This is going to be harsh, so I’ll begin on a good note. Rich Roll’s story of transformation is nothing short of remarkable. It really shows how substance addiction can overpower even the strongest of people. Let’s put it this way, if a man has the fortitude to complete five back-to-back Ironman races on five different Hawaiian islands, overcoming alcohol addiction should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong! It took years and years until he conquered his demons and came into his own. Anyone who believes all drug an alcohol addicts are weak-willed are sorely mistaken.
That, in my opinion, is the most positive takeaway from this book. I’m amazed by Rich Roll’s accomplishments. Yet on a personal level, I’m less than impressed. There are some people in this world who are born into a life of privilege. They take their luxuries for granted and go through life always wanting more, more, more! Rich Roll is one of those people.
The child of two loving, well-to-do parents, he had everything he needed on a silver platter. Problems with bullying? No matter. He can just go to special private school. No swimming program? That’s cool. Just get a private coach. Accidentally got drunk before meeting up with an Ivy League swim coach? No sweat, the welcome mat is there for the taking. Turns out, his Get Out of Jail Free card even works in DWI cases. Somehow he managed to avoid jail time when his case file miraculously went missing. What luck!
Okay, maybe I’m bitter because I’ve never been blessed with such dumb luck. Seriously, it’s not fair! The tipping point happened when Richy Rich rear-ended a poor woman while he was slugging back a cold one on the way to the office. She was hospitalized, yet he didn’t go into detail about her injuries. Of course, he was exempt from showing any remorse because “his addict brain could not process the consequences of his actions.” Since that was the case, he just kept drinking and driving until his boss got a call from the police. Funny how he owned up to his problem and decided to get clean when his livelihood was threatened.
According to his track record, this was the first time he landed in some serious trouble. Prior to this snafu, he never really had a wake-up call. After acing his way through law school in a drunken haze, he gave his school and his parents the finger at graduation by staggering barefoot across the podium. Why? Because he looked around at his fellow graduates and realized they were all mindless sheep. He had to do something totally off the wall to prove that he’s so very special. In his defense, he felt remorse for embarrassing himself and his parents. Yet even after rehab, after becoming a devout vegan, after completing the “Epic Five,” he’s still that same self-important asshole trying to prove to the world that he’s better than everybody else.
Albeit he accomplished an amazing feat—impossible even. But why? What’s really going on there? Being a type-B person (at the far end of the spectrum), it’s hard to wrap my mind around this obsessive desire to risk life and limb to break a world record. Of course, it’s not a morally reprehensible thing to be the first to climb a mountain or finish a grueling race. I just don’t understand the psychology behind the fanaticism of it all.
My theory is that Rich channeled his addiction into racing and extreme dieting. When it comes to eating, it’s either his way or the highway. We can either become followers of his squeaky clean eating program or die young from a horrible gluten-induced disease. Sorry, Rich. Scare tactics don’t work with me. They only piss me off. Dieting aside, you piss me off. I bet that lady you rear-ended feels the same way.
If you want to read an inspiring ultra-running memoir, skip this one and read Eat and Run or Born to Run. Sure, both of these books delve into lifestyle advice that I choose to ignore. However the focus isn’t on being the best in the world. These authors run 100-plus distances because they genuinely love the sport. Reading their books, I got the sense that they ran like wild mustangs to feel happy and free. In Rich’s book, I just felt like he needed to prove something. Even after becoming one of the world’s fittest men, I have a feeling that still won’t be enough.