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REVIEW: Six hours: Running For My Life in the Grand Canyon
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Saturday, November 19, 2022


Author: Rick Mater

ISBN: 978-1-7368230-4-0
Publisher: Boulevard 55 Books

If you are considering hiking or running this iconic and magnificent seventeen-mile trail, South Kaibab, to Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of Rick Mater's memoir Six Hours: Running For My Life in the Grand Canyon.


When I opened the book, my initial reaction was, why would a sixty-four-year-old man with a serious heart condition want to undertake the run in fewer than six hours?

Still, notwithstanding the risks, Mater appreciated the experience would not simply be stimulating with its remarkable expansive views, but would further provide him the chance for some solitude and to be alone with his reflections in this enchanting environment.

As he points out, he sought to engage the world while jogging, not lock it out. Running was an occasion for him to be at one with nature. He contends he wouldn't "go gently into the good night." This meant forging ahead with his run, regardless of the peril, the wishes of his family, and the advice of his cardiologist.

What makes the run challenging is its length and unstable, fluctuating weather. This is multiplied by the trail. It is a reverse summit. You commence by descending to the bottom before ascending back to the rim. You can imagine the monstrous stress running in the Canyon would put on your body, mainly as you go downhill.

The memoir is broken down into three sections and draws readers in through the descent, down to the river, and up the ascent.

If you casually open the book at any section or subsections, be prepared to be astounded as you chase along with Mater going down to the Colorado River. We read about Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point. the Tipoff, Phantom Ranch, Silver Bridge, Devil's Corkscrew,Tapeats Narrow, and Indian Garden with their past and topography. By the way, you can quickly observe Mater's run with the map provided at the book's opening.

Woven into the memoir are morsels about interesting characters and places. We discover the Buckey O'Neill Cabin erected in 1890, which is the oldest surviving structure on the South Rim. Eventually, it turned into the Bright Angel Hotel. It was erected by William "Buckey" O'Neill in what would ultimately develop into Grand Canyon National Park. O'Neill was truly a character and was a member of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and an author, sheriff, and judge in his native Arizona. He was killed in action in Cuba in 1898.

Also covered in the memoir are shocking stories involving hundreds of hikers, runners, boaters, and riders on horseback who were, sadly, accidentally killed in the Grand Canyon. Some of these disastrous mishaps are drawn from the book Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon.

One such horrid episode concerns a thirty-six-year-old university professor, Roger Chubb and his eight-year-old son, Roger Jr. In 1963, the pair hiked down to Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden. As they were making their way, a storm commenced dumping an inch-and-a-half of rain. The Chubbs and others took refuge under large cottonwood trees. When the rain ceased, Roger and his son headed back to Bright Angel. Suddenly, and without warning, there was a roar of a debris flow lunging towards them. Roger realized his son had trailed. He bolted down ahead of the impending mass of chest high rubble. The other hikers, who scurried to safety uphill, observed helplessly as they witnessed father and son engulfed by the flow and swept away.

Their bodies were recovered, buried a few hundred yards from the point of impact. To round out his narrative, Mater chews over his own personal challenges as he reflects on his life, mortality, and his legacy. We learn about his wild times while attending college, his unstable way of life when he was twenty-six, his drug habit, and his resolution to commit suicide if he did not realize specific objectives.

As I wrapped up my reading of the memoir, I was still not fully clear why Mater tossed caution to the wind and declined to let his heart condition to bring his life to a standstill. Just glance at his odds of surviving if you have lost ten percent of his blood circulation from an unaddressed circumflex artery blockage. And Mater had a complete blockage of his left anterior descending artery, which involved three stents. He even experienced a heart attack while on a run that triggered the angioplasty, which left enduring coronary muscle damage.

Was it lunacy or a determination to survive? Perhaps both.


Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Rick Mater


 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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