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

Review: Rolf Potts’ Souvenir

Rolf Potts’ Souvenir. Courtesy: NetGalley

This was a NetGalley title and I was previously unfamiliar with Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series.

Souvenir completely fit Object Lessons’ profile of being a series that “paints a picture of the world around us, and tells the story of how we got here, one object at a time.”

Besides the cover, what caught my attention was that the author was Rolf Potts, whose work I’m familiar with and have quite enjoyed. Souvenir did not disappoint. In a short, novella-length piece, Potts covered the history or souvenirs from religious relics to “13 tons of contraband Eiffel Tower kitsch!” which were confiscated by Parisian police. The way he looked at things such as a possibly authentic Shakespeare chair in a similar vein to the religious relics – who knew how many sets of a saint’s bones had been found-was fascinating.

I’d recently had a thought about some made in China souvenir I’d picked up and how souvenirs had, in some ways, lost their connection to what they depicted. But as he also addressed, the souvenir might be about the physical object, but it might be about the memory of where the object came from. I personally am more likely to keep the found items type of souvenirs: ticket stubs, museum brochures and the like, but there are items such as a flamenco poster from a 1996 trip to Spain that I remember the exact moment of purchase.

I liked how he traced the history of post cards, once called postal cards. They are, for me, the type of souvenir buying that has changed the most over time. At first, they were cheap and I enjoyed sending them to friends & family back home. Plus the photos they were with were much better than something I could take with a film or early digital camera. Then I wasn’t sending them as often and sometimes felt “I could take a better version of that photo”. Recently with the advent of drone photography, it’s back to “wow, I can’t get that photo”. I don’t always send them, but rather use them as photo memories of a trip. This is also true of items in a museum which maybe didn’t allow photography or the light was too dim to get a good one.

I also really liked how he used his own souvenirs to tell the broader story of what made a souvenir. These ranged from a “seashell” he collected on a trip where he first went to the beach as a child, to a fuse box pilfered from (and later returned to) a plane crash in Colorado as a teen, to theater masks collected while traveling in Asia. This also allowed him to explore the intersection between souvenirs, museum collections and the evolution of museums today, another area of personal interest to me.

All in all, a wonderful, quick read. I look forward to reading more in the Object Lessons series as I think this is a wonderful vehicle for exploring the everyday world.