Friday, February 28, 2014

Once A Runner

This is one of those running books I've heard about here & there, but only really often enough for the title to be familiar. It was part of an Audible BOGOF promotion so I figured, "Eh, why not?" It was short (~8.5 hours), & at least then I'd know if it lived up to all the hype.

Well. 12 chapters in I was convinced it was about the stupidest book I'd ever read. The writing was cliche & forced, & the dialogue was unbelievable and frankly hard to follow (though I'm sure that's at least partly to do with trying to decode 1970s Florida college slang). I couldn't relate to the characters, and the jumpy, meandering style of storytelling made the main story line difficult to follow (or even detect) for the first half the book. Many of the scenes felt bafflingly irrelevant. If it wasn't so short I probably would have given it up there.

However, the second half had some redeeming qualities. Once he ditched most of the side characters (including the lone woman, who was, sadly, kind of whiny & cringe-inducing), the story felt more coherent and a narrative arc gradually became detectable. And although as a runner I have never been anywhere *near* the level of the protagonist (a collegiate 4:00 miler obsessed with running a sub-4:00), there were actually a lot of parts I was able to relate to on some level. (It also brought back all the most painful, most horrific parts of running track, which sort of sucked, but I guess that's kind of the point.) It's when Parker was actually writing about running and training and racing that it wasn't too bad, and there were definitely a few sections near the end where I found myself thinking, "OMG, it is/was *totally* just like that," so he gets some props for that. On the other hand, I doubt anyone who hasn't had the experience of running track at least semi-competitively will really "get" those parts.

So yeah. If you are or have been a super competitive male college track star, this book *might* speak to you. If you're a distance runner in the sense of, "Meh, I run marathons & half-marathons sometimes for fun/health/thrillz," you can probably just skip it without missing much.