Assisted by Brant (Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and America's Greatest Marathon, 2007), former long-distance running prodigy Salazar incorporates lessons learned from bitter experience in this account of his life.
The author, associated for years with Phil Knight's Nike sports sponsorship, has come full circle and is now a trainer of long-distance runners at the Nike campus in Eugene, Ore. He reflects on an action-packed life that brought him fame for his successive marathon victories in New York City and Boston in the early 1980s, and made him a contender for the Olympics in 1984 and 1988. However, his successes came at a cost. In 2007 Salazar collapsed on the Nike campus and was counted dead for 14 minutes. “Searing marathons and other races” probably contributed to this episode. Salazar writes that his “excesses caught up with” him in 1988. He had been severely dehydrated in 1979, and then lost 10 pounds to dehydration in the 1982 Boston marathon; he also suffered bone fractures, exercise-induced asthma and possible damage to his endocrine system. In 1994, while preparing for the Comrades double marathon in South Africa, Salazar starved himself to excess. The author describes how he failed to heed the sensible advice of his first trainer that he “shouldn't even think about the marathon until [he] was out of college.” Ultimately, Salazar came back from death with a renewed respect for the marathon and a desire to save his trainees from the “the self-immolating mistakes” of his younger days. He doesn't relate any mystical experience about his near-death event, but he does claim a deeper religious awareness after the experience.
A dramatic account of the risks and rewards of top-level long-distance running.