Book Review; Once a Runner

It may be just that  I am sufferring though a week long cold/laryngitis situation, but I actually do not see what all the fuss is about this particular book.

John Parker, the author,  is a Floridian of sorts.  He actually qualifies as a one of the kind we aren’t so fond of, the SnowBirds… But he did attend college here in Florida, so that gives him some dispensation.

The book was originally published in 1978, right around the height of the first running craze, fueled by Frank Shorter and the like.  Frank Shorter is still around, I met him at the Pre Marathon dinner in February, and he still loves to run, though he doesn’t marathon that often.  With the new running craze, it has been reprinted to rave reviews from all sorts of people.

Anyway, the book is set in Florida in a fictional university and follows the rise and fall of one collegiate athlete Quenton Cassidy.  perhaps it is because I have never really been a sprinter, or anything that I found the book to be interesting, but not thrilling as most others have stated.  I also think this is one book that has gathered sort of an aura about it that may be more interesting than the book itself.

Parker chronicles the life of Cassidy who is seeking to possibly qualify for the Olympics and to run a sub 4 minute mile.  4 minute milers today are still quite rare, though many many high schoolers approach it and get very close.

Cassidy is initially the Captain of the team, and Parker describes the varying relationships between different team members to a T.  He describes the practical joking, the camraderie, the rivalries, and the shared disappointments as only someone who has lived this experience can.  Myself, I was never actually on a Track team.  I have never run any race (except as a child on field days) shorter than a 5 K.  So I can only relate to this a little.

After some bad Juju, Cassidy drops out of school, and essentially isolates himself to focus on training.  Parker has got the descriptions of the training and the conversations with people about training again to a T.  I could really relate to this Cassidy, in almost complete isolation with few people understanding his desire to persue an almost impossible result.

In the end Cassidy has a semi triumphant return to run the mile in a school meet and it appears he ends up beaten…for whatever reason.

Parker continues his story in a new novel Again to Carthage.  Where it is 10 years later and  Cassidy takes up Long distance running to persue the Olympic Marathon.  This of course makes sense, as the hey Day of American Track and Field is over as far as I am concerned.  Hardly anyone knows about the Millrose games and such these days.  It is all about running marathons.  (Or walking them as the case may be.)

Parker is a good writer.  He is engaging, and at least for me, my interest was held even when reading rather long descriptions of races.  His character, Cassidy is sufficiently complex without being too complex.  I related well to the characters reasons for running as they are very similar to mine.  My ability on the other hand is quite different.

One reviewer in Runners world states, “The best piece of running fiction around.  beg, Borrow, or buy a copy and you’ll never need another motivator”.

Having never really needed motivation to train, I found that hysterical.  Never once during reading the novel did I get any more interested in training.  So, I definitely do not recommend that you pick this up for motivation.

I think the final words are:  well written novel, good descriptions of competition and running as it is for many runners.  And that’s about it!

I recommend it, but not strongly.  I do think if the library has Again to Carthage, I might check it out as well.

2 thoughts on “Book Review; Once a Runner

  1. I remember reading Once A Runner in high school. I think the author does a good job of understanding the quirks/isolation of a runner but the story line was just ok. I also read Again to Carthage, not bad, but I might need to reread each one again.

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