Review: Scott Jurek’s North

Amazon tells me I bought Scott & Jenny Jurek’s North on July 3, 2018, shortly after I finished Eat & Run. Oops, didn’t mean to wait this long to read it. Linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics to discuss this book.

Mom & I, on the AT in Western Mass, August 10, 2014

Let’s start with the ways I am not and will never be Scott Jurek:

  • vegan
  • ultra runner
  • champion ultra runner
  • willing to live out of a van for ~50 days

That said, I really enjoyed this book. Coming off a hike in the Anza Borrego section of PCT and needing a new challenge, Scott and his wife Jenny decided to go for a Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trail. In the interim, this journey took on a lot more significance as he struggled with who he was at a time when he was no longer a competitive ultrarunner and he and his wife struggled to start a family.

The crux of the journey begins with their drive from Boulder, CO to Georgia in the van that would be their home for the next 45+ days as they chased the record. Factoring out a record as that is just not within my ability, I’m not sure which would be harder: hiking or living in a van for two months. They had occasional nights with real beds & showers, but ick. No. Can’t do it.

The photo above is the only segment of the AT that I’ve knowingly walked, although I’ve walked the Long Path near Harriman/Bear Mountain on a number of occasions and probably walked part of where the two intersect. On the Western Mass segment we lasted about twenty minutes and had approximately the same number of mosquito bites. While I love running, I am so not outdoorsy. I have no idea how Jurek dealt with a mystery rash, poison ivy, and smelling like apple cider vinegar as his muscles broke down despite eating 7-9K calories a day.

Both Jureks touched on the contrast between the AT, PCT and Continental Divide Trail being that so much of the US population lives within a day’s drive of a segment of the AT and as result, it has higher hiker (or hicker) volume and all the pluses and minuses that go with that. While they didn’t paint a rosy portrait and acknowledged the possible dangers to Jenny waiting for him or Scott hiking based on the trail’s grim history, they did realize that the access to vegan foods and other staples might not have happened in the past on the AT and/or now on another trail.

While Jenny was his main crew chief, the two of them were joined by other running friends on their 2000 mile journey from Springer Mountain to Katahdin. Horty and Speedgoat were the two who spent the most time, with El Coyote a close second. As Scott and Jenny alternated sections of the book, it was interesting to see both sides of the journey and their individual opinions of the friends who joined them. I smiled when Topher was mentioned as I always enjoyed his antics with Dean Karnazes. I also enjoyed the trail angels they met along the way: the ones who sought them out as well as those who greet all hikers throughout the season. I found it good that Jurek acknowledged others’ opinions on his quest, moving at an overall average of roughly 1.77 mph to set the record, when others took five – six months. For me personally, it was the running angle that made this book interesting – I’ve had no particular desire to read other peoples’ accounts of their trips on any of the hikes. For the same reason I’m intrigued by the Netflix special on Speedgoat’s quest.

I didn’t know going into this whether he was going to set the record, so I’m not going to spoil it for other readers. If you do know the outcome, I still think you’ll enjoy his physical and psychological journey from Georgia to Maine.

  • Did you read this book? If you posted, happy to link to it below
  • What are you reading now/planning to read this summer?
  • Are you a hiker?
  • Have you hiked any of the major trails?

Other Reviews:

17 comments to this article

  1. Kim G

    on July 16, 2019 at 13:28 - Reply

    I’ve heard about this book but haven’t read it. I can’t imagine ever doing an ultra – what a great accomplishment!

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 14:40 - Reply

      I recommend the book, not the trip 😀

  2. Liz Dexter

    on July 16, 2019 at 14:15 - Reply

    It does look intriguing although I’m only one of those things and I will never ever ever even camp let alone live in a van!

    • cari

      on July 16, 2019 at 14:38 - Reply

      I’ll camp — in the first floor of a hotel with the window open. Actually, I lie. I have camped once or twice. Hated it. But can make do if there’s a real bathroom. He’s a bit of a loon, but I still enjoyed it. Would hate to have run with him though

  3. deborahbrooks14

    on July 16, 2019 at 17:03 - Reply

    I have heard of the book but have not read it. I cannot imagine running an ultra but super impressed with those who do!

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 14:37 - Reply

      Same. Or an ultra plus camping which is a double NO for me

  4. Kim at Running on the Fly

    on July 16, 2019 at 18:40 - Reply

    His quest is impressive, especially given the circumstances. I cannot imagine camping and living out of a van….

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 14:30 - Reply

      Same. I mean I know he had to as there aren’t towns close enough to be feasible to do this record but still , ick!

  5. Zenaida Arroyo

    on July 16, 2019 at 22:07 - Reply

    I have not read it but obviously know of him. I am usually the type of person that starts and finishes one book at a time. Right now I have 3 books that I started reading but am almost done with one of them.

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 14:29 - Reply

      For me it depends, I often have a kindle and a hard copy going.

  6. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    on July 17, 2019 at 15:22 - Reply

    Scott’s achievements are pretty amazing. I haven’t read anything about Scott, but I do like reading or hearing podcasts about Dean. Rashes and poison ivy and my nemesis – in fact, I just got a steroid shot today for a patch of poison ivy!! I can’t escape it.

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 14:28 - Reply

      Ugh, stay safe.
      Poison Ivy has been particularly virulent here too

  7. Chocolaterunsjudy

    on July 18, 2019 at 13:58 - Reply

    I did read the book a while ago (didn’t review it). I think I liked Eat & Run, getting his back story, more. I mean seriously, you have to wonder about people who do that kind of stuff, right?

    Yes, I love to hike. Unfortunately I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like to. But just day hikes, not very interested in camping (although I could do an RV — with someone).

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 13:26 - Reply

      I could do an RV for a few nights, but no cargo van for a month and a half.
      E&R was a better intro to him, but he seemed more human in this IMO

      • Chocolaterunsjudy

        on July 23, 2019 at 14:57 - Reply

        I have never actually done an RV, but I’d actually like to. Well, we did do it once when I was relatively young (my mom did not come). I remember it being fun, but of course I wasn’t the one driving it.

  8. Debbie @ Deb Runs

    on July 19, 2019 at 18:01 - Reply

    I’m about half way through the book right now. We’ve run many of the portions that run through Southwest Virginia and I was sad to hear how some people in the area treated them. Luckily, we’ve only met really nice people in those areas. I grew up very near the trail, but it wasn’t until I met Bill that I started hiking and running sections of it. We’ve also got pics of us on McAfee Knob similar to the one he put in the book.

    • cari

      on July 22, 2019 at 13:05 - Reply

      One thing I wish was that he included more photos. His descriptions of the landmarks like McAfee Knob were amazing but I’d love to have seen it vs. finding a few at the end of the book. Would be one upside to reading on my tablet with internet access though.

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