John clearly captures the feeling of running. The time in the locker rooms, on the track, out on the roads... he has this down. I was not in his (or Cassidy's) class of running but I did compete in high school and college and later coached high school. He knows the inside outs and crafts a good story.
Ultimately, I was left unsatisfied on two counts. One, in the climatic race, Cassidy gets entered in the name of another runner. This does not sit well with me. Track is still not well accepted in the USA. You really only hear of it during Olympic years. To have the hero stoop to this level to succeed runs counter to the ideals of the true Olympic sport, especially with drug enhanced performances still in the news. (Yes, I confess, I am an idealist!)
Two, you don't find out his time in this climatic race. I don't want to reveal any more than this to spoil it for anyone who has not yet read the book. I have my suspicions what his time was but since John did not reveal it, Cassidy's finishing time is left open to speculation.
From the opening chapter:
He was going to have to pick up the thread of a normal life again and although he did not know exactly why, he had to start by coming back here, back to the greenhouse warmth of the Panhandle, back to the very quarter mile oval that still held his long-dried sweat. Back to September, the month of promises. He put his bag down by the pole vault pit, looked uptrack to make sure no one was coming, and then walked up to the starting line. God, he thought, one more time on the line.Yes, the shadows can be very good!
In lane one, he stood very still, looking down at his street shoes (joggers now going around him with curious glances) and tried to conjure up the feeling. After a moment a trace of it came to him and he knew that was all there would be. You can remember it, he told himself, but you can not experience it again this way. You have to be satisfied with the shadows. Then he thought of the second and third laps and decided with a little twist of a smile that the shadows were sometimes quite enough.
Updated 4/7/09 with new link to Amazon page with re-issue of hard cover copy of the book!