14 Minutes isn’t by any stretch a “Catholic” book, and it isn’t an “America’s running glory days” book either, thought it has a lot about both. Salazar is especially wary of being held up as a Catholic role model, but wants to share honestly his life experience and how much faith has been a part of his journey.
Mid-book, he writes, “I am not trying to portray myself as a religious expert here, any more than I tried to make a political point when describing my father’s relationship with Castro; I’m simply relating my own experiences and interpretations.”
Instead, 14 Minutes is the memoir of someone who has lived through much, including: the excesses inherent in becoming a world-class athlete; the heartbreak of injuries and illness that cut his career short; family dysfunction and healing; depression and mental health issues; and a reflective Catholic faith.
Salazar sees the hand of God in every part of his life, but writes, “You have to look hard and long for it and accept that most of the time the touch will remain ineffable.”
14 Minutes reveals a spiritually and emotionally mature Salazar, who looks back on his achievements and his mistakes with equal measure of humility and compassion.
My disclaimer here is that I am a runner, but that isn’t why I liked 14 Minutes so much. Even though I’ve finished a marathon, all I wanted to do was finish, unlike Salazar, who confides to a close friend in college that he plans to set a world record in the marathon (and then does just that). It’s clear from the earliest chapters that Salazar is in a different category than the rest of us, when it comes to running.
So while there aren’t training tips to be gleaned from 14 Minutes, readers will learn much about persistence, maturity and faith, all wrapped up in a great sports story.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m decidedly not a fan of the current trend of irreverent semi-fictional memoirs, often written by people far too young to be reflecting on their life “so far.”
But as Sir Walter Scott wrote, “There is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.” A well-told memoir like 14 Minutes is a testimony to the heroic in one man’s life, and offers each reader a chance to reflect on the heroic is every person.