14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life

14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life

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by Alberto Salazar

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14 Minutes is the memoir of Alberto Salazar, the most accomplished, charismatic, and controversial marathoner in history. The narrative is framed in the 14 minutes in which Salazar was clinically dead after his shocking heart attack in 2007. The story describes his tempestuous relationship with his father, Jose Salazar, who was a close ally of Fidel Castro


14 Minutes is the memoir of Alberto Salazar, the most accomplished, charismatic, and controversial marathoner in history. The narrative is framed in the 14 minutes in which Salazar was clinically dead after his shocking heart attack in 2007. The story describes his tempestuous relationship with his father, Jose Salazar, who was a close ally of Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution. The narrative follows Alberto’s boyhood in New England, his rise to stardom at the University of Oregon, his dramatic victories in the New York City and Boston Marathons, his long malaise due to injuries, which resulted in a near-suicidal depression; his resurgence due to intense spiritual experiences and discipline; his close alliance with Phil Knight and the Nike corporation; and describes his numerous near-death experiences.


In this book those 14 minutes will be considered from every possible angle. Salazar will share some of the surprising things he’s learned about cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular health. He will also share how modern medical science and technology are fundamentally changing the way we think about death. Salazar will acquaint readers with the latest research studying the near-death experience, which has burgeoned into a field of its own, blending science and the spirit in an especially fascinating combination.


But don’t worry sports fans: mostly this book will tell the story of how a skinny, shy, insecure Cuban-American kid from small-town Massachusetts developed by sheer will—and God’s grace—into the greatest distance runner of his time. Along the way Salazar will introduce important people in his life ranging from the globe’s most famous socialist, Fidel Castro, to one of its most influential capitalists, Nike co-founder and CEO Phil Knight. He will transport readers back to the heady, electric days of the late 1970’s, when running was changing American culture as radically as rock and roll had a decade earlier.


The book will take readers step-by-step through Salazar’s signature races, including his wins at the ‘80, ‘81, and ‘82 New York City Marathons, and his epic, and ultimately self-destructive, victory at the 1982 Boston Marathon. Readers will travel to Cuba’s central highlands and to the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and from the edge of the Indian Ocean in South Africa to a remote village in the war-torn Balkans. But throughout Salazar’s narrative he will keep returning to those 14 black, shattering, miraculous minutes. Surviving virtual death taught him how to live and now it is time for him to share what he’s learned.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
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.
Publishers Weekly
Three-time New York Marathon winner Salazar suffered a heart attack in 2007, and was clinically dead for 14 minutes. While admittedly incredible, the author's harrowing experience ultimately proves too unsubstantial to keep this memoir moving. The book chronicles the author's life from boyhood, to competitive success (including a world record at the 1981 New York Marathon), to the career-ending slump that followed. Now a coach, Salazar's message honors determination and drive, but warns against the dangers of "extreme athletic excess" (years of punishing training and an "absolute refusal to lose" may have contributed to Salazar's attack). These sentiments, while valuable, are not sufficiently unique or compelling for the book to transcend the category of the running memoir. The most interesting strand of the narrative is actually Salazar's rocky relationship with his father, a Cuban émigré who was "a friend and comrade" of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, but who later felt betrayed by the revolution's embrace of communism. Salazar Sr. never recovered from his "obsession" with Cuba, and the author suggests that it is this "inherited…passion" that pushed him to succeed. Paradoxically, running was also a way for the Salazar to escape the "atmosphere of rage…that father had engendered." Despite the grander familial, political, and existential themes, Salazar's biography will nevertheless appeal mainly to runners. 8 b/w photos. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

14 Minutes is an inspirational account of a man who has fought with the Grim Reaper and won. Since he put on his first pair of running shoes, Alberto Salazar has been defying the odds. Through his memoir, people have the privilege to get to know this truly great man and walk away with a renewed appreciation for life.” —Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor and 7-time Tour de France champion

“A World Record holder who prided himself on his focus, inner drive, and admitted obsession with detail almost loses a race he never thought he'd enter: the one against time. How and why did Alberto survive for 14 minutes with no pulse? His quest to intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually answer these questions gave me a wonderful glimpse inside the mind of this elite marathoner.” —Frank Shorter, Olympic gold medalist, marathon, 1972

“Alberto Salazar has lived a remarkable life—two lives, actually—and this engrossing book does justice to them both, knitting miraculous victories with mysterious declines, and the blind ferocity of competition with the clarity of death. It is a story about running, but it is also about faith, grit, and the importance of chasing something larger than ourselves.” —David Willey, editor-in-chief, Runner’s World

“I've known Alberto Salazar since he was a high school runner, but 14 Minutes opened my eyes to who he really is, what he values most, and why he aimed so high. I always felt Alberto had ‘heart' and this book proves it. It's a terrific read!” —Bill Rodgers, Boston and New York City Marathon champion

“A dramatic account of the risks and rewards of top-level long-distance running.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date:
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6.32(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.92(d)


Meet the Author

Alberto Salazar was the premier American marathoner of the early- to mid-80s. After a top-flight career as a distance runner at the University of Oregon, winning 1978 NCAA cross-country race, Salazar made his marathon début at the 1980 New York Marathon. He won the race again in 1981-82, and in 1981 his time of 2-08:13 was thought to be a world marathon record, but after re-measurement, the course was found to be slightly short. Salazar also won the 1982 Boston Marathon in a dramatic duel with Dick Beardsley, called the "Duel in the Sun". On the track he was TAC 10K champion in 1981 and 1983, and on the roads, he won numerous races short of the marathon distance. His attempt at Olympic honors in 1984 was hampered by injury, which also likely prevented him from making the 1988 Olympic Team. In the early 90s, Salazar began running some ultra-distance events and won the 1994 Comrades Marathon in South Africa, over 90 km, (56 miles). Salazar has worked as a consultant to Nike and a personal coach to many distance runners.


John Brant has written regularly for Runner’s World and Outside magazine. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic Adventure among other publications. Duel in the Sun, on which this book is based, is Brant’s first book.

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14 Minutes 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
MediaForwardTV More than 1 year ago
Terrific telling of an inspirational story. A must for all runners, especially if you grew up in the 70s,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alberto is painfully honest about his obsessions and grit. His willingness to endure pain to achieve what he wanted should inspire others to achieve what's in their own hearts. He is the definition of human grit. I was sad when I was done with the book, but used it as inspiration to keep up my 4:00 am workouts through the cold, grueling winter. Congrats Alberto on helping to pave the way for talented runners throughout the world.
FluffyOH More than 1 year ago
I read and enjoyed this book and gave it to my Pulmonary Physician who ran in this year's Boston Marathon. Very timely.
foultips More than 1 year ago
On June 30th, 2007, as he was walking to his car with three of his athletes through the Nike Campus in Portland, Oregon, Alberto Salazar suffered a cardiac event. He was without pulse for 14 minutes and clinically died. Yet he survived without any loss of mental or physical functionality. A true miracle. Alberto’s intensity and capacity to overcome physical pain are legendary. In this autobiography the former Olympian and marathon world record holder takes us through his entire life. From his ancestors in Cuba, through his childhood, through the climax of his career, through his demons, through his faith, to his 14 minutes and his life afterwards. The intensity and honesty of his storytelling through co-author Jon Brant are riveting and engaging. There is no single person who has practiced a sport –any sport- that will not feel empathy with Alberto’s journey. Even though he competed at the highest level and won epic battles on the turf and pavement, he was also challenged by multiple injuries and off-the-field issues just like anybody else. It is this part of the story what puts him in the same level as most of us readers and allows this great story not only to be told but to permeate into anyone who at one time or another most likely has filled similar shoes. His legendary intensity was inherited from his father. His family’s deep Roman Catholic beliefs molded his personality. José Salazar fought for the Cuban revolution with Fidel Castro and very shortly realized he was betrayed, so he moved his family to the US and became a fervent dissident, not only vocally but in verb. He even participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Alberto did everything he could to gain his father’s elusive seal of approval and that is how becoming the best marathoner who ever lived became his obsession. Several events shaped his life and made him believe he had been chosen by God to become the fastest marathoner in the world, including an invitation to train with the Greater Boston Track Club, seeing his running mate Bill Rodgers win the Boston Marathon in 1975, surviving a heat stroke during a race in 1978 and qualifying to the 1980 Olympic team despite an injury. Running became his God. If you ever followed marathon running in the late 70s or early to mid-80s, you will love Alberto’s descriptions of running against the likes of Henry Rono, Lasse Virén and other of the biggest names of the era. His play-by-play of the epic 1982 Boston’s Duel in the Sun with Dick Beardsley and his masterfully played victory against Mexico’s Rodolfo Gomez in New York are jewels to be enjoyed, especially if you later follow it with a YouTube video search. After retirement Salazar started working in Nike’s marketing department and eventually ended up heading the Oregon Project to develop the new breed of world class US runners. His narrative takes us through all these areas but not just for us to know what happened with our protagonist after was forced out of the running circles because of his nagging injuries and battles with depression. It becomes an important part of the story that eventually led to the 14 Minutes, a leitmotif throughout the narrative. Overall, this is a great book that every runner or former runner will be able to get a lot out of. The greatness of this book is not only the content but the masterful way in which it everything is stitched together. It is motivational, informative, historical and even scientific. A great read well worth the time and money. If you want to read more about Salazar and/or the 1982 classic showdown vs. Dick Beardsley in Boston, I highly recommend you Duel in the Sun, by John Brant.
andyanders More than 1 year ago
This book is very informative and written in a narrative that is engaging to read. The religious extremism of Salazar is a bit over the top. The rest is well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More about the man, than running, but includes a healthy dose of running for the fans out here
Team_Franklin More than 1 year ago
Highly Recommended
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kindle edition is only $9.99 why do we pay more?
arun4fun7 More than 1 year ago
This is a great read for all! It examines Salazar not only as a runner but as a man. He candidly details his battles within himself when his career started to dip and how he overcame himself. He is also very open about his faith and how his father helped foster it. I recommend it to everyone!
ElizabethCA More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book, especially the background story of Alberto growing up in Massachusetts and the legends he worked out with. Don't miss this excellent true story.
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