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(Audio)Book review: Once a Runner By John L. Parker March 2, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Society.
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A few years ago, I heard that “Once a Runner” was the best running novel ever written. I am not much of a reader of great novels, nor, I suppose am I really much of a great runner – just look at my race results. But being interested in different stories, I looked around for it – it was first printed in 1978 and no second reprint was produced until 2009. At one point, I was actually able to find the book online in PDF form (someone had scanned all 250 pages), but found that was nearly impossible to read on the computer screen and did not want to print it out.

After reading “Born to Run” (see my review), my interest was renewed and found that it had actually been released in audio format, too, last April. Again, I am not much of a fiction reader. Once I started to listen to this novel, I was trying to place myself into the story. Since I consider myself a runner, I thought this was going to be easy. However, I must not be a “real” runner because I have never been on a track or cross country team. I would say that the first quarter to half the book was very tied to that culture and seemed to really rely on a personal history with college teams – which I have none.

That being said, the story was engrossing and pulling in the names of well known runner to gave it an air of accuracy. I enjoyed hearing about the training and camaraderie that developed with the runners and coach. This story really extends the passage of time as there are no real technological basis by which running is tied. Running shoes have changed for the general public, but if you look at what the elite runners wear, they are still simple racing flats – a Keds-like shoe with a thin piece of runner on the bottom. And if you read Born to Run or do other research, you will see why this is. To run fast and long, runners do not land on their heals as demonstrated by all the technological “advances” in shoes.

But I digress… my suggestion on this book is to definitely read it if you were a track/cross country runner in high school or college. The same applies, if you are a recreational runner and enjoy fiction. But I say to all runners, you should definitely read “Born To Run” – and read my review here if you want to know why.

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