I, like most people, first heard about Scott Jurek from Christopher McDougall’s now-infamous book Born to Run—the incredible story introducing the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons to the world and some of the most accomplished runners. Since first learning of Scott, he has written and published his own books: Eat and Run, detailing his life (with a focus on his plant-based diet), and, more recently, North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail, an account of his record-breaking 2015 run on the Appalachian Trail.
Having followed Scott’s quest to break the Appalachian Trail speed record on social media, I was anxious to read North to get a more detailed version of the story than what I gleaned from the occasional Facebook post. And, in an interesting narrative twist, the book shows the journey from two perspectives: Scott’s, as he runs, and Jenny’s (Scott’s wife), as she supports him along the trail.
Not only does North do an admirable job of sharing the story of the record-breaking AT run, but it dives into some of the challenges faced on the trail. In North, Scott shares with readers the physical struggle of running the AT as well as some of the mental challenges, as meeting with fans, lack of sleep, and logistics all conspire to complicate an already-daunting task.
Then, of course, there are the internal questions that arise from such an ambitious goal; as Scott tests his physical limits, he also challenges his willpower—and finds himself candidly pondering existential questions such as what will he do when the competitive fire no longer burns and what his legacy in the world will be.
Throughout Scott’s 46-day run of the AT, a who’s-who of the outdoor world make appearances. World-renowned climber and Patagonia athlete Timmy O’Neill and Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer (who later went on to break Scott’s Appalachian Trail record) both show up to support Scott along the trail. Those familiar with the Northeast backcountry ski scene may also recognize Andrew Drummond, or “Special Forces,” as he helps Scott navigate the White Mountains. Another stand out—and New England native—frequently referenced is Dean Potter, a friend of both Scott and Jenny; Dean’s spirit has its imprint on this fantastic quest.
If you’re interested in the Appalachian Trail or trail running, North is a must-read book. Of course, North is also the story of dreaming and living big, so whether you’re looking for inspiration to do your own AT thru-hike, or simply hike a smaller section of it, pick up North to feel the call of the trail.