The Long Run by Matt Long

 

The Long Run by Matt Long

Rodale Press,  2010

Reviewed by Nicki Van Eck

Every competitive athlete has to overcome obstacles and push themselves to the limit in order to reach their goals, whether it is running a short distance, or competing in a marathon; Matt Long knew this better than anyone. A New York City Firefighter, marathon runner, and Ironman triathlete, Long knew what it meant to push his body to the limit.  When he was struck by and dragged under a bus while cycling through the streets of NYC one December morning in 2005, everything he thought he knew about his mental and physical limits, changed.

Long’s book “The Long Run” drew me in from the very beginning, when he described his passion for running:  what it felt like to run the grueling 26.2 mile (42.2 km) New York Marathon, and his goal to qualify for the Boston marathon, one of the most elite marathons in the world. It’s a feeling that almost every runner knows, even if their goals aren’t quite as lofty as running a marathon. Athletes and non-athletes can appreciate the passion, ambition and dedication that goes into accomplishing such extraordinary goals.  When he explained how he fell in love with running, and his slow journey into the world of triathlon, I found the whole process very relatable, as I too have gone through a similar journey.

The obstacles that face the average athlete are nothing compared to the obstacles that Long faced after being struck by a bus while riding his bike to a workout with his friends. “All they knew was what they saw.  My body-a bloody, butchered, expiring mess.  One doctor whispered that it looked as if a bomb had exploded inside my stomach.” Reading as he described the accident, the injuries, the multiple surgeries and blood transfusions, I was filled with all sorts of emotions. He was given only a 5% chance of survival; it makes one wonder how a human body could come back from such horrific injuries. Running was the furthest thing from his mind, and the only thing he was competing for was his life.

Because of the training Long went through to become an elite athlete, his body was able to beat the odds and survive the accident; however, his journey was only beginning. Not only was his body battered and broken, but he felt he had lost everything that defined him. The doctors told him he would not be able to walk without a cane, which would mean firefighting, running, and triathlons were a thing of the past.

After a brief battle with depression, Long decided he wasn’t satisfied with the limits his injuries placed on him, and he did what many do not have the guts to do. He decided that his injuries were not going to hold him back. He was going to run again. I won’t ruin the ending of this story for you, but I will say that I was mesmerized by his journey through his recovery.

“The Long Run” blew me away, and I think there are two very important lessons that one can take away from it. First, if an individual can come back from what Long went through, to once again compete in marathons and triathlons, there is no excuse that is good enough for me or any other athlete to not give everything they have, 100% of the time. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the human body is a fragile thing, and many of the abilities that we take for granted such as running or walking can be taken away in a split second. This book outlines one man’s struggle from an elite athlete, to a mangled and bloody mess with barely a chance of survival, to a man never expected to walk again, back to elite athlete.  It’s an inspiring book that shows readers there is really no limit to what one’s body can handle, and what one can do if they truly believe they can.

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