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Life Is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance
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Life Is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  51 reviews
An endurance athlete and coach reveals how the marathon transforms the lives of everyone who attempts it--and how it has helped his own family cope with serious adversity

Step after step for 26.2 miles, hundreds of thousands of people run marathons. But why--what compels people past pain, lost toenails, 5.30 am start times, The Wall? Sports writer Matt Fitzgerald set out to
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Da Capo Lifelong Books
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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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
Dyane Harwood
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 are fascinating and 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 rivete ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm solidly on the Matt Fitzgerald bandwagon - I follow his marathon training plans and (when I'm my best self) his nutrition guidelines. He's also generally a good writer so when he has a new book, I read it. I picked up Life Is a Marathon without knowing anything about it, ignored the subtitle, and anticipated some new insight into the mental aspect of a marathon. I was surprised to find a personal, raw memoir that goes beyond the description of an athlete. I admire his willingness to share al ...more
Ron S
Sports journalist and author Matt Fitzgerald (Iron War, Racing Weight, How Bad Do You Want It) writes about running eight marathons in eight weeks and the people he meets along the way. What makes this an unusual running book is how Fitzgerald intertwines the story of his wife Nataki, who suffers with a debilitating mental illness, and their relationship. This goes well beyond the average overcoming adversity/qualifying and running Boston sort of running memoir. Don't read it looking for nutriti ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
"In the pain of the marathon we learn who we are, discovering within ourselves both the weaknesses and flaws that hold us back and the strength and virtues that drive us forward."

" I thought I needed to find courage through running for my own sake...but what I really needed courage for, I discovered, was life."

"What I really wanted to do was conquer hard."

"Whatever it is a person looks for in the marathon, he or she usually finds it. "

" when you see how you can physically turn around due to cons
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
This is and isn't about running. The author is a runner for sure and the book is about him running marathons but it parallels his marriage to a woman named Nataki whom he has been married for some 20 years or so. She isn't a runner and also suffers from bipolar disorder and man does this guy get honest about marriage and about mental health and about what he and his wife have gone through. It doesn't paint a picture such that running solves anything. It is a raw and honest look at what we do and ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of bipolar-themed books as my wife has bipolar. This is the best one written by the perspective of a husband whose wife suffers from this severe mood disorder. As an author/lifelong athlete and runner, I also really enjoyed Fitzgerald's discussion of his running and writing careers. It's an excellent read and I highly recommend it. ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well-known writer [maybe best known at this point for his thoughts on optimal racing weight and how to achieve/maintain it] uses the structure of a cross-country driving trip, running 8 marathons in 8 weeks along the way [extremely well --- as a master he finishes the 8th and final race in 2:49], to interweave (a) interviews with other runners about their experiences of running and especially running marathons with (b) harrowing tale of his marriage to a woman with bipolar disorder who violently ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
I really hate giving such a low rating to someone's memoir. However, this book was not what it was said to be. I did not read a book uncovering why people run marathons or even my Fitzgerald runs marathons. Instead it was a disjointed story with a lack of focus and a timeline that bounced all over the place. There was a lot of running and a lot of runners chatting in the book, but it was also a lot about Fitzgerald and his wife dealing with her bipolar disorder. A lot. A lot of detail. A lot of ...more
Maddie Zook
Jun 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was a marathon. Harder to wade through these stories than my most recent 100k.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this astonishingly personal memoir, the author takes the lid off his own life and makes the case for marathon running as training for life itself.

Compared with the author's other writing, this is a change in subject matter, but not a change in his compelling writing style. He takes time to bare a painful and often ugly struggle with saving his marriage and supporting his wife through severe mental illness, in between chapters that chronicle a roadtrip they share to interview other marathon ru
Petch Manopawitr
Dec 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
A memoir of his running life and person struggle in life. His wife has suffered from serious bipolar and attempted to hurt him several times. She were hospitalized in mental hospital for 7-8 times and the couple was separated for as long as 9 months. It seemed the marriage was destined to be doomed. The author hanged in there and devoted himself to running and entering endurance race such as ironman, ultra-marathon etc.

I wanted to like this book more and it has everything in it but somehow it
Andrea Hill
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book,even as it was a bit difficult to read. The author alternates chapters about running a marathon a week for eight weeks, and reflections on (primarily) his relationship with his wife. He is unblinkingly honest, in a way that mad me sometimes feel like I was glimpsing something personal I hadnt earned the right to observe.

But, that's some of the story - we runners share a kinship, and often we may find ourselves opening up to each other. Running has an effect on us, tearing do
Thomas Ryan
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Matt Fitzgerald’s “Iron War” is one of the great sports performance books and so I was excited to read “Life is a Marathon” but this book very much reinforces the old saying that masterpieces are never what you expect. This is a book about running and how running can help one deal with the problems of life, and make one stronger and more resilient as a result of facing the common challenges associated with running, racing, and completing long distance endurance events throughout one’s life cycle ...more
Mina Purser
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I began reading this book, I took it for face value and thought it was just a book about the parallels between life and running marathons. I have been a runner since high school, and finally ran my first two marathons last year for the sole reason of getting them in before I turn 50 this year. I had no idea what this book was REALLY about! I grew up in a home with a bipolar mother. Luckily, she was never violent with us, but I understood so well the frustration and heartbreak that goes alon ...more
Claudia Turner
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book though I’m not sure I believe Matt Fitzgerald’s story of marathons, love and endurance is really about love as much as codependency and loyalty. Or maybe it’s about the love of an idea or a memory. Nevertheless, it IS about endurance, and confusingly nonlinear as this book often is, it’s also full of deeply personal sincerity, thoughtfulness and visually compelling memories. I would recommend this for endurance athletes, runners and for anyone who has been close to someone wi ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
So I had a very personal reaction to this. I’ve had similar reactions to other books about running and mental health but here it was a matter of from who’s point of view stories were being told. Throughout the book the author is telling other people’s stories, many runners he meets but primarily his wife’s struggle with bipolar. But these are. Or his to tell. He has the permission to tell them, but not the experience of the perspective. And too much gets waves away in a good running heals all wo ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: running
Not what I expected at all, but a refreshing read on my “running” bookshelf. It was an honest and raw look at the complexities of an interracial marriage and living with a spouse who has bipolar disorder. At times, it was difficult to take in but I’m glad I finished it. Though most of the book feels chaotic and disjointed, I thought Fitzgerald tied things up nicely in the final few chapters, where I felt like I had made it through the arduous journey with him and came to appreciate the marathon ...more
Smitha Murthy
I thought this was a book on running - something like how to run better or faster. But it is a rather disjointed account of the author’s efforts to run quite a few, very fast marathons and a detailed account of his marriage with his wife. The intent is good - how to marry running with our life - but I felt I was reading a narcissistic perspective on how amazing a runner Fitzgerald is, coupled with a few “I am so self-absorbed” phrases just to throw you off the track of narcissism.

I couldn’t und
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. As Eric Schrantz from Ultrarunnerpodcast said "you really never know what is going on for other people." I have read many of Fitzgerald's other books. Some I have enjoyed and praised (Iron Wars is amazing) and some I have found interesting but fundamentally disagreed with. Through all of them, I lacked connection to Matt as an author. I admired his writing style and his content but felt cold toward the author.
This book opened my mind and heart to the author. Plus it was surprisingly funny,
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Fitzgerald writes superbly about running, and this book is no exception. It's a testament to his skill as a writer that he can make his own post-40 series of semi-competitive marathons interesting and enjoyable to read about. However, running is only about half this book. The other half is about Fitzgerald's relationship with his wife and her struggles with mental illness. It's not that I'm uninterested in this topic, but I found the way Fitzgerald wrote about it mostly uninteresting and somewha ...more
Emily Jo
I absolutely enjoyed this book. I knew of Matt Fitzgerald and even read a few of his books. This book really opened my eyes to more about his life and some of the obstacles he faced in his life. I loved the section about Wisconsin's Jailbreaker and his opinion of our great state. I was really shocked to read so much about his wife's bipolar disorder and learned a lot about bipolar disorders through this book. I highly recommend this book to anybody who's a runner and looking to learn more about ...more
Marykay Pogar
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Equal parts race recaps and family mental illness memoir. Non-athletes may think they'll find the training and race synopses boring, but Fitzgerald incorporates enough recounts of his wife's (and his) struggle with her bipolar disorder into the narrative to make this more than a formulaic training/racing journal. It's a harrowing story, since his wife's mental illness was very difficult to manage and she attacked him violently many times, but ultimately, it's also a love story. ...more
Melissa Hay
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love this book!!! It's hard to articulate the magic of running, but Matt Fitzgerald did a fantastic job! Interspersed with his extremely open, honest story about his relationship with his wife and their battle with her bipolar disorder, he did an amazing job of tying together how running gave him the strength and endurance not only on the road, but in his life. His style of writing is warm and casual, as if he's talking to a friend...and extremely witty! I absolutely love this book!!!! ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I guess i was expecting this to be a book solely about running... I didn't love to hear about the effects of the bipolar disorder his wife has, but i see why he talked about it. I think my expectations were different from what the book was really about. I would say this book isn't about running at all and more about life in general. ...more
Amber Victoria Finlay
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ami Yokoyama
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought the author approached marathon in such an impulsive style (i.e. abruptly giving up in the middle of the race just because he's become sure he can't make his goal time; not stopping training even though multiple injuries hit him - although I understand this to a certain point) and I admire that. Maybe I should attack running and racing in a more aggressive manner. ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Touching and poignant

This book was very good. It was heartbreaking at times as I had no idea what Matt Fitzgerald’s private life was like. It is an honest reflection and well written.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Finished it on global running day! I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t my favorite running memoir. That’s still held by Peter Sagan and Murakami. The timeline read a bit jumbled but I appreciate his self deprecating humor and fascinating insight into his wedded life
Nate Hawthorne
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I like Matt. He has been through a lot. I think running has both helped and hurt him. It is brave to open up your past (and your spouse's) and let readers in behind the curtain. Not just the curtain of training, but all the nitty gritty of life. No real revelations for me, just honest writing. ...more
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Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books on sports history and endurance sports. He has enjoyed unprecedented access to professional endurance athletes over the course of his career. His best-sellers include Racing Weight and Brain Training for Runners. He has also written extensively for Triathlete, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, Outside, Runner's World, Bicycling, Competitor, and countless ...more

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