In December of 2016, the day before the CIM Marathon in Sacramento, I sat down with author Matt Fitzgerald and he pitched me an idea. At 46 years old, he wanted to come to Flagstaff the following summer and train with our team as he prepared for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. And not just train with us. He wanted to be a part of the team. He wanted to sleep, eat and breathe the life of a professional runner for three months. He wanted to “live the dream.” And he wanted to write a book about it.
I said, “Sure.”
Fast forward to July and it was all happening. Matt was here. He and his wife, Nataki, and their dog Queenie, had packed up their whole life and driven from from Modesto, Calif. to Flagstaff, Ariz. Matt Fitzgerald was now a member of HOKA NAZ Elite. At least, that’s how I saw it. I knew that was what this book was all about. He wanted to answer the question that so many runners of all ages and abilities across the world ask themselves, “How good could I be if I gave up everything else and just trained like a pro.”
I wanted to help him answer that question for himself. But let’s be honest, it was no easy task. His personal best in the marathon (2:41) was nine years old, set at the age of 37. He had tried, and failed, many times over the course of those nine years to better that time. But I felt confident that if we could keep him healthy that the combination of the altitude, and the professional physio-therapists, and the strength and conditioning coaches, and the camaraderie of our team, could at least give him the opportunity he was looking for. But I made no promises!
You can read what happened from there in Matt’s book, “Running the Dream.” I received my copy in the mail last week and ripped through it in two days. It’s such a fun read. It’s a story. He tells you exactly what happened: his highs (workouts where he felt like a million bucks on Lake Mary Road) and his lows (where he thought it was all over when he injured his groin- also on Lake Mary Road). He shares the friendships he made along the way with pro athletes like Stephanie Bruce, Sarah Crouch, and Matt Llano. He gives you funny little anecdotes from day-to-day practices. He shares going to a sports psychologist in advance of Chicago. And he takes you through race weekend in a way that will have you cheering for him as he runs down Michigan Avenue. Like I was on that day!
Matt has thanked me many times for “allowing” him to join us that season. But I would turn the tables and say to Matt, “Thank you. Thanks for reminding all of us here at HOKA NAZ Elite how fortunate we are to be living out our dreams.”
Read his book. You’re going to love it!
– Ben Rosario