Sunday, June 14, 2009
Once a Runner
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of the hardbound edition of this cult classic last week. I had heard of it in certain circles, always referred to with superlatives. First published in 1978 and marketed from the trunk of the authors car at Florida track meets, it soon became "the best piece on running fiction around."* to the extent that there was even a YouTube faux
trailer cut announcing the upcoming movie. Consistent with the tone of the book, this too was a prank, a common activity practiced by the odd collection of athletes known collectively as "runners". Quenton Cassidy is the captain on this bus, and this is his story. He reminds me of a person I once thought it might be fun to be, but had neither the skill, talent nor wit to train into. Although I tried. Maybe it's not too late as in my research on the author http://www.gainesville.com/article/20071223/NEWS/712230318/1002/NEWS I see there is a sequel about to hit the tape. It also strikes me as altogether appropriate that two of my literary heroes share the same surname. Here is a sample from On the Road, er, Once a Runner:
They were lass than a half mile from the finish. Cassidy ran slightly behind O'Rork off his left shoulder, eyes fixed on the freckled neck. He was drafting without malice or humor. If O'Rork minded being used in this manner he gave no sign.
Somewhere up ahead Jerry Mizner was sauntering into the finish chute with the more tolerable fatigue of victory on his face. He had employed the simple expedient of running away from everyone. Similarly isolated from the rest of the runners, the two milers bruised each other in the tensionless grind of those who struggle for second place.
Cassidy was in extremis. They had gone through the first mile in 4:37 and Cassidy thought with alarm: Godamighty that hurt. The heavy training of the past several weeks had sapped him; when he reached down for an extra surge just to hold pace, he found only a searing strained feeling with which he was intimately familiar: redline city. He was not enjoying this weekend.
* Runners World