The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete (Review)

June 10, 2011

Book cover for "The Long Run" by Matt Long with Charles Butler.Title: The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete

Author: Matt Long (with Charles Butler)

Narrator: Matthew Del Negro

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 264 (audio length: 8 hours 39 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

On the morning of December 22, 2005, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. The injuries he sustained pushed him within inches of his life. Miraculously, more than 40 operations and months later, Matt was able to start his recovery. In spite of the severity of his injuries, Matt found the psychological consequences of the accident nearly as hard to process. He would no longer be able to compete at the highest level.

In the 18 months before the accident, he had competed in more than 20 events including several triathlons and marathons and had qualified for running’s most prestigious race, the Boston Marathon. After the accident, his doctor told him he’d be lucky if he could even walk without a cane.

The Long Run is an emotional and incredibly honest story about Matt’s determination to fight through fear, despair, loneliness, and intense physical and psychological pain to regain the life he once had. The book chronicles Matt’s road to recovery as he teaches himself to walk again and, a mere three years later, to run in the 2008 New York City Marathon — a gimpy seven-and-a-half hour journey through the five boroughs. “Running saved my life,” Matt says, and his embrace of the running community and insistence on competing in the marathon has inspired many, turning him into a symbol of hope and recovery for untold numbers of others.

I had never heard of Matt Long before, nor of his accident. This might be partly attributed to the fact that I didn’t really pay attention to running until very recently – so while the news story might have crossed in my periphery, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it at the time.

A while back, I was searching for books that dealt with running on Audible – and this is one of the ones that I stumbled on. And right from the beginning, Long’s story interested me. I think it was because The Long Run was partly about running, but more so about personal struggle and how someone attempts to overcome some truly horrific circumstances.

It was definitely the personal aspect of the story that hooked me once I started listening to the audiobook. I wanted to know what happened to Long, and I wanted to know that everything worked out in the end. I was literally on the edge of my seat at times, listening to Del Negro’s narration – fantastic choice, by the way, to use someone with a New York accent – and just wanting to hear what happened next. I felt a lot like I would when I was a kid, thinking “and then what? and then? and then?”

Part of me knew that things would work out for the better in the end, because really … why else would Long have written this book? But I still felt as though I needed to go through the whole book to find out what happened before doing any outside research and just be told the story quickly in an article. I wanted to experience things as Long presented them, and enjoyed the pace that he set – not so slow that I got frustrated, but also not so quick that anecdotes were skimmed over.

If you’re interested in reading about people’s personal challenges, then The Long Run might be for you. Yes, it has some special interest and appeal to people who like running (or triathlons/iron mans, since that’s part of what Long competed in before his accident), but it’s not limited in relevance to people who like these sports. The really important thing to take away from this book is the struggle to re-engage in life in a way that someone feels necessary for happiness and fulfillment, and that’s the story that really shines through here.

Rating:

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