Some books are simply a great read, a distraction from life while open but soon forgotten when closed. A good book, read by the right person however can inspire and ignite passion. For me, that is what Bill Rogers Autobiography Marathon Man does so well.
Marathon Man is 322 pages of pure grit and determination, written by arguably the most popular American Athlete ever to grace 26.2 miles.
Bill Rogers Autobiography Marathon Man – Whats It About?
Like most I am constantly looking for the next wave of inspiration, Marathon Man is just that. Set during a time before the running boom, when ‘jogging’ was seen as weird and even the top Athletes scraped by to compete for their nation, Bill broke barriers, both in the body and mind.
We follow a normal if not energetic childhood before Bill Rogers heads out to college and starts running. Despite a few decent results life gets in the way and running takes a back seat. Alcohol, cigarettes and a crappy civil service job take centre stage.
All this merely explains how a great running talent was almost lost and shows what fine margins can lead a man to greatness or mediocrity. Bill does of course ‘snap out of it’ one night on the piss with a good friend. Drunk in Boston they pretend to race the last yards of the Boston Marathon. This proves to be the spark which sets ablaze Bill’s passion for the race.
Running 120 mile weeks, he wins a few local races (the prize a tyre or toaster) and begins preparation for his home town marathon, the Boston Marathon. It is here the magic really dives out of the page; I felt the pride Bill has for his home, the people in it and the tradition of local men winning the race.
Bill Rogers Autobiography Marathon Man – Best Bits
Marathon Man is structured so well; an ebb and flow from Bill’s past to the 1975 Boston Marathon which is the main feature. A detailed description of Bills battle with Drayton breaks up the story of his life. We see him fail in earlier attempts, feel his progression all the while been fed droplets of that brilliant, groundbreaking race. A race Bill wins wearing a shirt salvaged from the scrap, with his club logo scrawled on and white gardening gloves…true testament to his character.
Once we reach the climax Bill goes into detail on his Olympic dreams and shares rivalries and stories of his friends, family and running store.
Its easy to get lost in a race and run for ‘a time’, always looking at your watch. Bill had a unique outlook, he’d race the competition, watching their form, listening to them breath and sussing out their weakness’. This opened my eyes to what true competition is about.
What makes this book so special is the feel of a town coming together and changing views and prejudice. Fans supporting a simple road race in their thousands and creating an atmosphere fit for any stage. Boston Marathon is described as the most intense lifetime experience for any road runner. Parts of the book made my hairs stand on end, to be involved in the marathon around those times must have been electric. The crowd literally poured onto the course behind Bill and ran behind him to the finish, it was absolute carnage, it epitomised how passionate a Sport running really is.
Throughout Bill comes across as honest, to the point and quite the character. Whether you enjoy a night time read or need to draw inspiration this is a must read.
A poster now hangs on my wall. Its of Bill Rogers winning the Boston Marathon, holding that iconic beanie hat in one hand and white gardening gloves in the other.