Once A Runner by John L Parker, Jr is probably my favorite running book and one of my favorite fiction books. I was introduced to this book my freshman year of college on our way to Williams for a meet. One of the upper classmen threw his copy of the book at me and said, “I expect this back when we get back to school.” By the time we got back to school after the meet, I was able to give it back. I then went and bought a copy for myself. There must have been at least a half dozen copies floating around my team while I was in school; my copy has been missing in action for a few years and needs replacing. I thought I had left it with my other books at my brother’s house, but when I visited him it wasn’t there. I must have lent it to a freshman before graduating and forgotten to get it back.
The story is about Quentin Cassidy and his trials as he trains himself. It shows the life of a serious collegiate athlete, and is a good peek into what life is like on a cross country and track team. The story follows him as he deals with freshmen, finds a girlfriend, pisses off the powers that be and gets kicked out of school, and finds a way to compete in his event at the end of the year. He digs deep into his psyche to prepare himself mentally and phsically to be the best athlete that he can, and in the process achieves great things that he can look back on later in life and be proud of.
That same friend who threw the book at me my freshman year decided to try to do one of the workouts that the protagonist did in the book. I think it was my senior year, but I misrecall. The workout consisted of running a 440 followed by a 110 recovery jog (if memory serves) followed immiediately by another 440. The workout was 3 by 20 by 440. In other words, it was a 15 mile speed workout, not including the recovery jogs. My buddy got through I think 48 or 52 repeats before deciding it was not in his best interest to continue. I was there to run his last 15 or 20 or so with him and help pace him through it. Which worked out, as he ran on the grass at the park and there was no way he could have driven himself home.