It’s Not About The Beard: One Runner, Two Oceans, 100 Days

By Tom Fitzsimons

The Big Ideas Library, 2015

Book review by: @OCallaghanMark

In 2013 Tom Fitzsimons ran 3,073 miles in 100 days from the West to East coast of America. It’s Not About the Beard is his story of that journey. Tom’s purpose in running across America was, “to raise awareness of recovery from addiction.”  This run, however, was no charity fundraiser.

In order to understand Tom’s motivation it is necessary to know something of his own struggle with addiction to alcohol. The early chapters recount his teenage years, from the death of his father in 1988 to working on building sites having relocated to Wakefield. By his own admission, Tom lived up to the stereotype of the hard-drinking Irish labourer.

Five-and-a-half years after gaining sobriety, awestruck by Felix Baumgartner’s Mission to the Edge of Space, the idea of running America coast to coast began to form.

Tom began his Run4Sobriety at the Golden Gate Bridge.  Apart from his brother-driver Sean, and nephew Connor who would accompany them for the first month, there was not a soul to wish him well. With the Pacific at his back, and typical simplicity, Tom summed up what was required of him in just three words: “Keep moving east”.

One hundred days later, to coincide with the sixth anniversary of his “Sobriety Day”, Tom arrived at Coney Island.

Tom’s route takes in the desert of Nevada, the climbs of the Rockies and the Appalachians, along with officially “dead bad” inner city neighbourhoods. However, no time is spared to collect the material to make this a travel book; the 100 day self-imposed limit is sacrosanct.

It’s Not About the Beard is a very personal account told in almost conversational style. Tom’s determination and focus, which on occasions results in flashpoints with Sean, is evident throughout. There are stories within the story, of the places he passes through and the people he meets. Some are hilarious; others are deeply moving.


Mark O’Callaghan

28th June 2015