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Once a Runner

Posted by Jessica Windell on

We’re always on the lookout for good summer reads to take along on vacations or to our favorite weekend beach spot. When you find a book that pulls you in with its captivating story, yet inspires you along the way, you know you’ve hit the literary lottery — and this summer, we did.

Once a Runner book coverOnce a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker Jr., has been a must-read for any competitive athlete since its original publishing in 1978. Once A Runner tells the story of Quenton Cassidy, a competitive runner at the fictional Southeastern University, whose dream of running a sub four-minute mile becomes his sole focus. Just as he’s closing in on his goal, the school’s athletic department must deal with the turmoil from the Vietnam War era. Cassidy deals with the fallout by secluding himself in the woods.

Coached by former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Denton, loosely based on two-time Olympic distance runner Jack Bacheler, Cassidy gives up everything including his girlfriend and his scholarship to train for months so he could compete against the world’s best miler, John Walton (based on John Walker, the world-record-breaking miler). Disguised as a Finnish student, Cassidy manages to land himself in the race of a lifetime — but we won’t spoil the outcome here! You’ll have to check that out for yourself.

Drawing inspiration from his own personal experience as a collegiate champion, Parker brings to life the excruciating trials and tribulations of a marathon runner. Parker initially self-published his novel, selling copies out of the trunk of his car at road races. Now, the legendary story is in its 8th publication.

Regarded as a cult hit, Once a Runner is treated as required reading for young athletes. It fully captures the stress and tension, the highs and lows, not to mention the immense pressure many athletes put onto themselves to be better, faster, and stronger than their own previous best.

Make sure to add it to your summer reading list and let us know what think in the comments section below.