I really enjoyed this book. As a distance runner, I most enjoyed the author's memories of being young, fast, and part of a team of characters. But he also describes in great detail how it was--at least for him (I grew up under much different circumstances and much more conservative political influences)--to grow up amid the turmoil of the counterculture of the late 60s and early 70s.
I was continually amazed at the author's recollections--it was as if he had written, as a young man, an incredibly colorful and detailed journal not just of his running experiences, but of his entire adolescence with the foresight that he would one day write this book. Although the author was never a famous runner, he reached heights that most competitive runners can only wish to achieve, despite, in my opinion, wasting his potential. They say that "Youth is wasted on the young," and the author, like so many of us, wasted much of his youth on typically foolish, immature pursuits of adventure, escape, and a "good time." As the author writes, in one of my favorite quotes from the book, "I also know that nothing haunts us like promise unfulfilled." It takes years and maturity to come to that realization, and many of us eventually do.
The race descriptions are great, putting the reader right there with the author as a young runner whose ambitions, successes and disappointments are so common among compeitive runners. There is a lot of boasting (youthful or "glory days" reminiscing--it's never quite clear, but it's something so many of us do), but there is much self-deprecation to balance it out.
The in-depth, colorful, real-life character descriptions make the reader feel like he/she almost knows the young Don Kardong, Duncan McDonald and others while they were in "cocoon" stage prior to becoming great world-class runners.
Now, a note to those of you who, like myself, are much more conservative than the author was as a youth and, who knows?, perhaps still is today: There is a lot of rebellious, youthful, very liberal discussion that sometimes approaches the level of know-it-all preaching. I get it. But even though the author--at least as a young man--and I are essentially polar opposites politically, I found his youthful complaints and attitude wonderfully insightful and revealing. The saying goes that "If you're under 30 and not a liberal you have no heart, but if you're over 30 and not a conservative you have no brain." There is a lot of immature, "under 30" foolishness in the young author's political thinking, but recognizing that this book was written by a man now approaching his golden years leaves the reader with the realization that the mind that created this memoir is anything but immature and foolish. I highly recommend this book to runners and non-runners alike.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book. I could really relate to these. (Note: I use all caps rather than the author's italics because it's easier on this forum.) I hope the author won't mind:
"Ever since freshman year, I had wanted to be more than a decent runner; I had wanted to BLAZE. And although this wasn't going to happen, I still needed to feel my way back into who I used to be. Carl Jung would have called this a classic 'regressive restoration of the persona,' in which the protagonist 'laboriously tries to patch up his social reputation within the confines of a much more limited personality . . . pretending that he is as he was BEFORE the crucial experience.' The idea was to see if I could run for myself, not my coach, my teammates and my school this time."
"Being in love can change an athlete faster than anything except bad training, not training, injury, illness, and burn-out. But love was worth it anyway." (Note to Jamin: He could very well be talking to you.)
" . . . going forward I would forever be under a constant threat of injury--under the perpetual chance that some cruel fate was just around the corner, ready to freeze my knees, invade my blood, and thwart me again entirely. I still believed that how I handled setbacks would eventually correlate with my success or failure, but I also knew that I needed months if not years of training in order to become the distance-running champion I had envisioned myself becoming. I needed more time than I had."
"I still believed that only the strictest Puritanical conscience would attribute my derailment to my engagements with the counterculture." (Note to author: I must have a very Puritanical conscience.)
There are many other very memorable quotes that I highlighted in my Kindle copy, but you get the idea. Note: the Kindle copy could used some more editing for errors, but it's nothing serious enough to take away from the author's excellent writing.