Drama and dedication
But “Running the Dream” is more than just a litany of name-checks and a recitation of one runner’s training log. Fitzgerald spins a seductive narrative story arc, part confessional and part reportorial, that calls to mind the best of participatory journalism. Somewhere, George Plimpton is nodding with admiration.
In his quest to break 2:40 in Chicago — no worries, we will not provide any spoilers — Fitzgerald faced several obstacles, most notably serious groin injuries midway through training, but also his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and Arizona elite runner David Torrance, a Flagstaff favorite, suffered a tragic death in Phoenix that rocked the group. These ups and downs, not to mention the daily struggle to hit time goals in training, keep a tension front and center as Fitzgerald counts down the days to his race.
Though there certainly is wonky runner-speak peppered throughout the book — time splits, depletion runs, drills and more drills — Fitzgerald does not forget that he is writing for an audience not just of hard-core runners but those who run but still want to read a gripping yarn. So he tries, throughout, to make his quest relatable and humbling, such as his hilarious takes on adapting early on to Flagstaff’s 7,000-foot elevation, in which his “esophagus (is) raked raw.”
His first workout is described thus: “All of a sudden I felt as though I were breathing through a straw. A blind panic seized me, the kind of whole-body freak-out you experience when an improperly chewed morsel lodges in your throat and you know you’re going to die.”