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Publisher's Summary

Once a Runner captures the essence of what it means to be a competitive runner; to devote your entire existence to a single-minded pursuit of excellence. It has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever written. Originally self-published in 1978 and sold at road races out of the trunk of the author's car, reading the book became a rite of passage for many runners, and tattered copies were handed down like sacred texts from generation to generation.

Once a Runner is the story of Quenton Cassidy, a collegiate runner at fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the political and cultural turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the staid recesses of his school's athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes' protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team.

Under the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Bruce Denton, a graduate student and former Olympic gold medalist, Cassidy gives up his scholarship, his girlfriend, and possibly his future to withdraw to a monastic retreat in the countryside and begin training for the race of his life: a head-to-head match with the greatest miler in history.

This audiobook is a rare insider's account of the incredibly intense lives of elite distance runners; an inspiring, funny, and spot-on tale of one man's quest to become a champion.

©2009 John L Parker (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The best novel ever written about running." ( Runner's World)

Featured Article: 20 Best Audiobooks for Running Inspiration


Running can be an arduous task, especially for those who are new to the sport. It can also be a life-giving force for those who are already more involved in the running community. Either way, it’s one of the best athletic ventures to couple with a great audiobook. Listening to the inspirational stories of other runners can be just what you need to push through a difficult jog or set a new personal record. These audiobooks are the perfect partners for your next workout.

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What listeners say about Once a Runner

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Get the Book, Not the Audiobook

Where does Once a Runner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The story is one of the best, however, I would have much preferred a different narrator (I just felt like he wasn't a good fit for the age of the characters).

What did you like best about this story?

As a former college runner, I appreciate the author being so knowledgeable about the college running culture and telling Quentin's story in a fun and quirky way.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Patrick Lawlor?

A college runner, actually. He would know better how to act the parts, and he would sound of the same age of the characters. It sounded like the narrator may have been a good 30 years older than these college boys. If not a college runner for the part, then at least someone who sounds more of the same character as Quentin Cassidy.

If you could rename Once a Runner, what would you call it?

I like the title.

Any additional comments?

Such a runners cult classic. This book will be enjoyed for decades.

Also, there is a sequel to this book, which I started once but didn't finish, as at least the first several chapters aren't really running related. And I might say that although women could easily enjoy Once a Runner, the sequel seems to be more of a man's book (about fishing, war, etc).

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Spellbinding!

A great story, particularly if you are a runner or are involved in aerobic sports.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wind in Your Face

In a field, far deprived from human contact, Quenton Cassidy and Bruce Denton clip off sixty-second quarters in preparation for the inevitable dance with fate – the ever, elusive four-minute mile. In Once a Runner, John L. Parker, Jr. masterfully captures the collegiate running experience while following his main character Quenton Cassidy.



The research behind this novel is right on the mark. The famed Millrose Games, with its long, rich history is best known for its Wanamaker Mile. John captures the allure of this event, and other great events like the Drake Relays with excitement and passion. Southeastern University is the home to its greatest athletes that are full of college politics, back history, athletes that have Olympic and World hopes and some drama.

Rolling through campus, bobbing and weaving through campus students, Quenton Cassidy and his merry gents feel the wind in there faces, and the ground beneath them. I listened to this book in the car and I found myself lost in my childhood. As a kid, I grew up running with a local track club and then eventually in high school. I remember how it made me feel. I remember the joy of the wind in my face and the rolling hills of a single-track trail winding through a wooded forest. I detested the intervals much like the characters in this book; however, nonetheless this book is a must read for anyone who loves running.

After reading this book, you will want to hit the trails or streets for some exercise – that alone is inspiring.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

motivating, inspiring.

This book will take you to the limit. immpossible to put down! worth your money, every penny of it!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tk
  • 12-15-19

Not a good story

The narrator is crap and sounds terrible.
He sounds like a 5 year old. not recomended

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

For my first read a running book it was good

Is it a coincidence that when I listened to "The Perfect Mile" (a great book) part of it sounded like this book....did the author of this book use the ideas of The Perfect Mile and change the characters and story around a bit?
It was a good book but I found the first part really boring and dragged on until the storey finally started to emerge. The narrator was kind of irritating to listen to until I became used to his whiney voice.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

the way it really is

This book was a pretty realistic telling of the typical journey to being a world class competitive runner. There are many distractions along the way, and John Parker does a good job of laying them out.

2 people found this helpful

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overrated cult book

Struggled to finish. It was not what I had expected. As someone who has been a competative runner since 6th grade, It was easy to relate to the emotions described. But overall, the story was not inspiring nor interesting

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

Great story and great audible performance. I understand now why this is considered a runner’s must read.

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Good Book

I enjoyed it. I got lost sometimes in the pros but that gives me an excuse to listen to it again. it is well written and extremely intense at the end. glad I listened.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Janet
  • 01-09-12

Simply Lovely

I was there - with the night runners:-) A great book for audio and beautifully read. Everyone who has ever put one foot in from=nt of the other should listen to this book:-)

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Colette
  • 07-31-10

Feel the pain!!

If you've had any involvement in endurance sport then you'll enjoy this. Basically, a story of no gain without pain and total dedication, plus a good ending and it's beautifully written. Well read too.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • EKENNY
  • 07-19-10

Enjoyable for Runners and with a great finish

I love books that take you inside the mind of a runner and attempt to offer explanations about the single minded dedication and pain that I guess all runners experience. This book, set largely on a US college campus, is both fascinating and feels real. I run and so can empathise with much of the activity - it may be less interesting for non-runners...

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Luna Dog
  • 07-30-20

Trial of miles and miles of trials

Found it compulsive listening, but I am a runner. The theme is running but the book is about zealously following a passion, working hard day after day, overcoming obstacles to succeed or at least having the satisfaction of giving everything. Some of the characters are devoid of substance and few real setbacks for the lead character. I will listen again.

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  • Chambers
  • 02-09-18

Surprisingly brilliant

I have listened to countless running biographies and never thought I would enjoy a fictional running book. I am happy to admit I was very wrong.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book and am delighted to see that there are 2 other books in this series.
Patrick Lawlor is also a credit to this audio book.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-28-15

SOOOOOOO BORING

i love running but this was utterly tedious and accent absurd. you can do much better

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-03-21

High hopes dashed

I had higher hopes for this book after it was included on so many 'must read' lists. It gets better after half way, but there are too many parts that add nothing to the story or character development.