The Back Of The Pack

Book Review - Racing the Rain

By Gary Pulver

I know that many of you have read Once A Runner. It is one of the absolute best novels about a runner ever written. I am wondering if you know that the author, John L. Parker, has written two other novels about the main character in Once A Runner. Parker's other two books are Again to Carthage and Racing the Rain. Again to Carthage is the sequel to Once a Runner and Racing the Rain is the prequel to Once a Runner.

For those of you who have not read any of these books, I can highly recommend all three and will say a bit about each one, although the review is mainly about Racing the Rain. In Once A Runner, we follow the main character (Quentin Cassidy) when he is in his early 20's and his time in college. He is a member of the track team and is considered a miler. After becoming involved in a student protest, he is dismissed from the track team. He retreats to the countryside and begins training for the race of his life against the greatest miler in history. This book was written in 1978. Thirty years later, Again to Carthage was published. In this novel, Quentin Cassidy returns to training in a last ditch effort to make the Olympic team as a marathoner.

Racing the Rain was published by Parker in 2015. Here we get to read the story of Quentin Cassidy's growing up in the 50's and 60's in Florida. Young Quentin and his buddy enjoy when a storm is brewing. They love trying to stay ahead of the rain as it sweeps across the town. Quentin is an absolute sports nut, he runs everywhere but basketball is his chosen sport at first. He plays all the time but because he is short, he has a difficult time making the team. He works at it and works at it and finally does make the squad in junior high. He doesn't get to play very much but a professional recommends to him that he work the hardest on using his left hand. Before a high school season he practices and practices dribbling and shooting with his left hand and the next season he finds himself getting to play some and eventually starting. He ends up leading his team to the state finals because of his shooting and left handed skills that he practiced so hard.

The next season, his coach has left and another coach has come in. This coach is very rigid and does not allow Quentin to freelance and run the team (the thing that was so successful the year before). After a game in which he singlehandedly brings the team back from a big deficit, the coach benches him for not following his directions. The coach ends up kicking him off the team for not doing things the way he requires even though Quentin has been very successful.

This is how Quentin ends up joining the cross country team. He loves basketball but the cross country coach notices how good a runner he is and talks him into joining the team. We follow Quentin's story as to how he became a runner, thanks a lot to a coach he has never met that trains him through an eccentric old friend. Just like in the other two novels, the descriptions of the races Quentin runs are absolutely mesmerizing. Do yourself a big favor and read these books by Parker. They are all huge motivators for runners to train a bit harder than they currently are training.

A few other reviews of Racing the Rain:

"Racing the Rain's depiction of the running life and the Florida of an era gone by is wonderfully authentic. Among those who've tried to capture the drama and beauty of the sport, John L. Parker, Jr. is surely the best." (Jeff Galloway, U.S. Olympian)

"I absolutely loved this book…Filled with vivid descriptions that tingle the senses, Racing the Rain is a story of innocence and coming of age, and of ignoring self doubt and overcoming limitations imposed by others. John L. Parker, Jr. shows us that with hard work, perseverance, friendships and loyalty, dreams do come true." (Marshall Ulrich, extreme endurance athlete and author of Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record Setting Run Across America)

"In Racing the Rain, John Parker not only creates the indomitable Quenton Cassidy, but perfectly captures the world that teaches him to be so enduring. From diving the Atlantic deeps to paddling the intracoastal waterways, young Cassidy develops the metabolism of a champion. Parker shows that the wilds of his beloved Loxahatchee River are just as good a cradle for a miler as the Colorado mountains or the Oregon woods. I was with him all the way." (Kenny Moore, former Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated, and 1968 and 1972 Olympic Marathoner)


Gary Pulver's Bio

Gary Pulver Gary was born in upstate New York in 1947, graduated from State University of New York at Geneseo in 1969, and taught one year of junior high math before joining the Air Force in 1970. Uncle Sam sent him to Texas where he was stationed in San Antonio, Wichita Falls and Abilene. He received his Masters Degree at Abilene Christian University and moved to Arlington in 1974 where he taught junior high math for five years and was a junior high guidance counselor for for 34 years. He likes to joke that he spent 44 years in junior high.

Gary played baseball throughout his school years and was a good bowler through high school and college. He was on the Geneseo bowling team and once was part of a state championship team. Athletic endeavors were limited to softball once he moved to Arlington. He became a runner at the ripe old age of 63. He was nearing retirement when his wife said "Now you're not going to just sit around and play on the computer when you retire are you!!!" His reply was "How about I become a marathon runner!!" The stories of his running exploits will be described in his column but from a very humble beginning as a runner, he has trained with the likes of Bill Richardson and Joe Boyle and is currently a member of The Running Bear Running Club in Granbury where he and his wife, Karen, have retired. Early in his running career he made himself the goal of running a race in all 50 states. He has currently done so in 20 states and 3 countries and has races in 14 more states on his calendar to be completed by the end of September, 2015.

Gary's columns will focus on two aspects of running, the older runner and the slower runner, for he happily admits to being both of these.