Jeff Benjamin’s Spring Book Reviews
First In A Series

CHASING FOUR: A Personal History of Work and Play

By Gene McCarthy

A Top High School & Collegiate Runner who trained with the French Legend Marcel Phillipe at Fordham University.

A Four-Minute Miler who trained with his idol, the legendary Marty Liquori, and the vaunted Florida Track Club, where he also became club President and clashed elbows in races with icons like Steve Ovett.

An aspiring “Shoe Dog” who, beginning with his first foray at Athletic Attic, rose through the ranks into the upper echelon of the sneaker industry, stopping along the way to work in leadership roles at Nike, Jordan,  Reebok, Under Armour, Timberland, Merrill and Asics.

One would think that Gene McCarthy was a lucky guy who has led a charmed life in the sports industry.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In his personal retelling of his life’s works through his book “Chasing Four”, McCarthy rightfully is the product of the “American Dream” that, no matter what one’s life’s successful pursuits of their own dreams they wish to chase, hunger, desire, discipline, dedication, and consistency are qualities one must possess and grow.

For McCarthy, it all started with running.

As one of five kids growing up in an apartment led by hard-working parents, McCarthy would find running to be his inspiring salvation. A top NYC XC Harrier who broke 13 minutes for 2 1/2 miles over his neighborhood’s vaunted Van Cortlandt Park, McCarthy, who admits at 17 years old not knowing it yet, had already imbued in himself those qualities that would mark his rise.

Like many teenagers, McCarthy valued guidance and mentorship, and as he grew into adulthood, names such as John Milligan, Tom Byrne, and Phillipe would have influenced him.

Screenshot of NYTimes article on Gene McCarthy

But it was Liquori who truly got McCarthy to another level, as he moved to Florida to pursue the sub-4 Minute Mile, a goal he ALMOST achieved (I’ll leave it up to the reader as to how one would convert McCarthy’s time of 3:42 though!).

Eventually, athletes must transition, and McCarthy spent many years at Nike, rising to the point where he was an integral force in creating the Jordan Legacy line.

In his various travels throughout the different sneaker powers, McCarthy tells very funny and objective life lessons from each of these experiences, stories that can be invaluable to people not only in the business world but also in life. His interpretations of the cultures, drives, and ideas of each of these companies are a fascinating insight into how these companies get up and go, sometimes with great success but also failure.

McCarthy concludes his life story with his own beliefs and philosophies on not only how the sport of Running Track and field stands today but also how sneaker companies fare today and what improvements could be made.

It’s not in McCarthy’s style to berate or maliciously criticize any company or anyone personally in this book. His philosophy seems to be “gentile, respectful constructive criticisms.”

Jeff Benjamin with Gene McCarthy

McCarthy (borrowing from Steve Jobs)  seems to want to build on the philosophy of a “team consensus”, an ideal group free of -political, individual agenda-driven people which he feels can only lead to failure, ideas which he no doubt picked up as that aspiring 14-year-old searching for the teamwork and camaraderie ideas of pursuing dreams together when he joined the All-Hallows high school XC team over 5 decades.

That philosophy, along with many of McCarthy’s other insights, is invaluable and, some would say, missing from the Sneaker industry and other corporate businesses today.

To purchase a copy of

CHASING FOUR: A Personal History of Work and Play

​ 

 

By