Book Review: Like Father, Like Son. My story on running, coaching, and parenting.

I finished reading Like Father, Like Son. My story on running, coaching, and parenting by Matthew Centrowitz (Sr.).

It’s a great book. But, don’t expect flowing prose and vivid sentences of filled with imagery. Matthew Centrowitz Sr. is runner, not a writer. And, that is exactly why this book is so good. It’s raw. It’s authentic. It’s a book that anyone – including you – could aspire to write.

The book’s title is a solid synopsis of its content. This is a book on running, coaching, and parenting. What gives it depth is that it is a book on running at the University of Oregon during it’s heyday, on coaching from one of the top collegiate coaches, and on parenting to the reigning 1500m Olympic Gold Medalist.

This book is a great history – similar to many of the books I enjoy. It recounts stories of running for Bill Bowerman and Bill Dellinger (“Just call me Bill”) at the University of Oregon. The cast of characters include legends such as Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar, and Steve Prefontaine. These were the contemporaries of Centrowitz Sr.. Written from the point-of-view of the author, these stories are fresh even if the facts will be known to most readers. There are flashes of youthful bravado, which the seasoned reader (ahem, older like me) can relate too and find humor.

But, I’d ask you to consider reading this book differently. Consider reading it as a book on parenting and raising children.

In the final chapters of the book, Matthew Centrowitz Sr. focuses on his role as a parent. He is the dad to a daughter (an accomplished athlete) and son – Matthew Centrowitz Jr. the reigning 1500m Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the best middle distance runners in the sport today. Given his elite running background, you would think that Centrowitz Sr. would be heavily involved in the daily coaching on his son. You might even think that from the book’s title; however, the reader will find this is not the case.

Centrowitz Sr. had a bad dad growing up who vanished from his life at an early age. For many, this situation creates a recurring cycle of deadbeat dad to their kids. Role models are powerful – even deadbeat ones. Fortunately, Centrowtiz Sr. breaks this cycle. He spends much of his teenage and young adult years filling the father-figure void left by the absence of his own dad.

When Centrowitz Sr. has his own children, he behaves differently as the reader will discover. By all accounts, Centrowitz Sr. becomes a great dad who applied the same discipline to parenting as he applied to running – showing up on the hard days, logging the miles, managing pain/disappointment, and listening/learning/getting better every day.

There’s a quotation in the book that Centrowtiz Sr. receives from an early coach.

“When you become a dad, put your medals away in a drawer.”

Makes you think. Let your children measure up to themselves and their goals – not chase yours or even your unfinished dreams. Like most great advice, this is hard to do. Maybe that’s why it takes a runner to pull it off.

 

-George

Book Review: Bowerman and The Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore

My uncle passed away yesterday. It was tragic, too soon, and unfair. He was a good man who lived a good life — and I, my wife, and my boys will celebrate him as such.

It’s moments like this that remind you how ephemeral life is. You cannot waste time because you don’t know how much you have left — but, it is certain that number is finite.

I like reading books. I liked reading books about running. And, I like writing about these books because I think people should read them. Not only because they recount stories of running, but also because they impart lessons for how to live life.

BOWERMAN AND THE MEN OF OREGON by Kenny Moore is one such book. At its surface, the book is the story of the University of Oregon’s legendary Track & Field Coach and Nike’s (yes, that Nike®) co-founder. At its core, however, this book illustrates a model for how to live life.

At +400 pages, BOWERMAN is a seemingly daunting read that somehow floats by once you get going — almost like a great middle distance runner. The book is filled with captivating stories – some that seem hard to believe that one man could have been involved in them all. Some of my favorites include:

  • Early Years: The book devotes several chapters to the early coaching years of Bill Bowerman at smaller educational institutes. It’s here that you begin seeing Bill’s character and philosophy materialize. It’s also here that Bill’s life takes a detour when he serves in World War II. His experience in war and as a leader are both somber and somewhat hilarious with the benefit of hindsight  (noteworthy the story of demanding the surrender of the Italian army in person).
  • 1972 Munich Olympic Games: The infamous Olympic games where Israeli athletes were taken hostage and sadly murdered by a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Bill Bowerman was there as the USA Head Coach and, in my interpretation, saved the lives of his American athletes when the Olympic Village was raided. Read the book and see if you reach the same conclusion.
  • Pre – One of the world’s most memorable middle distance runners. This book offers rare accounts of what it was like to coach and raise Steve Prefontaine in his era of PR crushing performances followed by his untimely death.
  • Bill Hayward – The man for whom the University of Oregon’s track is named. Prior to this book, I never fully appreciated that the legacy of Bill Hayward extended beyond his own accomplishments to the legion of men he coached and mentored to do extraordinary things on their own. Read about the man, who arguably, plucked and started Bill Bowerman on his journey in life.
  • Lasting Legacy – Bowerman was an excellent coach who built men on and OFF the track. Many of his athletes achieved their greatest accomplishments after running for Bowerman — becoming accomplished lawyers, accountants, public servants, and businessmen (beyond Phil Knight the other co-found of Nike). Bill’s ability to see that life extended beyond running and college was a great gift to his athletes.
  • Quarks – Bowerman was an inventor and tinkerer. Perhaps not the image of your typical High School or College Track Coach. Aside from experimenting with running shoes, Bill genetically bred chickens, practiced international diplomacy, drew architecture plans, innovated track surfaces, and was an accomplished non-profit fundraiser. A modern day Benjamin Franklin! Bill is proof that a life can be full, interesting, and varied — a true Renaissance man. Indeed, it turns out that the name Bowerman means BUILDERMAN.

In short, Bill was a man that put himself into the arena of life. As a result, he experienced life and was constantly in the center of action. And this perhaps is my biggest takeaway from the book and the life of Bill Bowerman:

Do Something. Do it to the best of your ability. Then, encourage others to do it better. When it’s over, do something else. Do more. Do you.

Or, more succinctly: JUST DO IT.

Take the time, read the book. I’d encourage you not to read the book as a lesson on how the empire of Nike was built. There are other books for that. Instead, read the book as a lesson on how to build yourself into your best version. Who knows, you might just make your own empire in the process.

See you at the Finish Line,

-George

Book Review: The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

Histories and biographies (not autobiographies) are my favorite genre of books.

The PERFECT MILE by Neal Bascomb recounts the 1950’s epic chase across 3 continents by 3 remarkable runners of the once presumed impossible 4 minute mile.

There are many ways to read this book — history, Roger Bannister’s training methods, mental fortitude,, amateur athletics crazy rules, etc. All are good and credible reads.

However, in this book review, I read the book as a template for CHARACTER — notably, the character of the secondary protagonist John Landy.

No matter how your read this book — READ IT. This is a highly recommended history that will not disappoint.

See you at the Finish Line,

-George

VLOG Book Review: Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei

There’s a lot of way to find new books to read. In today’s world, AMAZON.com does a great job suggesting new titles for you based on your past searches. But, sometimes its fun to find books the old-fashioned way.

This week’s book I obtained from the list of sources in last week’s book: Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.

The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei is a documentation of a sect of Tendai Buddhist monks in the mountains outside Kyoto, Japan. Unique within their journey of personal enlightenment is the incorporation 100-days or 1,000-days of consecutive marathon distance (40-80km) pilgrimages through their mountain homes. The endurance, persistence, and consistency of these Marathon Monks is mind-blowing — clearly the wrong sentiment for a group undergoing a journey of enlightenment, but, nonetheless captures my raw enthusiasm for their feats.

The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei IS NOT for everyone. It’s a detailed, almost scholarly study with a tangential association to running or ultrarunning. I recommend some quick internet research first on the Marathon Monks.

If then still interested, this book is an EXCELLENT further study.

See you at the Finish Line,

-George

VLOG Book Review: Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

In the world of ultrarunning, Scott Jurek is the man.

He’s competed and won the classic ultra races in the sport — some with multiple consecutive victories. And, he’s done this all as a vegan, plant-based athlete.

Scott Jurek’s book, Eat & Run, is a historic account of the ultrarunning scene in the 1990’s and early-2000’s. It is also a handbook on nutrition and diet, uniquely from the lens of a plant-based athlete.

However, on a deeper level, Eat & Run offers something more.

I read the book as blueprint on mental toughness — trying to understand how one of the sports’ top athletes operates at the highest level while running +20 hours non-stop with lack of sleep, torn ligaments, and acute dehydration.

Among the many stories, three key lessons emerged:

  1. Preparation
  2. Mind “Lies”
  3. Endure Pain

I hope you enjoy the book review. And, in any case, consider picking up the book. If anything, the Holy Moley Guacamole Recipe is worth the price.

See you at the Finish Line,

-George

VLOG Book Review: Ultramarathon Man – Confessions of an All-Night Runner

When it comes to running, Dean Karnazes is a legend – especially in the world of ultrarunning. Dean’s autobiography, Ultramarathon Man – Confessions of an All-Night Runner, is on its surface an account of epic and entertaining personal performances in the iconic races of ultrarunning (e.g. Western States 100, Badwater, and The Relay).

However, a deeper reading brings to surface some of the tips and routines Dean developed in his quest from being average 9-5 Office Worker to the Ultramarathon Man.

This video blog summarizes my Top 4 insight takeways after having read the book.

Whether you’re looking for a historical account of famous ultramarathon courses, personal inspiration, or a relaxing weekend read, Dean Karnazes’ book delivers — from start to Finish Line.

-George

Reading Guide for Book Clubs

  1. Which of Dean’s ultramarathon stories was the most enjoyable to you? Which was most inspiring? Why?
  1. Dean mentions that running is a “selfish” activity. However, Dean also provides many examples of how his running has brought others together. Consider how Dean’s running may actually be an unselfish 
  1. Dean’s first attempt at the Badwater Ultramarthon ends in a DNF. How did this DNF, if at all, prepare Dean for his later success at the South Pole Marathon in quite literally the exact opposite set of weather conditions and terrain.
  1. Dean spends a good amount of time considering his “Why” for running – in his unique origin story that initially got him out the door and then subsequently sustained his passion. What is your “Why” or unique origin story for running?
  1. MAIN QUESTION: What are three habits or routines that Dean implements in his life to enable the time he spends running?

VLOG Book Review: Kings of The Road

Kings of the Road by Cameron Stracher is an excellent history of the American “Running Boom” between 1972 and 1982. As a fan of marathon running, I enjoyed learning about our past legends and the epic battles they waged on the roads. Below I provide my thoughts and reactions upon reading the book — perhaps helpful if you’re considering the purchase.

 

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