Thursday, 25 February 2010

Once A Runner

From previous posts I have made, you may see that I read a lot and having recently just had a birthday, my books-to-read pile has got quite large again, thanks to Alison who always finds books from around the world to keep me entertained. 

I have never kept a written record of all my books on running but they are all kept in a couple of large bookcases plus boxes in the loft and are from the late 60's up to recent times. I must have a few hundred books on running from all round the world and I really should start to make some kind of record of what they all are.  All the family are avid readers and both Craig and Laura spend hours in bookshops and libraries and even at a young age they both have 100's of books in their rooms.  Christmas, birthday and holiday money is spent on books and while we are in the States, weekly visits to Barnes and Noble and Borders are a must. 

One I have been looking forward to reading is the sequel to Once a Runner by John L Parker.  The novel, Once a Runner, is reckoned to be the best ever written about running.

I first heard about it maybe 15 years ago and whenever I tried to get a copy, it was out-of print. Alison managed to get me a copy through a book collector and she even got it signed by the author.  It was first printed in 1978 and was in its 9th edition in 2002.  To get an idea of just how highly it is rated, look  it up on Amazon and read the reviews ( I have copied the back page to let you see some of the comments from the major magazines).  At the bottom, you will see the ISBN number and if you ever want to try and order a copy this will make it easier.

I must admit that the first time I read it, I was left wondering what all the fuss was about and why it was so highly thought of.  However, at Christmas I decided to have another read at it and I must admit it is a superbly written novel and if you manage to get a copy you will not be disappointed.  It has taken 29 years to release a sequel and  last night I started reading Again to Carthage.  It has a lot to live up to.  

Other books I received for my birthday were Bikila- Ethiopia's Barefoot Olympian and Dick Beardsley's autobiography Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race.  Dick Beardsley was the joint winner of the first ever London Marathon who went on to run one of the greatest marathon races in history - ''The Duel in the Sun'' (another book I have in my collection) against Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  He lost by 2 seconds in a time of 2 hrs 08 53 and became a household name in the world of marathon running.  Beardsley had a near fatal accident a few years later and never recovered his running form. From that point on he became a drug addict and had years of problems before getting his life back on track.  This is his story about being one of the best long distance runners of the early 80's, his ascent to the depths of despair with injuries and drugs and, finally, his recovery.

My collection of running books span 4 decades and covers dozens of athletes like Jim Alder - Marathon and Chips, David Bedford (200 miles per week), Derek Clayton (another 200 miles per week man), Gordon Pirie - The Imposssible Hero, Bill Adocks - The Road To Athens and the bible of distance running - The Long Hard Road  by the incomparable Ron Hill. 

I have always said if any young man wants to become serious about distance running, then Ron Hill's book is a must read. It is all there, including the training, mistakes and details of his successes covered in 2 books ( it was too big to be printed as one). I must have read both books a dozen times and they are starting to show their age now (26 years old).  Even now the training and times he was running 40 years ago is rarely matched by today's top British distance runners.  Maybe they should have a read and see just how much training and racing he was doing while working full time.  Ron Hill won the European Marathon Championship in Athens (1969) and was the first Briton to win the Boston Marathon (1970). His peak came when he won the Commonwealth Games marathon at Edinburgh in 1970 with a time of 2hrs.09 mins, setting a world best. He only managed to finish 6th in the 1972 Olympics just out sprinting Scotland's Don McGregor on the track and was bitterly disappointed, in fact devastated.  World records for 20 miles  in 1 hr 36 , 10 miles, 15 miles and 25 km have all made him one of the greatest distance runners this country has ever had.  I still follow his monthly blog which you can find with a link from his clothing web site and he is still running every day. He has not missed a day's running since 1964.  I had the privilege of meeting this great athlete at a question and answer night at Cambuslang Harriers some 15 years ago.  During his talk, Ron Hill mentioned that he had only competed twice in Scotland (Ben Nevis hill race and the Commonwealth Games).  After his talk, I approached him and reminded him that he had actually ran 3 times in Scotland - he also ran a one mile track race at the Fort William highland games.  I won't tell you what I got called when I repeated this when I got home!  A huge regret is that I did not take my copies of his 2 books with me to get them signed.

Anyway, enough rambling for tonight.  Off to bed for a read of Return to Carthage!

1 comment:

  1. Those are great books, I think I like to read the once a runner novel.