Review and a Race Recap: Matt Fitzgerald, Life is a Marathon

For this week’s Tuesday Topics, I’m linking up with Kim and Zenaida to share a race recap and book review.

Tuesday Topics

I was given a copy of this book to read via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

While Matt Fitzgerald is a name I’ve seen in perusing running titles, this is the first one of his books I’ve read. The title piqued my curiosity when I saw it on NetGalley and decided to give it a whirl. That it took me a week+ to read isn’t indicative of its quality, I just had minimal reading time with friends in town.

Reading @mattfitwriter's latest and running @nyrr's #RunToBreathe Click To Tweet

This book begins with Fitzgerald quitting on a high school race out of stage fright and ends some 20+ years later with his eighth marathon in eight weeks. The latter encompassed a road trip that took him from California to Oregon via Scranton, Boston, Toledo and beyond. What a journey. This book isn’t just a chronological look at his running career or a travelog, but rather the eight marathons are interspersed with his autobiography.

Fitzgerald’s roadtrip companions are his dog Queenie and his wife Nataki. Both figure prominently in his life history, in fact one night he almost squashed Queenie when attempting a return to his apartment after fleeing it when fleeing from one of Nataki’s psychotic breaks. To say the three of them have had an eventful life is an understatement, but this book isn’t a tale of woe so much as the tale of the author’s growth as a man, runner and husband. My one quibble with the book is that the chronology wasn’t always clear, making it challenging to determine whether a particular race had a goal time, or just a goal of finishing.

As he traveled the country to run his eight marathons he met up with local runners – either for a shakeout run or at the races themselves. In some cases these were planned and in others they came about as he was approached while walking into a port-a-potty. One of those he met up with is Lisa from Tech Chick Adventures who I’ve come to “know” through the Weekly Run Down and its predecessor, the Weekly Wrap. I look forward to her review of the book.

All in all, a wonderfully written account of a difficult journey.  I would definitely recommend it to most runners. If you have personal experience with bipolar disorder, you might find some sections to be somewhat triggering. I think Fitzgerald portrays his & Nataki’s journey to live with her diagnosis very well.

***

Boomer Esiason

Movement is a privilege. That’s something my colleague often says when we go for a run, and it’s so true. It’s also something I fought to keep in mind during Sunday’s #RunToBreathe -one of NYRR’s regular four milers which doubles as a fundraiser for Team Boomer, Boomer Esiason’s foundation that raises money in honor of his son with Cystic Fibrosis.

9AM start was nice, and I jogged to the start. It was so liberating not to need all the layers! I wore capris but would have been fine in shorts most likely. Who AM I?!? It was a staggered start and Corral K crossed the start about 11:30 minutes after the front runners. They said this race had about 5,000 runners. It felt like everyone wanted to come out and play in support of a good cause.

I didn’t have a race plan. I didn’t really have a goal. I just ran by feel and walked the water stations as they’re too crowded not to. I tossed my long sleeved shirt at the top of Cat Hill. My Achilles was perfect. My hip was chirpy, but not to the point where it impacted me during or after, although I opted to walk rather than run home. Mile one into two, I wanted to peel off and walk home for no good reason other than I wasn’t feeling it. Then I got into a rhythm and three, four seemed to go quickly. As much as I enjoyed 5-7 mile runs, the first two are always mental torture.

As was the case with the Bronx, some distance helped with my look at this race.  The issues:

  • Running three days in a row: tired legs
  • Cat Hill. I’ve run the West Side rollers a few times lately but other than the office run group I’ve been avoiding Cat Hill. Had to deal with the kitty in the first mile. She made me pay for my abandonment

The results weren’t terrible, but they weren’t good. When compared to other 4 milers, it’s better than 2019 Gridiron when I was more broken and 2018 Achilles when I was sick. Oh and much better than my inaugural #RunToBreathe. I realized early on that my legs were tired and decided to focus on the fact that I was healthy & able to run this race while  that isn’t the case for others.

On to the next. And yes, movement is indeed a privilege.

  • What do you do if you just don’t have it during a local weekly race?
  • Any favorite local races that aren’t destinations, just fun for your community

26 comments to this article

  1. Liz Dexter

    on April 9, 2019 at 01:52 - Reply

    Good going to understand what was making it not fun and to change your attitude. Remembering it’s a privilege has always helped me in runs and esp races (muttering “Think of the Ethiopian girls” in my first half marathon then realising it was more chanting than muttering …).

    I really like the NICE race which is a local one supporting the National Institute for Conductive Education, which helps people with movement disorders move and be active and well. I’ve never run it, but I always make room in my timetable for marshalling and otherwise supporting.

    Not sure I’d be that keen on the book although it’s exciting to have one of our fellow bloggers in it. Maybe I should read it to help with my Mental Health Champion role, however. Hm.

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 11:26 - Reply

      I really enjoyed the people he met. I struggled with some of his wife’s breaks as I’ve just never seen that and found what happened shocking.
      I think re-framing the mind is one of the hardest challenges.

      • Liz Dexter

        on April 10, 2019 at 01:52 - Reply

        I’ve spent time with people experiencing mental health crisis so I’m not sure I can face reading about it tbh. But being realistic it would be a useful read plus I know there’s a lot more than that in there.

        • cari

          on April 10, 2019 at 17:19 - Reply

          Some of it was pretty “graphic” to me. Not to the extent that it’s gratuitous or anything, it was just a lot. But so was what he went through
          It’s possible to skip those chapters as while interspersed, they’re set apart from the race recaps and QAs

  2. Darlene

    on April 9, 2019 at 12:39 - Reply

    Movement is a privilege – I love that. I wish I could have run this race – I had a good friend who died from this disease and suffered through it for many years.

    I often worry about shorter races and I don’t know why. I have run 13.1. But they always feel hard at the beginning. It’s a mental game. And it always feels better as I hit the last few miles. I am always glad that I did it and did not stay home.

    All my local races feel like a community. I have zero goals – until I’m done and wished I had ….

    Sometimes I wish I did not have to train and did not sign up for long races….so I could really just run for fun.

    Then again, there’s the challenge of a long race and the thrill of completing a big race…

    That being said. Running 3 days in a row is tough on the legs. I am resting today and I only ran 2.

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 18:47 - Reply

      Maybe next year your work schedule will align. I love it when these fundraisers sell out — because it’s money for a good cause as well as our own physical/mental health and enjoyment
      I am the same re: shorter. ones. 4 seems just as mentally hard as 13.1. I’m sometimes better when I’ve warmed up, but that wasn’t really the case this week.
      I think that’s part of why I opted not to do the Women’s Half this week. My mind needs a break as much as my legs, which feel mostly fine.

      • Darlene

        on April 9, 2019 at 20:29 - Reply

        I didn’t enjoy the Shape because of the two loops. The NYC half was a lot more fun.

        • cari

          on April 10, 2019 at 17:20 - Reply

          Shape is the same as Lebow, I think. Maybe different start, but same overall. Ditto NYC Runs. I can’t see myself doing that course more than once per year

  3. Deborah Brooks

    on April 9, 2019 at 13:40 - Reply

    Movement and especially running is a privilege and a gift. This book is on my reading list thanks for the review.

    • cari

      on April 12, 2019 at 09:41 - Reply

      It so is. We’re very lucky

  4. Chocolaterunsjudy

    on April 9, 2019 at 14:07 - Reply

    Interestingly, the first few miles were fine — thanks to race day adrenaline — it was the last couple of miles.

    I’ve read many of Matt’s books, but he doesn’t go at all into the personal stuff in the ones I’ve run, so I had now idea about his wife (or dog).

    Movement absolutely is a privilege. And it pains me to see those who can, not. And to see what not moving has done to my parents, too.

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 23:44 - Reply

      Usually my first few are OK if I’ve warmed up, but not this time.
      I agree – we’re lucky enough we can choose to run or not, or what distance. We should, for all those who can’t

      • Chocolaterunsjudy

        on April 10, 2019 at 11:11 - Reply

        It usually takes me a couple of miles to truly warm up. I was just happy to race 5 miles and not feel like a truck had run over me. 🙂

  5. Wendy

    on April 9, 2019 at 17:55 - Reply

    I think I”m going to adopt that mantra because I am so incredibly frustrated with running these days. I have to remember that I’m still moving, even if it isn’t how I like to move.

    I’ve read a few of Matt Fitzgerald’s books, but they are always technical books. It’s interesting that he wrote an autobiography. I’ll have to check it out!

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 18:38 - Reply

      I can’t remember if you’re on NetGalley or not, but it’s still there if you are.
      A friend just lent me her copy of Diet Cult when I mentioned this, it seems interesting.

      It works for so many of us – whether healthy or limited for one reason or another. There’s a woman in the Run the Year Facebook group who uses a walker and has an infection in her spine. She’s out there if at all possible – most of us can to

  6. Zenaida Arroyo

    on April 9, 2019 at 19:49 - Reply

    Movement is a privilege. I’ve never heard that and like it! Also, I’ve never read any of Matt Fitzgerald’s books but this one looks like one I would want to read.

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 23:25 - Reply

      Check your local library system, mine has most of them

  7. Laurie

    on April 9, 2019 at 22:29 - Reply

    Oh, I love your friend’s quote: “Movement is a privilege”. I remember a student of mine from years ago with CF. She sadly passed away shortly after her high school graduation. Run to Breathe is such a wonderful race for a worthwhile cause. Congrats on your race, even though it wasn’t your best. You learned from it and, as you said, on to the next race!

    • cari

      on April 9, 2019 at 23:19 - Reply

      How sad, how young!

  8. kookyrunner

    on April 10, 2019 at 07:59 - Reply

    Movement is a privilege – yes, yes and yes! I always try to remind myself of that when I’m struggling with a workout or when I need motivation to workout.

    • cari

      on April 12, 2019 at 09:28 - Reply

      Same. Also with non-exercise things like the escalators being down

  9. Marcia

    on April 13, 2019 at 08:40 - Reply

    I think I read an excerpt from Matt’s book, maybe in Runners Word. I had no idea he had a mentally ill wife.
    Feeling awful for the first few miles seems to be the norm for me these days. I get that “peel off” urge frequently but we’ve all learned to push through. There’s a 5k here in my town with a pancake breakfast after that I used to run all the time. That said I’ve missed in the past few years.

    • cari

      on April 28, 2019 at 13:13 - Reply

      Ooh pancake breakfast would be amazing.
      YEsterday was the first day with no peel off desire in I odn’t even know how long.

  10. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    on April 14, 2019 at 14:28 - Reply

    Thanks for the shout out 🙂 Confession, I *never* read books. So, despite the smaller size of Matt’s book, I haven’t finished reading it yet! I am to a very interesting part of the book though, with (maybe?) the height of his wife’s issues. What was totally funny to me what that this book mentions very often the differences in their background (him white, her black) and when he told me his wife’s name, I thought she was Asian. When I saw the picture on the cover, I was completely surprised!! My sister in law struggles with mental illness, so as I’m reading I can relate to what she is going through and also how that affects my brother’s relationship with her. It’s a tough thing to go through, and I’m glad she has him to support her.

    • cari

      on April 28, 2019 at 13:12 - Reply

      Oops, I missed this.
      Yes, I was similarly expecting someone of Asian descent when I read her name. There was some point in the book where I realized she wasn’t though.

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