Is Your Mind Bigger Than Your Pain?

By Courtenay Smith

I have no intention of running a 130+ mile ultramarathon.  And I have no desire to eat vegan.  And yet, I could not resist the transformational tug of Eat and Run, a memoir by ultramarathon champion (and plant-based diet advocate) Scott Jurek. Turns out, Jurek’s amazing achievements began with the everyday questions we all ask: What are the limits of my potential? How do I overcome pain? When will I find happiness and be at peace?

Jurek maintains that “as powerful as our legs are, and as magnificent as our lungs and arms and muscles are, nothing matters more than the mind.” He tells in a practical yet moving way how two decades of serious mind-building practices led him to the top of his sport, using everything from the Japanese art of bushido to a simple mantra handed to him by his father (“Sometimes you just do things”). His account of using his mental muscle to stay on course after busting his ankle in the middle of a tough 100 mile race—and then going on to win in record time—is riveting (and made me believe in the impossible for a few days).

Jurek’s message, that every one of us is capable of more than we realize, seeped into my consciousness like the mantras he so often repeats. I still can’t tell you exactly how this book has changed me, but I do find myself paying more attention to my thoughts and eating a lot more kale—and liking it.

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