On the recommendation of a friend and fellow running buddy, I recently picked up a copy of the 1978 best selling novel, Once a Runner. I have just started reading it (about 50 pages in), but I can already tell it might just be one of my all-time favorites. It has often been called the most realistic fictional account of serious runners ever written. And for a guy that hasn't read fiction in several years, it's nice to still feel like I'm deep into an instructional biography, even when I'm not.
This blog isn't intended to serve as a book review or summary of the storyline, you can find more expert critiques and indepth analysis on any number of websites. This entry is more about a specific observation that struck me while reading through the first few chapters in this cleverly written and highly descriptive story of a college track team and running community. Quenton Cassidy, the main character, his teammate and their dates are taking in a lazy Saturday on the river. But the only way it was possible for them to actually relax and enjoy it was to have completed their required training run earlier in the day. As you read the passage below, if you are a runner, don't tell me you can't relate.
"In order to arrange this day of perfect drifting, an entirely traditional local pastime, he and Mizner - now floating up ahead with his date - had arisen at 7:30 and run seventeen miles. It was the only way they could spend their day in the sweet haze of Boone's Farm apple wine and still appease the great white ccalendar god whose slighted or empty squares would surely turn up someday to torment the guilt-ridden runner. They went through such contortions occasionally to prove to themselves that their lives didn't have to be so abnormal, but the process usually just ended up accentuating the fact."
Isn't that great, the "great white calendar god." Or that this attempt to be normal only accentuated the fact that they were abnormal! Only a few pages earlier a reference had been made regarding the "obsessive-compulsive" personalities that dominated elite running circles. The required discipline turned even the most free spirited individuals into OC's. As I read both of these I couldn't help but think back to the recent cycle of training I went through for the marathon. The calender god that enacts guilt is REAL! Runs are taken before, during, around, after, and between all sorts of events and schedules. There is no option. Whether it requires a 4 a.m. wake-up, or a midnight stroll on the hotel treadmill, there would be no empty squares. And as to the OC personality; guilty. I have always taken that as a compliment and embrace the good that comes from a methodical mindset.
I look forward to the remainder of the book and will let you know if I change my opinion relative to a recommendation. Until then, I need to find a hour and ten minutes to fit in tomorrow's run, hmmmm..........
|Obsessive-Compulsive, me? You bet!|