A Running Book Per Month: “Once A Runner” finished


I will most definitely never be anywhere close to running a four-minute mile, and probably not even close to running a six-minute mile, but I just finished reading John L. Parker Jr.’s “Once A Runner,” and despite the book being fictional, the life of Quenton Cassidy, the protagonist, seemed realistic.

"Once A Runner," by John L. Parker Jr. (Vanessa Junkin photo)
“Once A Runner,” by John L. Parker Jr. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I saw in the “About the Author” section that Parker himself has been a mile winner in his conference, so he clearly understands what it’s like to run, and to run fast.

I’d chosen “Once A Runner” as my book to read for May, but it ended up taking longer to read than expected, so I just decided not to pick a book for June and to continue reading it rather than forcing myself to fit in another running book afterward.

Reading the book, it seemed like the type of book I’d read in school; I’m not sure why, but it was originally published in 1978, so maybe it was just the way it was written. I hadn’t read a book in a while that I could recall not knowing so many words that were used, so that was another interesting aspect. I did look up some of the words I came across, so it became educational to learn some new vocabulary words.

Cassidy has the goal of running a mile in exactly 4 minutes or less, and throughout the book, he does workouts including one that was detailed that just seems unfathomable: 60 quarter-mile intervals. His workouts, like that one, seemed to get more intense after he was no longer allowed to be part of his university’s team.

Though it isn’t written in first-person, the author really describes Cassidy’s thought process; near the end in particular he explains just what it’s like for him before the gun goes off for the mile race, and then on different parts of each of the four laps of a mile. I thought of running the mile during high school track; some of the feelings were similar, but of course for Cassidy, it was just on a completely other level — and during meets, I wasn’t in a position to ever win the mile.

Cassidy is an extremely dedicated person; I know I do not have the same level of dedication that the character has to running; but I run more because it’s a fun, healthy and motivating hobby. The book does go into other aspects of his life, as well, but really, it’s hard to separate Cassidy from running.

I’d seen the book on this Competitor list of books to read.

If you’re interested in reading about some of the other books I’ve read during the A Running Book Per Month Series, go here.