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Book Review: Once a Runner by John L Parker Jr

Last week I received an Instagram DM on when we are having our next Book Review and how the reviews have influenced him to go for Born to Run.  It feels nice when people look forward to your content! So, this week I thought I will be reviewing a Running fictional story titled Once a Runner by John L Parker Jr.

Once a Runner is unarguably one of the most read novels about running. And as I have mentioned, this novel is not actually a true story, but a fiction that adds to the excitement.

Yes, a fictional story, unlike other popular ones which are based on true stories or real events. Though some people say that this is loosely based on the life of the author. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this novel and would really recommend everyone to give it a read.

How I find this Book…

The author was a competitive runner himself in his early days and hence captures brilliantly the fictional life of a competitive college runner from America. In fact, his portrayal of an amateur runner took me back into my early running days.

Though I have my reservations about this book being labeled as the best novel, still it is a good read as it will inspire you to run. And most of us need one thing to start and sustain running and that one thing is Inspiration.

The emotions of the main protagonist run high leading up to races, and his near comic sluggishness after a race are captured perfectly, which gives the book a nice balance.

Quick Overview

Name of the Book – Once a Runner: A Novel

Author – John L Parker Jr

Number of pages – 289


Genre – Fiction

Check the latest price on Amazon

About the author

John L Parker Jr has written for a lot of publications like Runner’s world, Outside, and a lot of other similar publications. He did graduation from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism as well as its College of Law.

Parker wore many hats in his career. He was a newspaper reporter and columnist. He also practiced attorney and wrote speeches for Bob Graham, who was a governor at that time.

Finally, he was also editorial director of Running Times magazine. He authored Once a Runner, Racing the rain, Again to Carthage. Parker lives in Florida and Maine.

Read more about him at

The book in brief

The book talks about the college life of Quenton Cassidy, a runner in a fictional Florida college, who competes against the world’s best.

He is a distance runner and specialized in the Mile. The bad news came in when, after writing a petition for the college athletes protesting a dress and conduct code, Quenton is suspended from the university and from his track team.

Quenton does not lose hope and submits himself to a brutal training regime and under the coaching of fictional gold medalist Olympian Bruce Denton loosely based on Jack Bacheler.

In order to keep his entire focus on running, Cassidy gives up his scholarship, his girlfriend, and possibly his future in the countryside. He disguises himself as a Finnish runner attending a fictional university in Ohio.

A large part of the book is devoted to the race between Quenton and the best runner in the race John Walton. The novel perfectly describes the final moments of the race as Quenton fights to close in on Walton, who has a slight lead.

Ignoring deep pain, Cassidy closes in on Walton and outsprints him in the final straight to win the race in a time of 3:52.5.

The post-race feeling of a runner is also very aptly captured in the novel. A runner always leaves behind a part of his/her soul on the racetrack after the race is over. I can truly relate to this as I go back into memory lane and remember each race that I had run has some story or memory that brings in smile to my face.

It covers the pain and pleasure, the highs and lows, the mental and the physical. It contained astoundingly accurate descriptions of what it takes to be a runner.

There is something special about running and few of the books like Born to Run and Once a Runner have captured this beautifully.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the most relatable books on running that I’ve ever read. It highlights various aspects of running that only a runner can capture as accurately as Parker did.

Many of the training programs run in races weren’t relatable, but the experience is the same for every competitive runner, no matter what level. I highly recommend this book, as a runner, for the runners.

Review Links

In case you want to refer some more book reviews, we’ve compiled few good ones for you. Check them out:

  1. Amazon
  2. Goodreads
  3. Simon & Schuster
  4. Runningmagazine
  5. BooksofTitans

Quotes in Book

“No one promised you there would-be universal justice.”

“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew”

“It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.”

“The trial of miles, miles of trials”

“You can remember it, he told himself, but you cannot experience it again like this. You have to be satisfied with the shadows.”

Thank You

Thank You for reading it through. I hope I would have able to present the book well and probably you would have already made your thoughts on purchasing the book 😊. The book, though a fiction story has honest realism to it and will encourage you to take running as an activity.

Also, if you want us to review any of your favorite books, please do mention them in the comment section. We would try to pick the book and include the same in our next review.

And finally, please shower us with your love by sharing the post! Your love and support, motivate us to keep coming up with inspiring content like this.


Keep reading! Keep running!

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Leave a Reply

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Ravi

    Hmm as you said, usually I used to think Running books are real life stories… this seems an exception

    1. therunningmonk

      Thanks Ravi. Yeah, this one is an exception based on a fictional story.

      Keep running, keep reading.

  2. sandeep jadhav

    very nice ….Exellent blog 👍👍

    1. therunningmonk

      Thanks Sandeep.

      Keep running, keep inspiring!!!

  3. Dr Shreyas

    Very nicely summarised

    1. therunningmonk

      Thanks Dr. Shreyas.

      Keep running, keep inspiring!!!