Scott Jurek! I didn't think it was possible for me to love him more than I already did. Having read his book Eat and Run and Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, I already considered him a role model and inspiration in the realms of ultrarunning, endurance sport, vegan athletes, and human decency. When he was making his attempt at a new FKT (fastest known time) for a supported through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2015, like many people, I was tracking his progress online, reading updates and hoping he'd meet his goal. Although I'd seen reports about injuries, adverse weather, and other obstacles, I was interested to know more about the 46+-day experience. When I saw North on a list of recommended books for runners, I was eager to grab the audiobook from my library's e-collection. The library didn't actually own the edition (yet) when I first searched for it, but I put in a recommendation on the title, and was pleased when I received the notice that the library had obtained it and put me on the list.
The audio edition is narrated by Scott Jurek and Jenny Jurek, in alternating chapters. I loved getting the two different perspectives on what led to the FKT attempt and the experience of executing it. Before Scott's decision to take on the AT, Jenny had gone through a life-threatening loss of an ectopic pregnancy, and Scott had reached an impasse with his running, where he'd train for ultra races but take a DNF because he wasn't feeling it. What could he do to regain his old spark? While on a hike together, Jenny challenged him to figure out how to do just that, and the idea of trying for an AT FKT came to him. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
They drove from their Colorado home to the southern start of the AT, in Georgia, in their black van dubbed Castle Black (love the Game of Thrones reference!). Going north on the trail is known as NoBo (northbound) as opposed to starting in Maine and heading down to Georgia being SoBo (southbound). Scott had been warned that this way was "backwards" and "harder," but he was undaunted.
One of the cool things that came through in this book was the awesomeness of the running community and ultra community. Both Jureks acknowledge that they couldn't have succeeded without the help of friends as well as strangers who jumped in to offer help in the form of food, companionship, advice, and encouragement when it was most needed. And in that same spirit, Scott was back the next year, supporting Karl "Speedgoat" Melzer in a successful new AT FKT attempt.
I wholeheartedly recommend this to running enthusiasts, ultra enthusiasts, Jurek enthusiasts, and "challenging endeavors that push a person to their personal edge and make them a better version of themselves" enthusiasts.