EVERFIT book review - Once a Runner....

Book Reviews, December 21, 2017

This New York Times bestseller written by John L. Parker Jr. has been described as "the best novel written about running" by Runner's World. It's a great read with a real insight into what it takes to become the best you can be.

I was given this book to read by a mate of mine who isn't a runner. He stated "It's a bit of a let down". I can understand that review as the fictional novel is based around an OK story, but not incredible. What really makes this book is the description of the training, and the toll it can take on the mind and body when the athlete is in the midst of the training. The sacrifice required is daunting and inspiring. It was written in a time where the depth of distance running was extraordinarily. 

The opening quote in the book brings this to light......... 

"How did I know you ran the mile in 4min 30sec in highschool? That's easy - EVERYONE ran the mile in 4:30 in high school." Frank Shorter 1969.

Once a Runner is the story of Quenton Cassidy, a collegiate runner at the fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the political and cultural turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the sleepy recesses of his school’s very conservative athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes’ protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team and forced to quit school.
Under the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Bruce Denton, a graduate student and former Olympic gold medalist in the 5000m Cassidy gives up his scholarship, his girlfriend, and possibly his future to withdraw to a monastic retreat in the countryside and begin training for the race of his life: a head-to-head match with the greatest miler in history - John Walton (based on NZ's famous John Walker - the first man to go under 3min 50sec for the mile). His training  in solitude is inspiring and gut wrenching. 
This book is a rare insider’s account of the incredibly intense lives of elite distance runners; an inspiring, funny, and spot-on tale of one man’s quest to become a champion and the very best he can be. 

My favourite quotes from the book backing up that consistency is the key to becoming the best you can be. There is no shortcut to success, hard work with a laser focus will make the impossible possible. A strong mind must underpin the strong body.

“You don't become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.” 

“...Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God's own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway....They'll speak our names in hushed tones, 'those guys are animals' they'll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!” 

“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.”

“A runner is a miser, spending the pennies of his energy with great stinginess, constantly wanting to know how much he has spent and how much longer he will be expected to pay. He wants to be broke at precisely the moment he no longer needs his coin.” 

“People conceptualize conditioning in different ways," he said. "Some think it's a ladder straight up. Others see plateaus, blockages, ceilings. I see it as a geometric spiraling upward, with each spin of the circle taking you a different distance upward. Some spins may even take you downward, just gathering momentum for the next upswing. Sometimes you will work your fanny off and see very little gain; other times you will amaze yourself and not really know why.” 

“The distance runners were serene messengers. Gliding along wooded trails and mountain paths, their spiritual ancestors kept their own solitary counsel for long hours while carrying some message the import of which was only one corner of their considerable speculation. They lived within themselves; long ago they did so, and they do today. ”

Read this book to get inspired and understand what graft is.