Book Review: “Marathon Man”
Title: “Marathon Man”
Author: Bill Rodgers (and Matthew Sheraton)
What’s this book about? Bill Rodgers tells how he became the top marathoner in the world. He went to college with Amby Burfoot and Jeff Galloway at a small DIII school in Connecticut, but was more of a free-spirited, hippie runner than Burfoot, his dedicated roommate who won the 1968 Boston Marathon. Bill stopped running after college, and was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Eventually, he started running laps around an indoor YMCA track, and that spring, he was shocked to see Galloway fighting for a top 10 finish at Boston. The fire was lit — and he DNF’d the race the first two times he ran it. He went on to win both Boston and New York four times each.
Why should you read it? One of the most inspiring books I’ve read, and was a huge motivating boost during my marathon training this fall. Bill wasn’t the most talented runner in college; after, he didn’t run for several years and instead spent most of his time smoking, drinking, and working menial jobs. He became a prolific racer and was part of the original running boom.
“The marathon will humble you.” This is a famous quote of his, said long before the book. In the introduction, he adds to it twice:
- “But the truth is, sometimes it will do more than humble you. Sometimes it will break your heart.”
- “But sometimes it will do more than humble you. Sometimes it can change your destiny.”
“Run calm, stay focused, and breathe, Bill. It’s the only way to survive.”
“Yet we all hold out hope that on this Patriots’ Day the stars will align for us — my body will respond to all the hard training I’ve done, Mother Nature will hear my heartfelt please, I’ll put together the race of my dreams. In this way, preparing for a marathon is a bit like planning for a miracle.”
“I’d keep pushing harder and harder, increasing the severity of your pain, until I’d annihilated your soul, your spirit, your body.”
“I could always count on running to act like some kind of root medicine for my brain, drawing out the toxins, replacing it with a soothing calm.”
“For runners, progress is the root of pleasure.”
“Surging can be a nasty business. Necessary but nasty.”
“As a marathon runner, if you’re not getting stronger every day, you’re getting weaker. This is a day-in-day-out business.”
“Run your own race. Trust me, you will find much more success in life if you do. And you’ll have a lot more fun along the way.”
“If the marathon is a part-time interest, you will only get part-time results. That’s true of anything in life.”
P.S. You can get a copy of the book or a poster AUTOGRAPHED for free on the Bill Rodgers Running Center website. I did!