Monday, May 4, 2020

Matt Fitzgerald's "Running the Dream"

Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed endurance sports and nutrition writer and certified sports nutritionist. His best-known books include Racing Weight, Brain Training for Runners, and Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide. He has contributed to Bicycling, Maxim, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Triathlete, Stuff, Men’s Journal, Outside, Runner’s World, Shape, Women’s Health, and other national publications.

Fitzgerald applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age, and reported the following:
I will confess that I felt some anxiety as I flipped to page 99 of my book to see what was there. My worry was that the material would be, in my own judgment, less likely than the material on many other pages to make people want to read the whole thing. I won’t share the conclusion I came to. I just wanted to let you know what it’s like for an author to go through this exercise. I doubt I’m alone in having approached it with a degree of trepidation.

Running the Dream documents my experience as a “fake pro runner”—a summer I spent as a forty-six-year-old tagalong with a Flagstaff-based team of twenty-something genetic lottery winners striving for the Olympics. This passage describes an encounter I had with one member of the team, Aaron “Brauny” Braun, at an early point in my recovery from a groin injury I suffered midway through the experiment.
An almost queasy expression came over his face when he got out and noticed me waiting for him, as though I were some wayward second cousin of his who hit him up for money whenever our paths crossed. I took no offense, knowing how awkward it is sometimes to be around an injured teammate. You feel both grateful for and guilty about your own good health, and your instinct is to hide both emotions, an effort that inevitably results in stilted communication. Taking mercy on him, I spoke first as we entered the building together.

“Good workout for you yesterday, eh?”

Aaron posted a mildly self-deprecating tweet after yesterday’s 20 x 1K session at Mountain Shadows (another workout I would have done “with” him if not for my injury), evidence to anyone who knows his modest nature that he was well pleased with it.

“It was,” he said, trying not to sound too happy. “I felt pretty good aerobically the whole way. My legs just got tired toward the end—kind of like in a marathon, come to think of it, which I guess was the point.”

It’s a long walk from the front entrance of Hypo2 to the weight room, and there came a point in our journey down the main hallway where Brauny had no choice but to ask about my groin despite my obvious determination to steer the conversation in a different direction.

“I think I’m entering the anger stage of my recovery,” I told him glibly, “which is probably a good sign. It means I’m impatient to start running hard again, and I’m impatient because I’m feeling better.”

“Been there,” Aaron said. “You’ll feel a lot better once you get to do that first real workout and you see you haven’t lost as much fitness as you thought. And then you’ll start to see the bright side of taking time off: ‘Hey, at least my other aches and pains got a chance to quiet down. And I’m not worried anymore about overcooking myself before the race.’”

Aaron knows whereof he speaks. Imagine being twenty-nine years old, the main breadwinner for a family of four, and realizing your career—the only occupation you’ve ever known or loved—is probably over. That’s where Brauny found himself last year, a mysterious hip injury that defied every treatment known to man, including prolonged rest, having wiped out his 2015 season and threatening to do the same to 2016, an all-important Olympic year.
As with any memoir, whether Running the Dream succeeds or fails depends largely on the quality of the writing and storytelling, and I’m confident, at least, that page 99 is no worse than any other page in these areas. It strikes me too that the content is representative of the book as a whole in certain ways. There are many other pages I might have been asked to share that also would have shown my deep emotional investment in the fantasy I was living out and portrayed the odd dynamic of an athlete almost young enough to be my child mentoring and counseling me.

This is a fun little exercise for an author. Kind of scary, but fun.
Visit Matt Fitzgerald's website.

--Marshal Zeringue