Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Stride by Stephen Paske

I received a copy of Breaking Stride (Amazon affiliate link) in my pre-race bag from the Fox Cities Marathon. I have received lots of coupons, samples of balm and lotion, water bottles, shirts, movement bracelets, and race announcements, but never a book.

Last weekend I tucked Breaking Stride into my hunting supplies and brought it with me into the tree stand. Since I wouldn't be running my normal Saturday long run I figured that I should at least read about running.

Breaking Stride is a short novel about two high school track and cross country runners from rival Minnesota high schools. The narrator, a teammate of one of the competitors, chronicles the development of the runners, their growing rivalry, and their eventual only head to head race in the Minnesota state high school cross country race.

Ferocity of Racing
The most compelling aspect of the book is the visual details and rich description of the racing. I felt as if I was running stride for stride with the racers. I could feel their aches and pains as their muscles and brains gasped for more oxygen. The author eloquently writes about the anguish and exhilaration of distance running. He captures the gut busting exhaustion of a one mile time trial, "Lactic acid scorched my quads. My eyes raged with the fury of Satan. I grimaced, focused forward, my only goal in life to live until the next straight."

Short of the Finish Line
Perhaps because I was in a tree and frequently scanning the woods for whitetail deer I missed some critical plot developments. The story was narrated by another runner that was a teammate but not a central figure. He was among many characters that entered the story but then didn't continue in a meaningful way.

My favorite sentence of the book was about teammate Carrie Amundson. The narrator describes her this way:

"She had long black hair, a petite runner's body, and a chest that filled out a jog bra with shocking fullness."

Unfortunately that was the last we heard of Carrie and a few paragraphs later the narrators role flickered out of the story as well.

Part of the One Flight Fiction Series
Breaking Stride is part of the One Flight Fiction series - books meant to be read in a single plane flight (about three hours). It is a quick and enjoyable read with especially pleasing race sequences.

Do you have a favorite running book? Or are you a runner and author looking for a book review?

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