“Once a Runner” Book Review

I just finished the book Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.  The book was a gift from my brother and his fiance who sent it to me along with a signed copy of Jeff Galloway’s Marathon! I had not heard of this book and I’m just starting to get into “running” books.

The back cover of the book lists it as a “must read for all runners” and I have to say I totally agree.  This is a fantastic book.  While this is a fictional story, it’s written by a runner, inspired by his fellow runners and has a lot of “truth” in it.  There is enough technical jargon to make you feel like you are training right alongside these guys and but also enough of the human element as the main character struggles to balance his quest to be the best in the world with school, life, love and everything else that goes along with it.

The book is set in the 70’s and there is some references to the Vietnam war and protests and long hair and disco music, but really this could be any place at any time and it would still be the same story.  It fits in as well in present day as it did back then.  And that’s one of the endearing themes of the book as well.  Running is something that is hammered into stone for all time.  The results are always there to look back on.

One of the things that struck me as funny but so true is how runners are so obsessed with numbers.  The runner in the story was known for running a 4 minute mile, but he would always point out that it was 4:00.3 (or verbally, four flat point three).  He reduced that to 4:00.1, but still not under 4 minutes.  But that 2 tenths of a second was a HUGE difference.  For the recreational runner, we don’t get our times and records set in stone the way the college and Olympic  runners in the story do, but this is how we are with our PRs.  If we shave off even a few seconds off our best time it’s a huge accomplishment and if we reduce it by minutes that’s just unbelievable.

This was a fantastic read, and I’m already looking forward to the next book Again to Carthage once I can get my hands on it.  Highly recommend it!


1 Comment

  1. I read Once A Runner a few months ago – agree that it was a great book!

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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.