Beginning tonight at 5pm PST, Scott Jurek will race for 24 hours around a quarter-mile track at the Soochow International Ultra-Marathon 24-Hour Track Invitational in Taiwan. Scott will be attempting to break the current record for miles run in 24 hours. The record is 188 miles.
For photos and updates on Scott’s progress, follow Scott on Twitter at @ScottJurek. Or you can follow the race live (warning: the website is in Madarin!). The Twitter hashtag for the race is #SIU24. Below is a note written about Scott by his friend and collaborator Peter Sarsgaard.
Scott Jurek’s Goal to Set New Running World Record
On December 10th and 11th at Soochow University in Tawain Scott Jurek will run for 24 hours around a 1/4 mile track against an international field of ultramarathon runners. The pace can average sub 8 minute miles, and the record by Yiannis Kouros for 24 hours is nearly impossible to contemplate. 188 miles. Only Yiannis knows what that distant universe is like. But, of course, over such a long stretch, the only person Scott can race against is himself. He is on his own. It is not so different from trying to swim across open water – so much of the deep unknown before you, surrounded only by the distant sounds of the repetition that is your own progress. You are enveloped in the present in a way that is difficult to achieve in any other fashion than finding your way through that kind of discomfort and, ultimately, pain.
When I tell people that I’m going to film Scott Jurek’s attempt at the 24 hour running record in Taiwan next week, the response is invariably one of repulsion and wonder. I am also filled with both.
We are repulsed by the physical toll: the joints, the bone, the boredom. Of course many of us known analogous pain and all of us are capable of experiencing it. But we take solace in the fact that there are potent ways to avoid it with epidurals, painkillers of various kinds and, ultimately, euthanasia. For most of my life I have been like most people, I’ve always thought I’d prefer a bullet in the head on the golf course over the chance to experience any of it. But in the reality of life there is pain. I look around at the million different ways that I am not only avoiding pain, but discomfort. Am I avoiding a part of reality? What lies behind it or in it? So I wonder if I’m not missing an important part of my life. Perhaps a whole section of my nervous system lays dormant, waiting to be touched, waiting to wake up. Maybe there is something to experiencing pain. Maybe Scott is confronting what is real.
And then there is the wonder, the absolute wonder of what he is doing. One day of continuous running. Physiologically speaking, Scott is the same as every other human. Of course he has trained himself to do this, and surely he has some kind of innate talent, but we are essentially made up of the same DNA. So when I dream of what he might do, that he might run further in a day than any other person in recorded history, I am dreaming of what I might be able to do. If Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, who will break the 2 hour marathon, who will run 200 miles in a day? What is possible?
I’ll end with a quote. I got it from the dedication page of “Ultramarathon” by James Shapiro. My FAVORITE book on the subject. Maybe on the other side of pain there is “beauty and power.”
“The runner does not know how or why he runs. He only knows that he must run, and in so doing he expresses himself as he can in no other way. He creates out of instability and conflict something that gives pleasure to himself and others, because it releases feelings of beauty and power latent within us all.” Roger Bannister, “The four minute mile”
We’ll be cheering on Scott during this record-breaking attempt! Go Scott Go!