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Ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek, one of our 2016 Adventurer of the Year, running in the San Juan Mountains. Grant Swamp Pass, Colorado. Photograph by Fred Marmsater

Ultrarunner Shares Tips for Focus and Success

Legendary adventure runner Scott Jurek has said that running is a solo sport requiring absolute mental focus. But, if there was one person this 2016 Adventurer of the Year would want on the trail with him, Jurek would choose Mahatma Gandhi—another master of psychological endurance.

Over his 20-year career, Jurek has helped popularize the sport of ultramarathon and aced many of its most challenging races. He won the Western States Endurance Run seven consecutive times, nailed the 152-mile Spartathlon in Greece three years in a row, and still holds the U.S. record for distance covered on all surfaces within 24 hours, at 165.7 miles.

Last year, Jurek achieved a new speed record for completing the Appalachian Trail: 46 days, eight hours, and seven minutes. We recently caught up with Jurek and gave our Facebook community the chance to ask him anything, from his recommendations for pre-race nutrition to his retirement plans.

Here are some of the highlights.

Tom Weller Hi Scott, I am running my first ultra next week: 50 miles along a river path (in the UK). What would be your main piece of advice for me?

Scott Jurek Carbohydrate consumption of 20-30g/hour, and hydration depending upon conditions. Then it’s all up in the mind!

James Brewster Hey Scott, currently reading Eat & Run! You’ve run with some pretty amazing fellow ultra runners. Who, though, is the one person, runner or non-runner, you would love to take out on a trail with you?

Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Ted Corbitt.

Adrian Coakley Hi Scott, thanks for taking questions. What do you love most about being out on the trail? And where did your connection to trails begin?

I love feeling like a kid again and having the freedom to explore my surroundings on my own power. Running behind my house in the northwoods of Minnesota is where I got my start, building trails and forts, hunting and fishing. I also love the feeling of exploring the edge of my potential and getting myself out of adversity. The AT was the ultimate test for me. There’s also nothing like the feeling of adventure and [discovering] what lies around the corner of a trail.

Frank BruiningFrank Bruining Following your vegan style. Thanks. What do you suggest to eat and drink prior to a road marathon? Let’s say two days and one day before, the morning, during and afterwards? I know, many questions. I hope you have some suggestions.

I like to eat the same way I do during training and don’t try to over carbo load. Eat the things you did on your successful long runs the day or two before. You’ll have confidence going into the race!

Andrew Bainbridge Scott, how do you recommend training to run a faster 100-miler? More speed work? I’ve struggled with really dying in the last 20 miles and missing my goal times.

Back-to-back long runs can prepare the muscle fatigue element (20-35 miles x 2 on consecutive days). Also nutrition (carbohydrate, 20-30g/hr) could be part of it.

Peter EkebomPeter Ekebom Hey Scott! What is your favorite race like? Distance, type of trail, lots of/lack of height difference, etc.?

I love 100-mile races with lots of elevation gain and loss for the ultimate challenge and ability to control my destiny. One-hundred-mile races and long adventure runs like the AT put me in situations where I have to tap into primal instincts and be adaptable to unexpected obstacles. They are a lot like life!

Michael TheunissenMichael Theunissen Do you believe there is a strong support structure for “retired” successful ultra runners? Do sponsorships dry up, etc.?

Unfortunately not, and it is a tricky aspect of our sport. Some runners like to be involved and give back to the support during their active career and I think this is key transitioning to retirement. Some athletes prefer to step away and do something new and I think that is great too. Lots of industry jobs exist with running and outdoor companies as options and keeping strong relationships during the racing years is key. Unfortunately, and maybe fortunately, there is not a lot money in the sport, so passion and doing it for the love of it is the best approach. Some things don’t change!

Adam Wilkinson Where’s the best place to live for a trail runner?

I think anywhere you can get on dirt and have freedom to roam. Of course, mountains and beautiful single track is always nice, but great trail runners come from all over, including big cities. Run long and free wherever you are!

Tomislav Štajduhar Hi Scott. Which ultra race did you always want to do, but you never did? Are you tired of being retired yet?

I have a few on my list, smaller races that I will do for fun. I don’t plan to stop running or racing for fun, just a different pace and mentality. Retirement is a label that seems too definitive for me. My running career is just evolving into a different form!

Craig Stewart Hi Scott. Other than your own, what are your favorite running related books?

Feet In The Clouds, Running Wild, Running & Being, Bone Games.

Check out the entire Facebook Q&A here.