Most of us recreational runners never get the chance to train like a pro. Matt Fitzgerald got that opportunity, and he wrote about it in “Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age.”
This was our latest BibRave Pro Book Club book, and I listened to it on Audible. It’s a pretty quick listen — seven hours and 12 minutes, and a little faster if you listen on 1.1x speed, which I’ve been doing recently if the book still sounds normal to me, like this one did.
Fitzgerald, then 46, lived the life of a pro runner for a few months and trained with the HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite team in Flagstaff, Arizona. The book follows his training for the 2017 Chicago Marathon.
Although Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to think he’s that fast — and I guess he isn’t, by elite standards — I still think he’s super fast. His personal record for the marathon before training with the team was 2:41:29 (nine years prior). So, he’s already much closer to an elite time than someone like me.
My marathon PR is 4:17:45, now seven years ago, but my last two marathons were around 5:30 (one just over and one just under). At my current level of fitness, I’d be pretty happy to run a sub-5-hour marathon. So, someone like me training with the team wouldn’t make any sense because my pace is so drastically different.
Fitzgerald’s paces are fast enough that he has people to run with on the team, and Coach Ben Rosario works with him on a training plan to get him to a fast Chicago — structured around his fitness level rather than his initial goal.
We chatted some on the BibRave Pro Book Club Zoom call about the life of a pro runner — including regular naps and visits with team doctors — as well as Fitzgerald’s writing style. Fellow BibRave Pro Mike pointed out just how descriptive he was.
It was also fun to learn more about the NAZ Elite team and the personalities of its members. For me, the team really came more into the spotlight after member Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s Olympic Marathon Trials race in Atlanta this year, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. (Tuliamuk was not on the NAZ Elite team at the time Fitzgerald trained with them.)
Fitzgerald doesn’t have a bump-free path to Chicago — a couple hurdles are suffering from an injury and dealing with his mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis — and I won’t give away how he does. But he does get to start in the elite corral, which I think would be pretty awesome.
This was a good listen and an interesting look into the lives of elite athletes. The BibRave Pro Book Club is reading another book by Fitzgerald next — “The Comeback Quotient: A Get-Real Guide to Building Mental Fitness in Sport and Life.” I’m looking forward to it!