A couple of weeks ago author Stephen Paske sent me his book to read and review. It’s called “Breaking Stride” (2006)and is a fictional account of two high school cross country runners competing for the state title. The summary on the back of the book reads,
“On a late July evening, two runners tear by each other in the middle of Elm Creek Nature Reserve. Their eyes meet. In the cold stare of the enemy comes the sudden realization that the State Title is no longer a certainty. Each runner had thought nobody else could possibly be training with the same ferocity. They thought wrong. Now an inevitable confrontation looms.”
If this sounds dramatic, it is. Written with seriousness and intensity, Paske has created two competing characters who believe in puking their way to the finish line every time.
An all-state runner in high school and a college competitor, Paske himself has always had a love of running. More recently he coached high school track/field and cross country and took his team to several championships. His passion for and knowledge of the sport is evident in his writing. Full of vivid and gut-wrenching descriptions of what it feels like to push beyond one’s physical limits, the book draws in any runner who has had these puke threshold experiences.
Paske has undoubtedly undergone these physiological challenges himself. A little researching done on his website reveals that he ran a 10K in 32:03 in 1998. His fastest mile is 4:23 in 1996. Dude is amazing!
Here Paske describes the main character’s quest to run a sub 15 minute 5K (three consecutive 4:48 miles):
“Fiery acid ravaged his legs. The lungs and heart increased productivity to meet the escalating demand. Due to their training, they adjusted. Accustomed to torment, Rod’s body attained a point of survivable homeostasis.”
For me, these descriptions were the best part of the book. Even if we’re not shooting for elite times in a race, we all know the feeling of our bodies breaking down and pushing on anyway.
After the reading the book my guess is that Paske’s target audience is 12-18 year olds and possibly those of college age. The writing is basic and the storyline is easy to follow. The lessons learned in the book would be relevant to any teenager faced with doing the right thing versus winning. There are not many novels written about the cross country or track runner, so this would be a great and informative read for anyone who runs in high school/college.
*Immaturity Alert* Because I love all things flatulence, one of my favorite quotes in the book describes a character’s experience during a race when he has just been cussed at by another competitor- “Words didn’t bother me. I just cut him off, farted, and let him fester in the stench.” I could SO relate. I do this ALL THE TIME in races. Don’t let the running skirt fool you.
Overall, I enjoyed the book for its subject matter. A point of criticism is that, IMHO, Paske occasionally writes too melodramatically and overuses metaphors. The 112 pages of this short book are loaded with figurative expressions such as, “calves rippling like cooled waters,” “the weeping willow trees hung like mops of hair,” and, “the heat made him as loose as a brothel." (my personal favorite). One gets the sense that Paske is sometimes over-trying to be deep and literary.
“Breaking Stride” can be purchased at the author’s website. Also on this site you can download a copy of the book for FREE! Donations are appreciated.
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