On Thursday & Friday, I read my first book of February– “The Long Run,” by Matt Long & Charles Butler. You can find it online, here.
I think the fact I read it in about five hours tells how much I enjoyed it. It tells the story of Matt’s recovery from a horrific accident. (I may or may not have had to check to see if I was still breathing & if my belly button was still there after reading the gruesome details.) He was a 12-year New York City firefighter, 3:15 marathoner/Boston Marathon qualifier, and Ironamn, who was hit & pulled under a passenger bus one morning, as he was biking to a swim workout with his training buddies. Why was he biking? Why was the bus driving? Because the NYC transportation workers were on strike in December 2005, which all changed his life in an instant. Matt had no other mode to get to the other side of Manhattan on that chilly morning, and the bus was transferring Bear Sterns employees to work, both methods as means around the shut-down tube.
When he was pulled under the bus, among other injuries, Matt’s bike post literally went up his butt, through his pelvis, & came out of his stomach. He broke his shoulder, hip, pelvis, entire left leg, and sustained such traumatic internal injuries that he required 63 blood transfusions in the first 48 hours. He literally wouldn’t stop bleeding. Matt was given less than a 5% chance of living. He spent over a year living with his abdomen muscles split apart, pulled to the side, and a skin graft holding, essentially, a bubble filled with his still-swollen intestines, protruding between his surgically split muscles. He was unable to move his arms or his legs.
And yet less than two years after the accident, he again rain the NYC Marathon. And half a year after that, he again became an Ironman. AMAZING. 99% of people in the world don’t do either of those things. Matt is one in a million.
But Matt’s book isn’t just another “aww” feel-good, Oprah-style inspirational story. Matt is brutally honest throughout the book. He didn’t always know he could do it, accomplish such feats again. He didn’t always want to. One of my favorite passages describes how Matt used to never let life pass him by, how he made use of every single minute; and now, he hated himself, his life, his being:
“I didn’t want to look back. And I couldn’t look forward. I had always lived in the present. I used to wake up every morning expecting to make that day more fun than the day before. I jumped from thing to thing, as quickly as possible, filling each 24 hours with as much as I could. Then I got run over by a bus, and I couldn’t do anything or see anything. I couldn’t see that last week I had walked 30 feet down a hallway, and this week I had walked 60 feet, and next week I might walk 120 feet. I didn’t see that things were doubling. I just saw one thing.
Me in a wheelchair with a damn colostomy bag hooked to my side.
And that constant image wore on me, tainting the achievements that I should have been celebrating. Instead of making me feel happy, the milestones only made me feel angrier.”
Eventually Matt has a big turning point, where he decides he is going to run again. Most rehab facilities tell him it won’t happen but one– right here in Tempe, AZ– tells him it will happen.
When I read that part, I was so excited! I had heard tidbits of his story on the news and read an article on him in my “Runner’s World,” but I didn’t realize there was a connection between his incredible story and where I was sitting at that very moment, reading “The Long Run” on my Kindle, in Tempe, AZ. I immediately Google-mapped the rehab facility on my phone and saw it was at Broadway & the 101– just four miles from me! Then my heart started pitter-pattering when I read this a few pages later:
“I found an apartment about 10 minutes from the rehab facility. It came with just enough amenities to further remind me that I was no longer in Manhattan: a balcony that looked out onto a quiet lake and off to a distant view of the desert, and an outdoor swimming pool that was heated…”
I looked out my window– I live in an apartment, on a quiet lake, with a balcony, and the desert in the distance, and a heated pool. DID HE LIVE AT GRIGIO!? “No, he can’t have,” I told myself, “That would be too much of a coincidence.” Still, I went back to my Google-map of the rehab facility & zoomed in & out, in & out, trying to find any lakes within 10 minutes of the rehab facility. Tempe Town Lake seemed to be the only one. My heart pitter-pattered again, as I thought of the views looking north….south….east…and west from the lake. Only looking north or east gives one a view of the lake & then the desert. Only Bridgeview & Edgewater Condominiums have balconies facing north…but they’re condominiums. He stayed at an apartment. Grigio faces east– my own apartment faces east!– and I see the lake and then the desert. Grigio is an apartment. With short-term leases. (Matt was in Tempe for just three months.) I Google-mapped directions from my apartment to the rehab facility. TEN MINUTES. I almost had a heart attack.
“No, no, no,” I told myself, “You are just making things up, reading too far between the lines.” I decided it was too good to be true. He couldn’t have lived so close to me. He probably lived at some apartment complex in Mesa and the “lake” was probably a tadpole pond with mosquitos. People from New York don’t know what lakes are. I decided to just be content with his description of running his first mile, on the same canal I spent my high school years running along, just a few miles north. How cool! We ran the same paths.
Then I almost doubled over with delight!
“After that first run….I went out two or three more times on my own around Tempe Town Lake, in the park near my apartment.”
What do you mean the exact same trail I run today is the same one he learned to run on!? WOW. Now that is cool.
I literally took my run today thinking of how I was running his same footsteps, enjoying the same view, stopping at the same fountains for water. Talk about motivation!
Anyways…. you guys may not think it is as cool as I do, but I was so surprised to not only discover the Tempe connection, but to also discover just how closely our lives intertwine a bit. Matt took his last run around Tempe Town Lake in April 2007. I graduated in July and took my first run that same year in August. I picked up right where he left off!
If you’re looking for a read that goes by quickly, makes your jaw drop & some tears pop up in the corner of your eyes….please go buy this one now!