect? The couple let us in on their private thoughts... perhaps they should have kept them private.
Profile Image for Olivia Law.
343 reviews13 followers
Read
June 4, 2022
I had the pleasure of running with Scott Jurek yesterday, and from the hour we spent together, I have to say he is one of the nicest, kindest, chillest people I have ever met!

This book was such an incredible read. Both Scott and Jenny are great writers, full of emotion, great descriptions, and humour. I'd 100% recommend reading this book if you want to feel humbled and inspired!
Profile Image for Becky.
827 reviews157 followers
July 13, 2021
Raw, honest, and sometimes as wandering as the trail.
Profile Image for Connie Johnson.
287 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2020
Occasionally I have dreams of challenging myself by hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails. And then I read a book like this and I’m just inspired, while also realizing that maybe its not for me. Enjoyed the epilogue, too.
Profile Image for Deana.
591 reviews31 followers
February 28, 2019
For a lot of my life, I've thought it would be awesome to take the summer off and walk the Appalachian trail. But I have to admit, I've never even walked on part of it, to the best of my knowledge. I've had acquaintances who have done it, and my cousin attempted but had to call it quits because he bought new boots for the adventure, which turned out to be a mistake. It just sounds like such an amazing way to see our country.

But, as I've learned more and more about the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, from reading both books and articles online, I have begun to think that the PCT is more my style--friendlier people, fewer horrible mishaps (or malicious activities) and the trail just seems to be overall friendlier to n00bs.

Scott Jurek of course made waves in the running community for being an amazing distance runner, and vocally promoting a fully vegan diet. He was in a running slump and decided to tackle the Appalachian Trail speed record, going northbound (which is backwards from typical). Despite a rough start in which he became seriously injured on something like day 2, he continued to push through the pain, horrible rainy weather, creepy people showing up on the trail uninvited to run with him or harass his wife (actually SHE put up with a lot more of the creepers at the waiting points than he did on the trail)... and successfully got the FKT (fastest known time). Just imagine how fast he could have done it if he'd been able to walk properly! And yet, it's pretty clear that he's incredibly miserable the entire time. By the end of the trail he's mostly on autopilot, sick, lost a lot of weight, and doesn't seem to be 100% aware of what is going on around him.

Don't get me wrong... I totally understand this. I feel this way at a much smaller scale when I run a marathon (and sometimes even much shorter races when I'm not trained properly) and yet I still call it "fun!" and I'm glad I did it and I'll continue to do it. But despite a lot of criticism of books like this for encouraging people to attempt these trails and increasing the amount of foot traffic ("contributing to the commercialization of natural areas" or somesuch), I feel like this book had the opposite effect on me. It said "uhhh yeah, no, you could not handle this." Then again, I would definitely not be attempting any speed record... and I do still want to day hike bits and pieces.
Profile Image for Boyan Dochev.
33 reviews7 followers
June 10, 2019
Лесна и приятна за четене. Интересна откъм подробности за цялостното протичане на приключението и гледната точка и редуването на двамата автори.
Profile Image for Mitch Morris.
22 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2019
Before getting into my scrambled thoughts about this book, I have to acknowledge that it would have been nearly impossible for someone to write a book about running the Appalachian Trail that I would dislike. Especially from my current vantage point along the trail’s route through CT, and my current status as a runner wondering what’s next for me in my career, I am at a point both literally and figuratively at which I would be near impossible not to be charmed by a book like this.

But as to my thoughts on the book itself, my own reaction has been the greatest surprise. Hearing this book described, I expected it to be gruesome. And at times, it certainly was. Reading Jureck describe the way he hobbled along badly injured only a week into the run with literally thousands of miles to go definitely brought back some painful memories from the times I’ve competed on broken bones, but Jureck (and his spirits) recovered, much to my relief as a wincing reader.

After finishing this book I expected to be left shell-shocked, wondering something like “why would anyone ever subject themselves to something like this?” But instead my reaction has been something closer to “ok, how, where and when can I do something like this?” As incredibly different as Jureck and I are, maybe this is what connects us. I’m not nearly as fast nor do I race nearly as long, but there is something about that struggle that appeals to me, pushing yourself through the blood, sweat, and tears to find out what you can do. Maybe that’s why I’m a runner, and why I so appreciated this book. If nothing else, this book showcases the beauty of that struggle, and gives the reader/runner a new way to approach the question “why do I run?”
Profile Image for Eileen.
765 reviews
October 25, 2018
3.75 stars (liked it)

A simply-written and enjoyable memoir from a couple (told in alternating P.O.V.'s) that provides a glimpse into the world of ultra-marathoning and, in this case, an ambitious plan to break a record running the Appalchian Trail that spans over 2,000 miles.  Scott Jurek, an ultra-runner with an outgoing yet spiritual persona along with his wife, Jenny, also a runner with more of an introverted and practical outlook, together join forces for a daunting adventure where Scott attempts to set a new running time while Jenny is present as his lifeline along the way.  With the combination of support from runner friends with them at times, others tracking and cheering on their progress from a distance via social media, and strangers serving as "trail angels" providing food, drink and other resources along the route, it was impossible for the couple to ever feel alone during their journey despite being in the middle of nature.  Not only does their trek across the rigorous landscape test Scott's physical and mental limits, it reinforces for the couple that, if they can accomplish such an athletic feat, they can conquer anything in life.
Profile Image for Heather Penney.
13 reviews
May 20, 2021
Wow. Nothing like an ending that makes you tear up! My rating for this book is conflicting because I genuinely had a good chunk (first half) where I decided I didn’t like JLu, Scott was kinda annoying me, and I was overall disliking how they were going about everything. But through all that, the story and trek to the end of the AT was what gripped me. Even though I had a hunch he would break the record, it seemed so unlikely that I had to keep reading. I couldn’t put the book down for the last 100 pages or so and what a GRUELLING push through to the end. I began underlining phrases that captured so much beauty and motivation. Scott’s grit inspired and captivated me and I couldn’t stop imagining myself on that trail. Basically the purpose of me reading these kind of books!! I could go on
110 reviews
January 12, 2022
I’m not a runner, but I am a hiker which still made this encounter enjoyable. I don’t get the obsession to run, but the read was enjoyable and the fact they learned Southerners aren’t what they are portrayed to be was hopeful. We lived about an hour and half away from the trails beginnings in GA for nine years. This northern girl came to love the South. Scott recognized that even Minnesotans have the same quirks in their personality as Southerners. I loved all the encounters they had with the public and with friends. The human connection with those very different from ourselves is part of what makes life so interesting. I would recommend this book even if you’re like me and only run if someone is chasing you, it’s an interesting chronicle of America’s trail; the Appalachian Trail!
Profile Image for Carly Gilson.
28 reviews
January 15, 2022
I’m now ready to flee the responsibilities of my life and go hike the Appalachian Trail! As I am currently in the throes of marathon training, it was inspiring to read about someone who pretty much ran the equivalent of two marathons a day for 45+ days. But what annoyed me about the author was his constant reminders of being “one of the world’s best ultramarathoners” (that is a direct quote times 5000). He also had a lot of hasty generalizations about people in the “Deep South” that I didn’t appreciate. So I’m not sure I’d want to do the AT with him anytime soon, but in general I’m inspired and ready to go. :)
Profile Image for Heather Fineisen.
1,131 reviews111 followers
July 5, 2018
Scott Jurek, famous ultra runner, tackles the Appalachian Trail in an attempt to break the record for fastest completion. Told in chapters by day, alternating within each chapter with Scott and then his wife's voice. The format of the narrative makes you feel you are right there with them. A fascinating look at an extreme sport and the toll it takes mentally and physically. With a cast of colorful characters helping him along the way including his crew, friends, and strangers, the Jureks dig deep in their quest.
Profile Image for Jared Townley.
87 reviews
July 3, 2019
After reading this, I find myself wanting to run to the wilderness to enjoy time in nature. I also find myself wanting to run an ultra marathon. Hearing about the places that I hiked in 2016 and reliving my experience at a MUCH faster pace made for a great read and another method for me to process my time going "North".
Profile Image for Matt.
Author 1 book9 followers
February 22, 2019
My whole family loved this book! We listened to the first two-thirds during a summer Yellowstone road trip, but we didn't finish it. We made a pact to finish it another time during a drive together. Nothing like leaving the tension of a real-life "hero's journey" tale to linger for several months ;)

This is just a great story. It's about ultra-running, but it could be about any other impossible task and it would still be a great story. It's a rich memoir about Jurek's attempt at the south-to-north speed record on the AT, but it's really about suffering, friendship, marriage, ego, doubt, and the ambiguity of accomplishment. I suppose this is a running memoir that does as good a job telling the human story as anything else. I'm not sure how differently it would come across in written form rather than audio (I know the actual book has maps and pictures). The audio book is read by the author and his wife, and it really adds to the drama to hear them tell their own story. Highly recommended as a road-trip book in any format!
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