I start off every year with the resolution to offer a mini review of every book I read in the upcoming year and, year after year, I fall short of that goal. Part of the problem is I read quite a bit, often juggling several books at a time, and often ditching a book as soon as I realize it’s not worth completing. If I fall behind a week or two in my reviews, it’s near impossible to catch back up. Recently, however, I finished Matt Long’s book The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete and felt the need to recommend it. Besides having the longest subtitle in literary history, Long’s book details one of the most heroic recoveries from severe injury imaginable.
Long is a firefighter who, among other things, responded to the tragedy that was 9/11. Though he would deny it, he is a hero. Being a hero is just part of who the guy is. The long-distance runner and triathlete has spent his career serving others. In 2005, however, it was Long who needed help. While cycling to work during a nasty transit strike, Long was literally ran over by a bus. In response to the transit strike, the bus was hired by a private company to haul employees into work. Apparently, the driver was unfamiliar with New York City streets – the end result was tragic.
I won’t detail Long’s injuries or recovery because you would be better off reading it in his own words. Suffice it to say, however, that his recovery involved dozens of surgeries and years of physical therapy. This guy’s story is incredible. Once I started the book I was unable to put it down and I have been unable to get it our of my mind since. His story is a testimony to the human spirit and is inspiring on every level.
Long didn’t just recover, rather, he once again became an endurance athlete. The man who had once qualified for the Boston Marathon and had his eyes set on a personal best in the Kona Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii had to learn how to walk again before he could run, but he did it.
I’m not an endurance athlete. Yes I run a little and yes I cycle a little, but my battle is more a fight against diabetes and excess weight than it is trying to set a personal best in a triathlon. Long routinely ran 20+ miles before his injury while my best so far is 5. But when I’m running and my legs are telling me I should quit, I can’t help by think of Matt Long. Even though no one would have blamed him, Long never quit. Despite excruciating pain, he keeps putting one foot in front of the other. His example inspires me to take one more step when I don’t feel like it. For that, I am grateful.
Disclaimer: Long describes his injuries and recovery in graphic detail. If you have a weak stomach, don’t say I didn’t warn you.