Life Is a Marathon

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Very nice combination of personal memoir and running memoir. This is not what I expected after reading his previous book (How Bad Do You Want It?) but I quite enjoyed it. I'd definitely recommend this book to other running friends as well as non-runners who just like a good memoir.
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Becoming a world-class marathon runner takes a lot of sacrifice, dedication and love for the sport. The same qualities are present in people who support family members with mental health issues.  Mark Fitzgerald, who has written several running books, shares his life experiences in both of these topics in this compelling memoir.

The most striking feature about the book is the ending of each chapter.  Fitzgerald will make a personal discovery on how the experiences he shared in the chapter help him realize a new realization about what that meant to him in the bigger picture of life.  Whether it was him assisting a woman in the last few miles of a marathon to help her finish at the sacrifice of his own time or how he feels when he has to call authorities after his wife Nataka attacks him yet again due to her bipolar condition, his realization of what he has discovered is always touching and will make a reader pause to consider. 

Each chapter is filled with good detail about what Fitzgerald is experiencing and what is most telling and sets this one apart from many sports memoirs is the emotion that will be felt by the reader.  Whether it is the terrifying moments when his wife is attacking him with a knife, the sadness he feels when she is yet again involuntarily hospitalized, the agony of an injury during a race or the elation at winning or beating personal bests, this book is one that tugs at the heart in every imaginable way.

Runners and non-runners alike will want to read this one as it covers a wide range of topics and emotions.  Many of the stories will be ones that readers can relate to, and even if not, they will be enjoyed.  

I wish to thank Da Capo Lifelong Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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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.

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.

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. All in all, a wonderfully written account of a difficult journey. Thank you, NetGalley, for the chance to read this book. All opinions were my own.
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Matt Fitzgerald is that rare individual whose hobby is also his career.  He has built his living around writing about running and competing in triathlons.  For his latest book, Life is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance, Fitzgerald puts together a cross-country marathon quest to run eight marathons in eight weeks.  



Interspersed among Fitzgerald's road stories and race reports, he writes about his life, particularly about his marriage.  Through the hardships of his marriage to a woman who struggled with bipolar disorder, he demonstrates this truism: "Because life truly is long and difficult, it demands endurance, fortitude, patience, resilience, and long-suffering.  The marathon develops all these fundamental human coping skills."



Fitzgerald's marathon times aren't quite elite, but he is definitely a front-of-tbe-packer.  However, the rest of middle- and back-of-the-packers can relate to his struggles in training and on race day.  He writes, "if you run marathons, you will fail.  The marathon is no respecter of persons.  It humbles everyone sooner or later--and I mean everyone."  Most of his races attest to this, and if have ever run a marathon you surely agree.  



So why do we do it?  Fitzgerald say he has "become a connoisseur, of sorts, of this unique brand of suffering.  The pain of endurance racing is to me now as wine is to the oenophile."  After a painful race, which he won in three hours flat, he said he "rose smiling, not about the medal but about my scorched esophagus and throbbing calves, welcome signs of a body well tested--an acquired taste, to be sure, but like many acquired tastes, superior to most easy gratifications."



As much inspiration as he provides in the world of running, his endurance as a husband is admirable as well.  His bipolar wife had several episodes of manic violence in which she literally attempted to kill him.  After brief hospitalizations, she would return home for another chance.  It's a miracle they're still together.



Fitzgerald said he wanted to find the magic of the marathon.  I agree with his conclusion, that "in the pain of a marathon we learn who we are, discovering within ourselves both the weaknesses and flaws that hold us back and the strengths and virtues that drive us forward, which are different in each of us."  I enjoyed reading about Fitzgerald's racing and training, and, like any good running book, he inspires me to get out and run and sign up for another marathon!





Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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The author wrote a great book about the dedication required for becoming a runner and the impact that it has on the individual and the hardships in their life.  I found it interesting that he used it as a way of coping with his wife's bipolar disorder.
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In "Life Is A Marathon," Matt Fitzgerald has crafted an extraordinary depiction of his marriage to Nataki, the love of his life who has a severe mental illness. Fitzgerald portrays the other love of his life: long-distance running. His evolution as a runner and his unique marathon project is fascinating is masterfully interwoven throughout the story. Readers affected by mental illness will be inspired by Fitzgerald's near-insurmountable challenges and profound insights. Athletes will be riveted by Fitzgerald's physical and emotional trials during every race. Fitzgerald reveals how perseverance and authentic love for a partner, a sport, or something else that's close to one's heart, can transform one's life into one that's worth living.
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This is the story of a runner.  It's also the story of he and his wife's struggles through mental illness, and the marathon of life is how they cope with the various stops along that train.  The eight marathons he runs throughout the course of the book help to usher in new chapters of their life together, and their battles.  The book will speak to runners of all life phases, whether they have dealt with mental illness or not, and may help to educate those less-informed about this much-neglected subject in a way that speaks directly to their heart.
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