Chris Kwiatkowski is the co-author of Matt Centrowitz’s self-published memoir “Like Father, Like Son – My Story on Running, Coaching and Parenting”. A 2012 graduate from the University of Oregon where he competed for the Duck’s on the national stage, Chris holds PBs of 13:51 5000m, 28:56 10,000m, 48:17 10miles and 64:10 half-marathon. Currently, Chris lives and works in Washington, DC as an assistant track coach at American University and a free-lance writer.
Chris and Matt’s son, 2016 Olympic Champion Matthew Centrowitz, are best friends and former college roommates. This piece is in commemoration of Matthew’s 2016 Olympic gold medal run in Rio.
There are semi-packed bags scattered across the floor with various articles of clothing strewn about. You wouldn’t know if he was planning to leave or had just gotten back from a trip; as if to say his body stays here, but his mind is elsewhere. The walls are curiously bare, very uncharacteristic of an athlete with so many awards and accolades to his name – Matthew Centrowitz – the name strikes fear into the hearts of competitors around the world. The dimly lit desk in the corner of the room is adorned with open logbooks of training from the present and the past. This is his library, his place of study. His notes on the day’s efforts are highlighted and reviewed with previous efforts, strategies and cautious reminders. Only one picture decorates the blank walls above the desk. A quick glance at the very apparent dismay of it raises a puzzling question. Why would his only picture be of a crushing loss? “I don’t need any help remembering the races that I win”, he speaks softly with his hawk-like eyes focused on the picture. His thought is obvious; the images of this painful defeat replaying like a nightmare.
He has not always been in the spotlight and atop the podium. Like many of us, he has taken his turn at the hellish merry-go-round of injuries. Bad workouts, bad races, failure – time and time again. What sets him apart is not some genetic gift. It is not some lucky streak. For Matthew, track is all he ever thinks about.
His place is not unwelcoming, but it is by no means homey. When you step inside, the feeling is chilling. You are overcome with his sickness for success. The contagious thought process festers in your brain. The infectious drive sears your heart and burns your throat should you attempt to get rid of it. For a fleeting moment you understand how he feels every day, what it is that sets him apart. And you are forced to ask yourself – if you had the opportunity, in all of its glory and agony, would you really want it?
He sat right across the table from me slouched in comfort, collecting his thoughts with a presence of mind few are able to do. As we sat, drinking in his apartment, he revealed his secret to me, which little did I know would take him to the top of the world in the months that followed. His poise turned to passion as he spoke, “People don’t understand – ‘How are you so good’ they ask me, ‘You’re always screwing around, how do you get so lucky’ they say… I never stop thinking about the top, never!” he said, a fire brewing in his eyes. “I work harder than any mother fucker because this is all I got, I’m not going to make it anywhere else in life”, he barked. “I need to win, I have to be the best, I’m going to get to the top and believe me when I tell you … I’m going to stay there!” his fist slamming the table to accent each part of his statement. Chills ran down my spine. Nobody was going to beat him, and he knew it. Beware, the Track Man commeth.
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- The Track Man’ is an insightful look into the life, habits and attitudes of Matthew Centrowitz, from his closest friend. Read on to discover more about this once in a generation, gold medal winning, American miler
- Article length 8 pages single spaced, 4300+ words
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