I found John Parker Jr.’s Once a Runner to be quite pithy and funny. It kept me engaged throughout the novel. The playfulness of the college kids involved really stood out to me and I was able to relate to them on a deeper level because we are basically in the same place in life. I think this book hits the hammer on the head when describing what it is like to be a competitive runner. The writing style flowed very well, although there were some flashbacks that confused me a little. In the beginning, the author used big obscure words that piqued my interest in the language. I am a huge fan of vocabulary, you may call me an aficionado, so when the author invoked long words, complex words, it just made me want to read more. I related to the character Andrea a lot because I was just a little confused throughout the whole novel. I think I don’t understand competitive long distance racing enough to fully grasp the terms that were used and the numbers that were used but there were some passages that resonated with me. For instance, when Cassidy is explaining to Andrea that runners are always subject to their time and the numbers follow them around for life, I have felt that same way running with a team. I remember running a 12 minute mile at my best and other running a seven or an eight and feeling the weight of my slow time on my back, even though I tried my best.
Another scene that stuck with me, completely unrelated to running, was Cassidy’s general frustration with the Scantron test strips. They personally drive me up a wall. I don’t see how that is learning. I feel like with writing tests, I am able to show more of my knowledge than if I am confined to four or five possibilities. I digress.
I feel like the book was only written for runners and if you are not a runner or somewhat of a runner, like me, then you may have a hard time understanding everything. I also think is writing was a little circumventive ad not straightforward for me enough to throughout enjoy. There were some scenes that were so laden with jargon that the point didn’t come across as clearly as it could have. I relate to the characters not only as college students, but also as runners. When their bodies are described as looking dead in the face after a hardcore run, Parker might as well have been describing me after my first 5 miler in over a week yesterday. His description if characters was so real, that I could almost taste it. As soon as he described a character, I could immediately picture it in my head.
This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, strength in the book, the way the author describes the runner and the emotions involved, especially with the metaphor of a demon. At times, I dwell on what I hate when I am running, in order to fuel my run. In one instance, in high school, just before a run, s girl who I had a crush on called me a dyke in front of all her friends. I was hurt and humiliated and at that point, I hated her. It was like a demon inside me, pushing me to run harder and longer, to burn the anger as my fuel, and I see this also in the characters of the book.