Saturday, June 29, 2013

9 Ways I Handle Running In the Heat

Blogger contacted me a week ago.
Can you believe it? I didn't know there were real people behind this thing. Here's how the conversation went.

Blogger: "Hey, runner guy. You know it's been 90 degrees across the country."

Me:  "Heck yeah I know. I'm sweating out my bone marrow."

Blogger: "Yeah, well, you haven't written that post on how to deal with the heat just yet."

Me: "Everyone writes that post. Isn't it kind of silly to do another one?"

Blogger: "You have no choice. You want your blog deleted? Write this post or your blog is gone. I have powers. You got a week. Do it or else. Do it. Do it."

Me: "Damn! Some people want to fill the world with silly run blogs."

Blogger: "What's wrong with that? I'd like to know?"

Well, that was 7 days ago come midnight, so, here I go, (again.)

9 Ways I Handle Running In the Heat

1. Perhaps the obvious: wake up and get your run in early before the sun preheats the air like an oven, or at night when the sun goes down.

2. Head to the trails. Trail runs that are shaded by trees are so much cooler, and by default, you are so much cooler for running them.

3. Even if you're out running the streets, there's shade to be had. Look for it. You know your routes so well you could run them blindfolded by smell, so think deep on where the shadows lie and run under their cover. Shade is 15 degrees cooler. Science tells us shade is most likely to be on the east side in the morning, west side in the evening, when the sun is hanging low.

4. Are you thinking about bailing out from the outside and hitting the treadmill?  Well, go Halfsies. Run half outside, half on the treadmill. You can do a whole long run this way. Head out for 8, and come home for 8. Or, I have ran 5 miles to my health club, hydrated, ran 10 on the treadmill, and ran 5 back home.

5. And water is the key.  Lay water out under bushes on your route, or put some dollar bills in your pocket and dip into gas stations for water. The high school track where I run has a water trough for football players that is usually available. Be creative. Dip into whatever you need to dip into. I have dranken from random neighbor's sprinklers.

6. Embrace the heat. Forget about pace, and think of heat as a barrier like a hill or doing speedwork. You are running not for time, but to survive your heart boiling in your chest. That's not sweat pouring out of your flesh, that's blood boiling out of your veins. Can you finish your run before all of it oozes out?  fun fun fun heat heat

7. Remember that people run in the heat all the time, and it gets easier each time you do so. Your body can handle more than you think it can. Your brain, like any other organ, just wants to survive and will tell you it's had too much and will urge you to return home before you need to. But remember, your brain is not especially interested in you running your best, even if your spirit is. Sometimes, you have to talk back to it and tell it to STFU. You can handle more than you think you can.

8. Forget I just said that. Be safe. Don't pass out. Don't get heat stroke. We've all seen people drop and fall to the pavement at the end of marathons from the heat, and heard of some dire consequences. Don't be one of them. Live to run a cooler day.

9. I clearly don't know what I am talking about. I am about to be deleted. Tell my family I love them.

You think running in the heat is hard? Read about a marathon weekend where the hardship one runner needs to endure will make you rethink running for your life.

Check It Out On Amazon

Thursday, June 27, 2013

21 Years Sober But Getting Drunk On Inspiration

If my child had been born on the last day I took a drink, that child would turn 21 years old today and able to drink legally. I am reveling in that irony. It’s a whole Ouroborosy kind of thing of a snake eating its own tail.

21 years clean. Rather than try to write anything new since I have sounded off plenty on the topic here, I am going to highlight a few of the most recent inspiring articles I have read.

When it comes to Chasing the Dragon for years and then trying to stay sober, I was blown away by this article from Writer Matt Haig. His post, “Reasons to Stay Alive” nailed the seemingly 'un-nail-able' points on both staying sober and staying alive.  Here’s number 10.

10. You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at your baby daughter’s face as she lies contentedly asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view like this one and feel the beauty, there are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

Tattoo it on your arse, and then read the whole thing. Do it. Do it. Here it is: "Reasons to Stay Alive"

 As for running to chase new highs, I'm inspired by Caleb Daniloff, my most favorite drunken runner and author of an incredible book on running and sobriety called: “Running Ransom Road”. Here's a paragraph from his most recent article:

"after 15 years of chronic drinking and drug use, I found running to be a powerful healing agent — a therapist’s couch, confessional and pharmacy counter rolled into one. The head space that opened up during my predawn runs allowed me to embrace all the people I used to be, even the ugly ones, replacing callousness and narcissism with humility and clarity. My apologies to those I’d harmed were all drafted at six miles per hour."
This is from a series of New York Times articles on Endorphins as addictive. Check Them Out Here. The article from Jamie Quatro is simply Divine and to chunk out an excerpt would be to blaspheme the Old Gods and the New. Her article is now my answer to others who ask why I run. (Even though, if you have to ask, I can’t give you an answer that will make sense.)

Finally, as I scribble a few words down, sometimes just to see if a pen works, other times to write a novel and try not to suck, I’m inspired by Chuck Wendig. His writing tips speak a language that none can replicate. If you are a writer and aren't following his blog, you probably just got dial-up internet yesterday. His poetic quips will be studied by future generations when all of us are dust and ashes.

49. No, Really, You Have No Excuses

Other people have done what you’re claiming you can’t do. People who have it worse. Or who have more kids. Or another job. You want to ask me how you do it: you just do. You extract words like teeth. You spill them on the table like dice from a Yahtzee cup. You carve a path through the words, through the story, through the industry with a machete made from your own desire and doubt, carved from your femur and scented with your blood. You write even a little bit a day, you’ll get there. You can’t manage that, then don’t even talk to me. Whaddya want me to do? Shove my hand up your ass, work you like a puppet? You wanna write, write. Otherwise: shoo. 

Wonderful words whatever your goals might be. (Read the whole thing)

All I got for today. 21 Years clean but getting drunk on this kind of inspiration.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

World War Z, Sprinting Zombies, and All I Wanted Was A Pepsi

World War Z was cool.  It was fun. Not a single drop of buyer’s remorse here.  I did not read the book, which I am sure really helps in this case, because I had nothing to compare it to.
First off, the zombies. These are not your slow moving zombies. They aren’t even your fast running Danny Boyle, 28 Days zombies. These are sprinting zombies with energy.  Agile, Intense, with a quick foot strike, and MMA skills.  They will track you down, jump on your car, and head butt their way through your windshield.  12 seconds later, you are one of them.

Chuck Lidell has nothing on me.
Any marathoner knows, with 3 Gu packets, a few Dixie cups of water, and the right weather, we can outrun the zombie apocalypse 3 or 4  hours and 26 miles at a time. Not these creatures. You’re better off pretending you are a World War Z zombie at your next race, then to imagine you are running from a zombie. 

These folks can't run fast enough. Neither can I. Neither can you.

In fact, sometimes they move so fast, they lose that slow, scary persistent walk that has made zombies (and Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees) so much fun.  They move in fast-forward motion, which is a great change of pace, and what's more, they even work together. The much heralded promo of the zombie’s scaling the walls is a scene that I thought the trailers would spoil. Not so.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall
 But the real reason I love the zombie genre is not due to zombies but the family, social, and political dynamics. What’s left of humanity gets squeezed like toothpaste, and we get to see what comes out.
World War Z has faith in humans. If you watch this movie through the lens of Mr. Rogers and instead of seeing the scary things, you “always look for the helpers,” you will find them here.  There are more Darryl Dixons than Merles here. The biggest statement in the movie may have been geopolitical.
This is more Contagion and Outbreak and military thriller than a Romero-like Night of the Living Dead derivative.  But I left happy. You know that feeling when you walk out.  Yeah, I had that one.
A few complaints:
1. The contrived scenario: Brad Pitt is a pancake flipping dad but is pulled out of retirement since he’s the only one who can save the world, and therefore everyone will sacrifice themselves for him. Of course all movies have to be like this, and it was easily forgivable.
2. Mirelle Enos wasn’t the strong determined force she is in The Killing, but instead was the doting wife calling her husband ”Baby” all the time.  The bad-ass Israeli soldier woman did make up for this a bit.


4. Pepsi product placement was glaring. (I’m being trivial, I know)
5. Brad Pitt was playing Brad Pitt.  You will never forget that. But I am very glad he signed on else this movie may not have been made and the cool factor made it fun. This was your Oceans 11 and 12 Brad Pitt, not much different.
 The fact that the role he actually tries to play is a United Nation hero highlights the theme of teamwork and unity of this movie.  The message is one of hope. Of the human race coming together beyond borders.  In Night of the Living Dead, the savior was assassinated not by monsters but by a human in a (perhaps racially prejudicial) gunshot to the head. Not so here. The savior is met with his family and the fate of the human race looks bright.
So, rest easy. World War Z wicked- fast MMA fighting zombies can’t stop the power of the human race. We have what they don’t. Pepsi. Brad Pitt. The United Nations. And cool movies. Just enjoy this one.
For another fun take on zombies, my lovely short story about a zombie 10k run, Zombie Dash, is now free on Amazon. Yep, they are giving it away. And none of that 5 day crap, I mean forever giving it away. Because in my house, there’s no Pepsi, just Coke.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chicago, New York, Detroit, and It's All the Same Street

Took a 6:30 a.m. run on the glorious downtown Chicago lakeshore trail. If you’ve been to Chicago, or live in the Midwest, it’s a must run area.  Hundreds of runners of all shapes and shoe-sizes and speeds line the lakeside getting their groove on.

As cool as it was to run along the lake, I think I enjoyed running the Chicago Streets just as much.

It was early enough that the streets weren’t incredibly congested. I ran by zillions of restaurants with distinct personalities, hotels were I couldn’t afford the handsoap, and of course the early morning expensive suit-guy grasping onto a briefcase, talking into his blue-tooth, and doing his brisk ‘rat-race' walk to work. We're all runners, really.

With streets just an 8th of a mile apart, you feel like you’re zipping by buildings at record speed. It’s like an Urban Trail run where cement blocks replace the trees and Taxi’s replace the wildlife.  Trying to time the traffic lights and make it safely across zooming cars without breaking stride forces you to fartlick.

I remember this same feeling on the streets of New York, on (canceled) marathon morning. I ran through the semi-asleep New York streets towards central park listening to "Empire State of Mind' on my Ipod. It's an exhilarating feeling running on city streets where they aren’t so crowded you can bust out with some speed and be surrounded by all that urban energy. Arrows of neon and flashing marquees included.

 Back home in Detroit, runing the freep marathon gave me the chance to run streets full of my history and identity, and on marathon day, they are cleared out just for me.

The road trip was fun for the whole family. Shedd aquarium lives up to the hype. It was like walking into the Star Wars cantina. Navy Pier and the Ferrish wheel was worth doing twice, and there’s something bizarrely adorable and hypnotizing about the American Girl Store that every mommy and daddy of a doll-loving girl must see. Then it was on to the Western shore of Michigan for a day at Michigan Adventure Park (an amusement park/water park combo perfect for 7 to 11 year olds). First sunburn of the year.

Now I’m back home, where I will patch my bones, and then get back truckin on.

It's good to be running again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why I Write About Runners

            I've written 3 novels. “Stray” is about drug addiction, and the other 2 feature runners. I am going to end this streak soon, but there's something about running that I always hope to capture. Running is very much an inner adventure that takes you to the dark corners of the mind, and I often feel the urge to turn the insides out and scream out loud what comes forth.  Despite the notion that Runners are the dorks of the world, running really brings out some edgy shit. It makes you sweat and bleed all over the world, and sometimes, the sweat and blood ends up on the page.

            During every run I take a do a little writing in my head. About forty-five minutes in to any run my writing mojo is released. My ideas become more grand, and heated blood lubricates my insides such that  loose associations flow through my veins. My characters have conversations, my plots turn incredible and I am master of the universe.  ROAR!!!

            Of course, some of this writing sucks.  I return home and the reality of putting this on paper hits and it doesn’t always seem as great as it did during the drunkeness of the running moment.
            In The Jade Rabbit, I hoped to capture how the intensity of your life often mirrors the intensity of marathon training, and that the finish line is much more than the end of a run. It’s a huge collision of all your life coming together. 
            When we are in the zone of our training, life becomes training and training becomes life. Battles fought in personal life are reflected in runs, and vice versa, so you can’t talk about running without talking about life.  Running is the background music to live by, and the volume slowly gets ramped up the closer the race day.  We bring our lifelong baggage with us every time we head out the door, and hopefully return a little lighter or at least stronger to carry the load.

            As an adoptive father, I also am first hand witness to a child growing up with questions. One of them is the primal wound of simply not being able to look into the eyes of her birth mother. This is something running can’t solve, but can help us cope with. As it is, I still cry every time I read the end of The Jade Rabbit.

             And if my novel The Jade Rabbit was 75% about running, my latest novel, On the Lips of Children, is 25% about running, but both deal with the changes that happen from pushing oneself, and how the training bleeds into all areas of your life. Running is just a metaphor for reaching for wholeness, love, connection, certainly much more than just time goals.  The Jade Rabbit may be the feminine version of this theme, while On the Lips of Children is the masculine version.  While there is much less running, themes of pain and pleasure, and the lengths and hardship we will endure  for what we love are all in there.

            I was unable to predict if the runners I knew would relate to On the Lips of Children, but a few have chimed in. One of them is the very well known 'Detroit Runner' who called it an "Excellent Read" and that he read it in one sitting (yet he is now weary of taking morning runs in unknown cities.) Another running reader, someone who actually has the same tattoo of the main character, (miles to go before I sleep)  Gave the novel 5 stars, and said, "Like the running drug itself, this story will leave your veins pulsing and wanting more with each turn of the page. The addiction to the thrill can be intoxicating."

            A handful of other runners have the novel in their hands. Whether it suits their tastes or not, I do believe that they would enjoy it most if they could somehow read it on a treadmill. Everything is made more intense and beautiful through the eyes of the run.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Return to Running and I'm in the Newspaper

My planned 30 days of rest has ended at 23.  I relapsed on a lovely six mile run. Like most relapses, I could lie to myself and say I didn't see it coming, but it was planned well in advance.

It felt great. It wasn't much, but I missed all the little things: the preparation, listening to music while my head pounded in the 80 degree heat, and of course the afterglow. All of this from six.  I am only slightly embarrassed to say I listened to "I Love It" from Icona Pop twice during this run.

  I am still coming back slowly, and my next run won't be until Thursday or Friday at Grant Park in Chicago.

In other news, I was featured in last Sunday's Detroit Free Press in their weekly runner profiles. (Golf Clap)

Clarifications first: I am preparing for the New York City Marathon, not Detroit (I did explain this to the reporter) but I have run the Detroit course enough times to run it blindfolded.  Also, the character from The Jade Rabbit is "adopted" from China, not a "doctor" from China, although I am sure my mumbles sounded like 'Doctor'. 

 In fact, the reporter basically wrote down what I said word for word, which is why the sentences run on and sound a bit like I'm  drunk.  I had hoped he'd clean up what I said and make complete sentences.  The article is below, minus pictures, or click here for the direct link.

Mark Matthews training for Detroit Marathon
By Anthony Fenech   Detroit Free Press Sports Writer 

Claim to fame: Author of “The Jade Rabbit,” a story of a woman training for the Free Press marathon; five-time participant; also ran in New York, Chicago, Boston.

Listening to: “I love listening to music that’s local to the marathon I run in. … White Stripes, Iggy Pop, Eminem going through Detroit."
Running shoes: Nike Pegasus.

Talk about your second novel, which takes place at the marathon: “I had run in the marathon multiple times and I knew the course really well so I could describe it in a first-person perspective, from going over the bridge and under the tunnel, all the episodes I could remember really. The main character is actually a doctor from China so I thought that was a great mix from the kind of the urban of Detroit and someone from across the planet. I wanted to make it where all of her life’s events came together at the marathon day, from her job and her family crisis and all sorts of trauma coming together on marathon day.”

What was the motivation behind the novel? “I kind of see marathons as more than just running, it’s your whole life experiences coming together. It’s about more than just a run, it’s about kind of a battle of your internal sights and that’s what I wanted to demonstrate in the book. I knew Detroit so well from the finish line — I finished at Tiger Stadium, I finished in Ford Field and the book actually takes place during the Ford Field finish.”

How did you end up a writer and runner? “I always wanted to be a writer growing up, and marathoning and running are such intense experiences that brings up so many emotions.”

What’s the difference between the Free Press marathon and the others you’ve run? “You run with people you recognize from the community that you’ve been running with all year and that it’s so familiar running over the bridge and then under the water. It’s very metaphysical like you cross the bridge and you wait for the sun to rise and then you kind of descend after crossing the international border, descending into the earth and then coming back out again. It’s just a very spiritual experience and finishing running the streets of Detroit at the end is still kind of neat.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mountain Home and Bracken MacLeod

As I write, run, and chase the dragon, I have learned a few things along the way.
Much like the running community, the writing community is incredibly supportive.  Reach out to writers who are higher up the artist food chain than yourself, and you will often get a hand reaching back down. It’s been incredible. Some of this I attribute to Goodreads, a place where writer and reader mix like some social-media commune. (please don’t screw this up Amazon)
Over the coming weeks, I am going to feature a few of my peers and those who have helped me along the way.

First up is Bracken MacLeod.  Smart, cerebral, deep; Bracken to me personifies what I mean when I spout off on dark fiction writers having some of the finest hearts around. I am still trying to fully figure out how to explain this, but it has something to do with the kindest hearts being most sensitive to life’s terrors. They feel them the deepest and thus describe them with the most vivid detail.

You will see this in his amazing novel, Mountain Home. There are a few criteria I have for reading novels that make it a 5 star review.  1. Did I stay up later than I might have just because I wanted to read more?  2. Do I eagerly grab my kindle before taking my trip to the Loo? 2. Do I never skim, do I cherish each moment, and feel a bit sad when it’s over? Mountain Home hit on all three of these, and much more. Click the Amazon page and see what others are saying, not just me.
The story is a Tour De Force of one day in a diner, with a damaged combat veteran taking aim on those who have wronged her, and the woman caught in between.  The best way I can describe the book is it’s like a first-person shooter video game but told with empathy, emotion, and compassion. 

This isn’t the boogeyman. These are real people who exist.  This is how Bracken wants it, as he explains. “You can send monsters from Hell, outer space, the bottom of the ocean, and the grave as much as you want, and it’ll never make me tremble as much as the things real people do to each other on a daily basis.”

Mountain Home takes place in Northern Idaho, a place Bracken used to camp.  If you have ever been in a small, mountain city diner, you will feel yourself back there again as soon as you read the first chapter. But once this story starts, your head will swivel, you may duck for cover, and you’ll be transported inside the heads of some incredible characters. Bracken is able to switch from one character to another with amazing artistry, which is perhaps criteria #4 of my 5 star review criteria: Do I envy the writer’s skills? Hellz yeah, in this case.  
Go read Mountain Home. I promise you will devour this novel fast with wide eyeballs and your brain on fire.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"All the Best Runners Have Daddy Issues"

Dads.  From the day you are born until you turn 13-15 or so, they know everything. They are like superman. They can beat anybody up, and you want to be them.

Then, from around ages 13 to 25 your dad becomes 'not smart'. (stupid, really). Old fashioned, unaware, non-hip, and someone to be overcame rather than an ally.

Well, around the age of 25, your dad becomes smart again. He's the go-to person with wisdom, the person who did this whole life with a family thing before. You are now amazed at how well he did. 'What would dad think?' becomes part of your self-talk. He's the one to speak with in a crisis. The sounding board. Dad is smart again. The man of steel has returned.

Of course, Dad hasn't changed through all of this, but you have.

Happy Father's Day to the second most important job in the world.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Running Triggers and Running Withdrawals

I have now gone 18 days with no running. My streak began at 11:01 am on Saturday, May 25th  and I have not logged a single mile since.  Nothing.  Closest thing was dashing across the street so as not to be hit by a car. But nothing that will register.
My full goal is to make it 4 weeks.
I want to reset my legs. To start over. To try and melt away all the damage I did by training for 3 marathons in 16 months, which for some runners is a regular gig, but for me was an overreach.   I’m fine to lose some fitness and detrain in exchange for healing up my tendons and ligaments. I want to ‘unshred’ my  muscles which have turned to lumps of scar tissue.  It’s working, because my muscles are feeling both fresh yet at the same time ‘mushy.’ When I start running again, it will be to train for the New York City Marathon in November. Lots of time.
I have started biking, and hope to continue. That’s provided some relief, but the urge to bust out on a full run is ready to overwhelm me.
I am being triggered daily.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict, talking about triggers has been part of my life for years. This now relates to running since I am trying to abstain.
-Stepping outside and hearing the silence of an early morning; this begs me to run. 

-The seduction of a sunny, 68 degree, low humidity day;  this begs me to run.
-When the time of the week rolls around when I always run; my brain begs to run.
-When I lace up an old pair of running shoes, which, like most runners, are my everyday walking around shoes; my legs beg to run.
-When I’m feeling any emotion that I know could be sweated out, when I want to rearrange my mood, when I want to unscramble my brain, when the need comes to refresh my spirit; my soul has a craving to run.
Even after 20 years of abstaining from substances, my addiction is like a phantom limb. I have completely accepted that I can't use alcohol or drugs again (and live to tell about it) yet I can still feel my addiction inside of me.

Seeing beer makes my mouth water. I can’t help it. In fact, my mouth watered just writing that sentence.  Drinking plain Squirt makes my phantom addiction expect the aftertaste of Gin. When I watch a movie where someone is getting high, my nose burns and my spine feels an electric jolt. 
And actually, still having these sensations helps. It reminds me I am still sick. I’ve learned to handle these triggers and cravings. It’s as much a part of me as blinking.
As for running, I can’t say how long I can live with these triggers. I have a date circled of June 22nd when I will be in Chicago, and would love an early morning run along the waterfront.  I haven’t had the running high for a bit, and the withdrawals are daily. Like a heroin addict resting his veins, that first one is going to feel so good.  Of course, many heroin addicts overdose and die the first time they go out and use Heroin again after a long break. Their tolerance is not what it used to be, and they forget that they can’t handle it. What used to get them high, now kills them.
I’m hoping my memory of what kind of runs I can handle is there. If not, I will bust out and try to do a 20 miler, and the vicious cycle will continue. There are worse ways to die.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Game of Thrones Season Finale

Game of Thrones has ended with Daenerys crowd surfacing to the chant of “Mesa”.  Now she’s the mother of both Dragons and thousands of loyal devoted followers and Unsullied warriors.

 And Tyrion Lannister is still the coolest cat ever to walk the Seven Kingdoms.

The novels are so rich and delicious, and the show has been a great companion to the reading. Much has been said about how invested you get into these characters, only to have them shockingly killed off. When they die, it shocks the viewer's minds because we’ve come to rely on a typical arc of a story. There may be some wiggle room, but to have them die the way they do is not only outside of the box, it suggest the box doesn't exist.
I'm all in and love it.  While I was reading, I gasped out loud at these deaths, so I do understand, but I've come to realize that the impact of their death says much about their life. And how  they die, and at who’s hands, has ripple effects even more so had they lived.
There is a great quote that I am going to paraphrase. It goes something like this:
'When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Write your characters such that when they die the world cries and you rejoice'
My novel Stray has a death at the end, and when it was being edited the publisher asked me to change this scene and allow the person to live. I objected, and we settled on rewriting a few earlier paragraphs to further highlight that it was as much euthanasia as it was murder. Ironically, the publisher themselves died as they are now out of business and never published the novel. Stray was published on its own, and the character has died thousands of times over in people’s minds.
If we want to complain about the HBO series, it should be Ygritte not being wild enough. She's clearly much too proper.  In the meantime, I certainly bend the knee to George RR Martin.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What to Expect at the Ann Arbor Marathon

The Ann Arbor Marathon is this weekend. I loved the event, and I am a bit sad that I won’t be there. I have ran the event as many times as anyone. Nobody has ran it more than me. (It’s only occurred once) so I will call myself the expert. If you are interested in what to expect this year, or any year (and by the blog searches landing here, I think that you are) here's what awaits you:

First of all, some important intangibles of this event: The ghost of Iggy Pop will run alongside of you. Bob Seger songs will pay in your ears. You’ll hear the Icky-thumps of The White Stripes, and you just may hear some Lynard Skynard licks from Kid Rock.  Legendary lectures of University of Michigan professor's like Ralph Williams will also be echoing in the air, and you may see the specter of my previous drunken self wandering home from the bar.

Besides that, the tangibles:
 If you go to the Expo, don’t judge. It was pretty terrible last year. It was in a mall.  I can’t think of many more worse places to have an expo than a mall. Maybe a Hookah smoke shop or a cigar bar. Also, I went there expecting body glide, but found none, so had to hit Running Fit on the way home. 

To get there on race day, I took I-94 and came from the south down Main Street and parked at Pioneer high school. There could be better ways, but this way was great. If I remember right, they charge 5 bucks or something to park there, but Michigan game day they charge like 50. 

When you walk up to the start, it has all the majesty of a football Saturday. The big dome of the stadium looms, anticipation is everywhere, and unlike football Saturday, you will be the athlete for the next 3-4 hours.  When they play Hail to The Victors, your blood will turn blue, and in fact, your pee and feces will turn blue, should you happen to be late to the race and in the porta-potty at that moment.

The lines for the portapotty at the start were terrible. Find a starbucks or a burning bush and pee there.

Downhill start!! Whooopy!  The first mile is perhaps the funnest. You will run through downtown Ann Arbor in the still of the morning, and it all feels like a movie backdrop. No cars, no pedestrians, just you, your shoes, and a few thousand others.  This part was too short, I would be happy to do this part twice, but alas, you have miles to go before you sleep, and you run on.

Before you know it, you are off to Geddes.  Then they will start to hit you. Hills, hills, and hills. They will pound your hamstrings and your thighs, and this is near the start, so be careful.  There is also some Out and Backs here along Huron Parkway that may put you to sleep. In fact, if you look at the ground as you run by, you will see written in chalk  “You are running this section because we needed to find a way to make the course 26.2, not because it is interesting.”
Still, did I mention I love the course?

Pretty soon you are running by the University of Michigan hospital. These are no longer hills, these are mountains. But the trip through the Arb on some trails and then in and out of Gallup park will refresh your legs and your spirit. Soak in the air. It is freshly oxygenated from the green leaves nearby, and has super powers. I promise.

Up and down State street is a great part of the course. You’re back to school like Rodney Dangerfield ready to do the Triple Lindy, and to Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light. By this time, the pace groups who had high hopes at the start will have lost their members. You’ll see little signs with finishing times in the air;  3:15, 3:30, 3:45, and they will be bouncing up and down, but with nobody following. The runners were all picked off, one by one, by evil demon clowns laughing at their heels. The clowns are actually the hills and some June heat, but they are clowns nonetheless.

The loop around Briarwood is one of the more maligned parts of the course, but I loved it. I think I am the only one. It’s at this point you have a good idea of what your marathon is about, and most importantly, IT’s FLAT!!!. Oh that will feel like heaven.  Take the loop around the mall like you are a space shuttle doing a slingshot around the moon, and shoot onward to the finish.

They took out the main street, Michigan Stadium hill at this point, (lucky you!)  but in some alternative universe version of this race, you are finishing inside Michigan Stadium. As it is, you are finishing at Elbel field, a practice field, but I love ending a marathon running on new surface. I have finished on the grass of Tiger Stadium, the turf of Ford Field, and of course the surface of a high school track, and there's something special about the running on a new surface at the end. Even if it's just 50 yards, after you run 26 miles, to get to that last .2 and feel a sense of 'ahhhhh' at your feet is divine.  You'll still get that here in Ann Arbor. And last year there was pizza, and plenty of it.  

Enjoy yourself, and know that my spirit is running along side of you. No longer my drunken self, but my sober, running self.

**If you want to know what to expect on a dark run along the San Diego/Tijuana border, Check out my novel: On the Lips of Children on Amazon **

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's Here! National Running and My Latest Novel Is Now On Amazon

National Running Day and Novel Release Day.

It all started with a predawn run in San Diego. The trail was dark, and I ran by faith, not by sight, through a path with homeless men strewn about and the specter of Tijuana's drug cartels not far off in the distance.

 The ideas came forth like sweat, and what I have left is a novel I'm very proud of. It's a visceral story of the fine line between pleasure and pain, known all too well by runners, and the things we will endure for what we love. Mother is the name for God on the Lips of All Children, and love for family is at the root of this novel. Brought to you by Books of the Dead Press. Check it out on Amazon. Paperback soon to follow.

"An ordinary running trail becomes the most terrifying place on the planet for Mark Matthews' troubled, likeable, marathon-running, tattooed, hipster protagonists and their young daughter. But, for the horror-show clan living under that trail — who subsist on flesh and bath salts in a nightmare orgy of blood and crazy — the hipsters are a rare treat indeed. As the family v. family showdown transpires underground and off the beaten path, the vulnerability of running on a trail — alone but for the watchers in the woods — makes the setting unique and well-crafted. Written with verve, surprising compassion, and bite, On the Lips of Children is a seriously demented must read.
~Sacha Scoblic, author of  Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety

 “The only thing bad about this book, is that it had to end!  On The Lips of Children is a raw, adrenaline filled ride about what lengths a person will go to to save the ones they love. Every paragraph is thrilling, complex, and will keep you glued to the pages until the very end.  From the beginning of the book, you know you are in for a heart-pounding ride. The strength, resolve, and desperation of all characters is evident and leaps from the page with grace. You will find yourself running alongside these characters  feeling their emotions and experiencing their pain.  You will wonder how and why these things could come about, but in the end knowing that sometimes lives just aren't sunshine and roses. The tale is told with such great care that its easy to picture yourself right there along with the characters going through the struggles with them. Mark Matthews has written an incredible book, one that is not to be missed. It is gripping, edgy, and not to be missed." ~ Dawna Jicha, The Kindle Book Review

"On the Lips of Children, by Mark Matthews, is a dark, terrifying page-turner.  It’s Stephen King’s Misery on bath salts.  In a cave.  It scared the crap out of me.  The story was  original.  The characters were fascinating, exposing the reader to worlds foreign to most of us. Matthews has a knack for pacing his story then jolting the reader with a frightening plot twist.  I was impressed by how he wrapped up the ending.   Read this book. ~Michele Miller, author of  The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery,  an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarterfinalist.

"What would you do for your family? Anything, of course. Blood is thicker than water, after all—and sweeter, too. On the Lips of Children is a gritty, sadomasochistic tale of misguided loyalty and dysfunctional kin—innocence morphed into desperate beasts that are hypnotized by the stars at night and the glint of steel as it parts quivering flesh.” ~Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss

"Mark Matthews’ novel On the Lips of Children is a brutal, intense ride of claustrophobic horror and gritty, page-turning suspense. This is dark fiction at its visceral, chilling best."  ~ Jan Kowlowski, author of  Die, You Bastard! Die!

"On the Lips of Children is a fast-paced, sleek rush of a novel.  It takes off like a runner out of the blocks from the opening graphs.  The prose is lean and direct, and the story pulls you along quickly.  Make no mistake, this is a dark, bloody book, at its bleak heart about the love a mother has for her children and the lengths she will go to for them to survive.  You'll never look at jogging, the homeless, or even vampires the same way again.  And, no, this book isn't about and doesn't feature vampires at all.  What's featured here is infinitely worse.  This is not a book that the Mexican Tourist Authority will endorse. ~  John F.D. Taff, author of Little Deaths

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bullet Points For 'Silver Linings Playbook'

I finally saw Silver Linings Playbook.  I enjoy being out of date, irrelevant, and repeating things that may have already been said, so here are some bullet points.

*Love the nervous, anxious tone. Mimics living with a mental illness. Love that the gambling, neurotic father was just a hairline inside the crazy acceptable bubble, versus crazy non-acceptable.

*Honest portrayal of the battle of one's humanity versus their illness, and the dehumanizing feel of medications.

*The initial scene of the group therapy setting. Spot on. Psychiatric centers aren't what you see on TV. They are more like cafeteria lunchrooms.

*Always being threatened with going back to a psych hospital as if it's prison. Spot on as well. It's unfortunate treatment facilities at the highest level are considered punishment, and aren't considered like a medical hospital's ICU. In an ideal world they'd be different.

* I am in the minority on this, but I thought Bradly Cooper was stronger in his role than Jennifer Lawrence. This could be because I had the exact opposite expectations. For one of Jennifer Lawrence's amazing performances, see "Winter's Bone".

See Winter' Bone.
*Best use of a Led Zeppelin tune since 'The Immigrant Song' was used in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I can't wait to listen to "What Is and What Should Never Be" and go completely Apeshit.

*We should all change mid-stride in whatever we do each day and dance for a moment to the White Stripes.  In fact, get up and do so now. I'll wait.

* Some of the sour, blunted, or exaggerated facial affects of one living with mental illness was done brilliantly by both actors.

*Finally, any movie where you run for Sanity is pretty damn cool. That's one message I took. Put on a hoodie and a black garbage bag, run around your neighborhood looking crazy, and you'll eventually find something, or someone, to help fight any illness.

With or without a football tucked under your arm.


Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror IS ALIVE!! $4.99 for Kindle $12.99 for paperback  (buy the paperback, and you can get t...