Again to Carthage is the captivating sequel to Once A Runner, the cult classic that made it’s way to the New York Times Best Seller list thirty years after it was first published. Quenton Cassidy is now a successful attorney in the Palm Beach area of Florida. He is quite happy enjoying leisurely runs (@ 6:00 ppm), fishing expeditions in the Bahamas, and snorkeling for fresh seafood. But, something is missing. He yearns for the excitement and the intensity of competition.
After hearing about the death of a former teammate in Vietnam, Cassidy’s safe and comfortable world is shaken. Shortly after that, he loses his grandfather and heads back to his home in North Carolina to attend the funeral. While visiting, he reconnects with his extended family and appreciates the meaningful relationships in his life. His uncle then dies in an industrial accident and Cassidy realizes that he wants to make the most of the time he has, and the gifts he’s been given.
Just as Dido begs for her lover to return again to Carthage in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Cassidy’s love for running won’t let him be. He decides to dedicate himself to making the Olympic team once again. This time, he sets his sights on competing in the marathon at the 1980 Olympic Games. He moves back to North Carolina seeking isolation and dedicating himself to the task at hand. Bruce Denton returns to coach and mentor Cassidy in his quest to become one of only a handful of runners, to run both a sub-four minute mile, and finish the marathon in less than 2:10:00.
Cassidy trains on the trails and hills of North Carolina and logs upwards of 130 miles per week in his single-minded pursuit. The workouts are described in such authentic detail that only an experienced runner could have written this story. Parker excels in capturing the essence of competitive desire as well as the anxiety that that runners feel when training for an all-or-nothing race.
The story culminates with the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. It is an unforgettable chapter for anyone who has run, or plans to run, a marathon. While it can be a bit over-the-top at times, I think the story perfectly illustrates the lunacy of Quenton Cassidy, who knows no boundaries in pushing himself to the extreme.
Parker has an interesting writing style. At times the story feels a little like a Carl Hiaason novel with silly situations and lots of Florida references, and at other times it becomes morose and philosophical. Some might complain that the story hops around a bit too much or becomes a thread that’s hard to follow, but I enjoyed this book very much.
Parker has stated that it doesn’t matter which book you read first, but I would disagree. I think that without reading Once A Runner I would have missed some very important elements to this story. If you are looking for a good read during your training phase, or a story to light your competitive fire, you’ll want to read Again to Carthage.