I wrote a paper on OAR back in high school. Granted it isn't a very good one, maybe it will give you some ideas or help.
To the Fellow Scholars of the Sacred Order of Endorphins
The number of times a distance runner is asked why he does it is roughly equal to the amount of people he or she has met who are not runners. People seem to think it is ridiculous to go out on a blistering summer day and go running as an activity of leisure. Onlookers confused faces seem to say “what is wrong that shirtless individual streaking down the road in less-than-socially-acceptable-length shorts? Is someone chasing him?”. Although, one must distinguish the difference between a real runner and the zombie-like movements of the casual iPod-wearing jogger who’s sole goal is to run off the guilt caused by a Snickers Bar. The difference is a real runner treats it as a lifestyle, not a hobby. It takes a specific type of person to be a member of this cult-like group dedicated to their daily ritual of hammering the pavement. A book titled Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. manages to personify the qualities that are necessary to be a runner through the character Quenton Cassidy. One must face the psychology struggle and the sacrifices in order to find the forms of enlightenment achieved by long-distance running.
“Mind Over Matter” is a common phrase associated with overcoming physiological obstacles by means of willpower. A runner is constantly pushing his body to the limit while every muscle screams for him to stop. During “the last lap of a foot race...[it feels like] running in peanut butter up to [one’s] waist,”(Parker 10). It’s as if one is attempting to keep going but some invisible force is preventing him or her from continuing. Yet it is not simply the physical pain that a runner must overcome. Quenton’s trainer tells him that “runners deal in discomfort. Once you get past a certain point that’s all their really is,” (222). A runner must walk the fine line between discomfort and despair. He must learn to push on in a state of mind where all that fills their mind is doubt. During Quenton’s 60 by 440 yard repeat workout he reminds himself during his suffering that “the slightest break in concentration [would] allow self-pity to well up in him instantly”. (224) He knows that if he lets himself give in to the pain that he will stop pushing himself. This battle between mind and body is a major aspect of running, but another part is being able to do it every day.
A runner must have some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in order to achieve his goals. He must be willing to sacrifice a portion of every day, excluding those dedicated to recovery, for his addiction. When preparing for his morning run, Quenton thinks about how “he [does] not much like this early morning business, but the idea of forgoing it,... never crossed his mind,”(10). The need to get in a daily run becomes so deeply ingrained in a runner’s mind that not doing it seems out of the question. Quenton attempts to explain this phenomena to his girlfriend when tells her, “it’s demons, you see;...[they make me run] about sixteen, eighteen miles a day,”(59). This is the representation of the inner forces pushing a runner to go lace up the shoes and throw on a pair of shorts. Yet the true dedication is found in the stage known as “breaking down”. Quenton’s describes this stage where “he became weak, depressed; he needed twelve to fourteen hours of sleep,” (120). He feels that during this period is when “his life was most certainly focused on the Task,” (120). This intensity and hard work pays off though. Quenton remarks “from the crucible of such inner turmoil comes various metals, soft or brittle...that determine the good runners, the great runners,...and the former runners,”(120). If a runner can make it through the psychological struggle and the everyday toil, he is rewarded for his efforts.
The constant pushing and hard work gives a runner a purpose. A runner gains a sense of accomplishment; of worth from his strife. Quenton remarks that “running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew... it made him weary...but it also made him free,” (123). Running in it’s nature is the simplest sport there is, yet it is beautiful in it’s simplicity. He can see his progress in the physical manifestation of the ticking time off the clock. Quenton describes being in running shape as “[making] you want to bolt awake in the middle of the night with a shot of your own adrenaline, ready to run a hundred miles,”(60). The feeling of being in your best physical shape to-date after endless weeks of training can be described as jumpy ecstasy. Yet post-run is not the only time a runner experiences out-of-the-ordinary sensations. During high intensity running some find themselves in a situation in which their perception of reality is altered. This is most likely brought on by the decreased oxygen flow to the brain and release of the body’s natural pain-killers, endorphins. As Quenton grits through his 60 by 440 yard repeats “his mind had now taken up a melody, Fur Elise, and played it constantly without apparent pattern except that as each quarter began, so did his fragment of Beetwoven,” (225). This period of near-hallucination “[reassures] him that there were at least others in the universe capable of understanding,”(225). This moment of enlightenment helps Quenton realize what it takes to be the best runner that he can be.
In conclusion, Quenton Cassidy is the manifestation of the qualities of the ideal runner. Once A Runner gives a paragon for runners to aspire to. It teaches a lesson that all people come to learn. The harder one works, the greater the reward.