Once a runner

Very few books about running capture the feelings of the runner like this one. I wonder why it was rejected by all the editors that John L. Parker visited. Because “Once a Runner”, printed in 1978, was self-published. The author even funded his own editorial to create it. And the book became a cult object, like its protagonist.

Once a runner

The story is partly an autobiography. Parker was a university runner who ran the mile in 4’06”. The protagonist, Quenton Cassidy, will surpass him. But he will sweat to achieve it. And he will lose his girlfriend. And he will lose his scholarship. And he will wonder if all this effort was truly necessary. 

The book presents the duality in which many sports men and women face. How much suffering is enough to achieve the glory? What happens to all those friends who don’t understand your sacrifice? And, once the goal is achieved, what else? For those readers who are runners, a fraternity feeling is visible. We have felt similar situations and we understand, at least partly, the decisions that Quenton takes.

For those readers who are not runners, the book can show them (in a poetic view) what it is to suffer. Also, the link between runner and coach. A coach who, in this book, is a former Olympic champion of 5000m called Bruce Denton. A coach who is able to show all the potential that Quenton has, even when the athlete himself doubts about it.

The storyline is simple, the reading is gentle. The rhythm moves comfortably. The parallel stories happen evenly with the training sessions. Training sessions that show clearly that the author knows what he is talking about. Quarter of miles are the most common ones. And competitions are also common, explained clearly step by step with the thoughts that occur inside Quenton’s mind: the warm-up, the call room, the start, the first lap, the progression inside the group, the correct positioning, the last lap.

The book is dedicated to Jack Bacheler and Frank Shorter, Olympic runners in 1972 and training partners of the author. Actually, it is suggested that Jack is the inspiration for the coach Denton in the book.

30 years after the first edition of the book, Parker published a sequel called “Again in Carthage” (2007) and, almost 10 year later, the prequel “Racing the rain” (2015).

Title: Once a runner
Author: John L. Parker
ISBN: 9781416597896 (book) 9781416597919 (eBook)
Pages: 304 pages
Editorial: Scribner Book Company
Price: $17.00 (book) / $14.99 (eBook)


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