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John L. Parker Interview by Gary Cohen

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Aug 4 2009, 12:33 AM | 4532 views
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John L. Parker, Jr. — August, 2009
John L. Parker, Jr. is the author of several books, including the cult classic, ‘Once a Runner,’ and its sequel, ‘Again to Carthage,’ which both detail the fictional account of runner Quenton Cassidy. Before it’s reprinting in 2007, ‘Once a Runner’ was consistently the most requested out-of-print book on websites such as Amazon.com and EBay.com, fetching prices in excess of $200. Parker was a three-time Southeastern Conference Mile Champion for the University of Florida where he received his undergraduate and law degrees. His career has included stints as an attorney, newspaper reporter, speechwriter and editor. In the early 1970s he trained with Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler and Jeff Galloway as a member of the Florida Track Club. His personal best times include: 800 meters – 1:50 (relay split); Mile – 4:05.2; 2-Mile – 8:48; 3,000 meter steeplechase – 8:51.54; 3-mile – 13:45; 6-mile cross-country – 29:00; half marathon – 1:07:15 and marathon – 2:33. At Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida he was point guard on the basketball team that made the state’s ‘Final Four,’ Orange County champion in cross country and a ‘4:32 or 4:33 miler.’ John suffered a very serious heart condition in 2007, but has recovered and is pondering writing his next novel.
GCR: Your novel, ‘Once a Runner,’ the fictional account of college runner, Quenton Cassidy, has had a cult following among runners for many years. Describe the range of emotions you felt over time as publishers rejected your novel, it was self-published, you sold it at races or on consignment and then it grew to become a ‘must-read’ for serious distance runners.
JP At first I was incredulous that publishers didn’t see the value of the book. Not because it was necessarily that good (though I certainly thought it was), but because when I first submitted it, America was at the very height of the running ‘boom’ and almost anything having to do with running was selling. Jim Fixx’s ‘Complete Book of Running’ was a major best-seller, and to my way of thinking it was the blandest, most pedestrian overview of running I could imagine. I suppose I went through a period of anger, naturally, and a trace of that remains to this day. After that, I settled into one mode: grim determination. If I had to become a publisher myself, I would. If I had to sell it one copy at a time out of the trunk of my car, I would.
GCR: ‘Once a Runner’ was based loosely on your own successful running and racing at the University of Florida. Were many of the fictional aspects of Quenton Cassidy’s story things that you wished you had done?
JP Not as much as one might think. I made him a better runner than I was at the beginning of the story, but not that much better (4:00.3 versus 4:05.2). But a great deal of the story came straight from my life: I was captain of my cross-country and track teams; I was conference champion in the mile; I was on a team full of wonderfully crazy guys; we did pull off a huge fake honor court ‘trial’ of a fellow athlete; there was an athletes’ protest about dorm and ‘grooming’ rules which I took part in, and so on. But in one respect I think your question is right on. Cassidy sublimates all the conflicts in his life into his running by removing himself to a monastic retreat and making himself great. In real life, I continued running, finished law school, and went on to begin a career in the law. After several years, I realized that I had this story inside me and that I would never be happy until I told it. That’s when I followed Cassidy to a monastic retreat and lived out my dream. In that regard, my writing became the ‘impossible dream’ that Cassidy’s running was to him.
GCR: Describe your thought process when writing a book that is fiction, but based loosely on facts.
JP I am a person who believes in carefully delineating between fact and fiction, but in my fictional books for the vast majority of readers they are just reading a story. As a writer I have to understand that and realize that nobody cares what may be factual and my task as a writer is to write the best story. To most readers it doesn’t matter if a book is 80% factual and 20% fiction or the other way around. A writer has to keep that in mind though it is a tricky thing to know when to let it go so I suppose that is what the art is all about. Since there is such a difference between nonfiction and fiction writing that’s why not all good writers of one genre are good at the other.
GCR: The long-awaited sequel, ‘Again to Carthage,’ was published in 2007 and picks up ten years after the main events in ‘Once a Runner.’ If you had made a serious comeback, would you have focused on racing the marathon as Cassidy does?
JP ‘Again to Carthage’ picks up just a few hours after the epilogue chapter of ‘Once a Runner’ ends. It is several years after the climactic race, however, and Cassidy has returned from the Olympics. When I took my ‘sabbatical’ to write ‘Once a Runner,’ I went back into very serious training (100-plus miles a week) because I wanted to be living the kind of life I was trying to describe. I wanted to be competing, too, and because I was no longer in a collegiate program, road races were the most accessible racing venues, so that’s what I ran: 10k’s, 10-milers, half-marathons. I had already run a single marathon in 1970, and I swore at the time it would be my first and last. But I was racing at distances much longer than I had ever run seriously before, so in that respect I could certainly identify with what Cassidy was going through.
GCR: Non-runners and joggers all do seem to want to know ‘The Secret.’ It really does come down to ‘Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials.’ Did you discover this for yourself, by observing the great runners you trained with or a combination of both?
JP I would never have discovered ‘the secret’ on my own. It was Jack Bacheler [this is the correct spelling, by the way] who taught it to me, Frank Shorter and all the rest of us. Left to my own devices, I would have done intervals almost every day and I would probably never have run farther than three or four miles. And incidentally, the phrase ‘Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials’ was not one that we ever used, to my knowledge. It was something that came to me as I was writing ‘Once a Runner.’
GCR: You trained with legendary runners such as Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler and Jeff Galloway as members of the Florida Track Club. What are a few favorite stories of especially tough training sessions and some humorous tales?
JP Many of them have become apocryphal. The time we ran over the top of a car that had thrown things at us, that actually happened. There were times when we caught each other sneaking out at night to run extra workouts. I remember one time when Shorter tried to run away from me at the end of a night run I turned on my ‘miler afterburners’ and just smoked him, laughing like a banshee all the way down University Avenue.
GCR: Who was setting the tone and overall training philosophy for the top runners in Gainesville at that time?
JP Jack Bacheler was the primary reason most of the good distance runners were in Gainesville as he was the premier runner in the country before Steve Prefontaine’s time. Jack always laughed that he is the answer to the trivia question, ‘Who is the only U.S. distance runner with a perfect record against Pre?’ They faced each other three or four times early in Prefontaine’s career with Jack beating him each time. Frank Shorter was an undergraduate at Yale and wanted to meet Jack so I introduced him. Frank was a bit ‘ga ga’ as he was a fan. Jack produced the pearl in the oyster. Everyone didn’t train with him, but they were influenced by him. His running group was very punctual and you could always count on him. But although we worked very hard in training, Bacheler didn’t believe in doing ‘showcase’ workouts - just the opposite, in fact. He always used to say that no matter how hard an interval workout was, he liked to leave the track feeling like he could turn around and do nearly the same workout again immediately. Not that it would be easy, but that it would be do-able. So, while some of the workouts would certainly be impressive, none of them would be legendary, like the 60 quarter workout in ‘Once a Runner.’ That was something I came up with completely on my own, and Jack would certainly never approve of anything remotely like it. He believed in making slow, steady progress through a rational and extremely consistent training program.
GCR: You mentioned the ’60 Quarter Workout.’ The interval session in ‘Once a Runner’ when Cassidy does three sets of 20 repeat 440s seems like it is out of the ‘Emil Zatopek Masochistic Training Manual.’ Did you or any of your training partners actually do this workout or come close to completing it?
JP I did the workout myself, alone. It took 5 ½ hours to finish. I didn’t urinate blood - that happened several times after other workouts, but not this time - but I did have trouble walking the next day. It was during my first year of serious running and I had run 4:10 indoors. I just decided to do it one afternoon. I was trying for an effort of around 63, 64 or 65 seconds, but doing so many of them I was running 70 or 71 seconds toward the end.
GCR: After your successful collegiate running career, how close did you come to moving up another level as you trained with your eye on the 1972 Olympic Trials?
JP I was probably in the group of runners that was one notch below those who were Olympic hopefuls. I was selected to go to an Olympic development camp in Eugene, Oregon for 800 meter, 1,500 meter and 3,000 meter steeplechase runners. In 1972 I would have needed to be several seconds faster to seriously think about the Olympics.
GCR: Was the concept of ‘The Absence of Compromise’ used by Quenton Cassidy to totally focus on running a necessity for you and for the Olympians you trained with?
JP It was an absolute necessity. That was the Consistency Ethic that Jack taught us. We felt that if a runner started to compromise a little here and there, he’d never know when to quit compromising. Then, when it came time to race, you’d never know if you were as absolutely prepared as you could be.
GCR: All runners who put in thousands of miles on the road are taunted at one time or another as Cassidy was. Did you ever find yourself in any dangerous or life-threatening situations?
JP It occurred no more so than to any other pedestrian, for the most part. But there was one occasion I was doing intervals at about 9 o’clock at night in Gainesville on a big grass field in front of Norman Hall, which is right next to sorority row. A bunch of guys going by tried to grab a girl and drag her into their car. I heard her scream and started running toward the car as fast as I could. Another student, a male cheerleader I knew, was talking with his girlfriend in a nearby car and he came running over too. When the would-be abductors saw us, they let the girl go and took off. I ran behind the car as it sped away, memorizing the license plate, which I later reported to the police. The girl was understandably hysterical, and I never even spoke to her. I went back immediately and finished my workout. The license number, predictably, turned out to be bogus, and as far as I know they never caught anyone. Only later did it occur to me that those guys might have been armed.
GCR: The story of Jack Nubbins in both books is fascinating. Those of us who raced in college can all relate to the brash freshman, Nubbins, in ‘Once a Runner.’ Some of us have also had eerily similar occurrences such as his appearance in ‘Again to Carthage.’ Discuss the factual and fictional aspects of Nubbins.
JP Jack Nubbins was based very closely on a real athlete named Jack Nason, who competed for Evans High School in Orlando and later for the University of Florida. I ran against Jack in high school when I was a senior and he was a freshman. (Evans was one of the very few high schools in the state that had a 9th grade as part of the high school back then and I guess freshmen were allowed to compete in varsity athletics if they were good enough.) I was the county cross-country champion and my school’s mile record-holder, but this puny little 9th grader beat me in every mile race we ran, usually by inches. Jack just got better and better at running, graduating from Evans three years later with six state titles and a 4:13.4 PR in the mile. He came to the University of Florida on a track scholarship and by that time I had transferred back to UF and switched from basketball to track. I guess it was some form of karma that our lives would be thus intertwined. Jack’s personality was very much as I described Nubbins’ in ‘Once a Runner,’ and we did in fact once have it out between us in a workout that turned into an out-and-out race, just as described early in the book. That seemed to sort things out between us once and for all. He was still a very good runner, but he had a hard time adjusting to the fact that he was no longer the Big Dog in the pack. Years later, after ‘Once a Runner’ had been published, I heard that Jack hated the way he was portrayed in the book. That surprised me a little because I knew how much Jack had always loved attention, and I thought he’d be flattered to be such a major character in the story even if the portrait wasn’t entirely flattering. And if one were to take the book literally, Jack could certainly make a case that he was treated harshly. In real life, for instance, Nason wasn’t the butt of the honor court prank; that had actually been a basketball player named Tony Duva. But as a writer, I needed a dupe from the track team and Nubbins was the obvious choice. Civilians probably don’t realize how ruthless writers can be when they’re ‘imposing a narrative’ on the incredible jumble that is real life. I felt badly when I heard how Jack felt about his fictional counterpart. In the winter of 2003, as I was working on ‘Again to Carthage’ I got the flabbergasting news that Jack Nason had died in Gainesville of a massive brain aneurysm. That news haunted me for weeks and I eventually decided to put Jack in the sequel as a kind of homage to him. Some readers who haven’t run long distances might think it an aberration to insert a spectre into an otherwise realistic novel, but I came to realize that it was a perfect way to illustrate how feverish, hallucinatory and downright freaky the last few miles of an all-out marathon can be. My old rival and teammate, Jack Nason, turned out to be a helpful phantom in both real life and in my fictional world as well.
GCR: You were the three-time Southeastern Conference Champion in the mile. Who were some of your favorite and toughest competitors and how did your victories proceed?
JP Tennessee had two good milers, Dave Scire and Dickie Kleier, who both eventually came close to four minutes in the mile. LSU had a miler at 4:05 or better. In most of our races I simply let Scire or Kleier set the pace and I jumped them with 300 yards to go and out kicked them. In our last big race together, the SEC meet in Gainesville, the pace was dawdling, so I took the lead right after the first quarter and just ran away from them. I think it surprised the hell out of them. But I was determined to run a good time, and I ended up tying my PR, which was then the school record, at 4:06.7. They had better PR’s than I did, but I was usually better prepared on race days.
GCR: Your personal best mile of 4:05.2 came fairly close to the magical mark of the four-minute mile. How important was is to you to break this mark, was it disappointing to come so close or were you satisfied that you did your best and left it all out on the track?
JP My mile PR was run indoors on an 11-lap-to-the-mile board track, which is probably worth an extra second per quarter-mile. So that effort was probably worth a 4:01 or so. Of course I wanted to break four minutes with every fiber of my being, but it just wasn’t in the cards. And yes, in just about every single race I ran on the track, I was sure I left everything out there. I don’t know if I got that from Jack, or if I just decided it on my own, but I was determined that I would not live my life wondering ‘what might have been’ if I had only tried harder. I gave it all I had, every time.
GCR: You raced an 8:51:54 in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, a University of Florida record that stood for 13 years. Did you enjoy the mental and physical toughness of the steeplechase and progress to your potential in this event?
JP Not really. At the time it wasn’t an SEC event, so I couldn’t devote much time to it. But I was interested in it because I could hurdle. Jack had run it in college, too, and was intrigued by it. But it truly is a grueling event, not just because you have to hurdle and jump, but because psychologically you can never just relax and let your subconscious deal with the pain. You have to be mentally alert and ‘in the moment’ the whole time. It’s just excruciating. I have immense respect for good steeplechasers.
GCR: Based on the way you raced while at Florida, it seems like you had a bit more speed than some of your competitors. What were some of your favorite track sessions while in college?
JP I had a pretty good kick and a fairly good half mile time. I ran on relays fairly often, especially indoors, and 1:50 was my fastest split. I was sure I could have gone well under 1:50 if I had prepped for it, so I had good leg speed for a miler and didn’t lose many races on the kick. If I was in position, I was in good shape. I like doing interval workouts for the speed. Most of them were fun for me. I liked the 20 quarters workouts which were usually done with a 110 yard jog. Recoveries were always jogging and never walking or standing. The workouts were tough, but the pace was always reasonable and not outlandish. You never felt you were on the edge of desperation or in danger of falling back. We would hit 68s or 69s early in the season and progress from there. Later in the season I’d have to run with the half milers to sharpen for the big races. I’d average 57 or 58 for eight quarters with the last on around 54. Now if you ran with Marty Liquori reasonable paces weren’t the case as getting through a workout with Liquori was tough. Jack often had us do complicated ladders so you never knew where you were or what was coming up next so sometimes we were protected from becoming anxious. Quite a few times when we asked what was next, he would say, ‘That’s it – you’re done.’
GCR: How did it come to pass that the Florida Head Track and Field Coach was Jimmy Carnes, but you trained under Jack Bacheler?
JP After my first cross country season I asked Coach Carnes if I could train solely with Jack and he was agreeable to that. I was in decent shape and had run a 1:53 half mile time trial and beat all but one of the half milers which got me on the relay. I also ran a 9:22 2-mile time trial which was a PR by about 40 seconds. I improved so dramatically with Jack and after just a month or so won the SEC Indoor Mile in 4:10.
GCR: In 1969 the Florida Gators cross country team finished second behind Tennessee in the SEC Championships. Compare and contrast your enjoyment of the team aspect of cross country versus the more individual focus of track and field.
JP That was a tough loss for us. I had coached that team myself from the middle of the previous summer right through to the finals in Birmingham that fall. We had beaten Tennessee in every race we had met them, including the NCAA regionals in Lexington. But we lost one of our top three, I think it was Mark Bir, to an injury there at the end, and those two great Tennessee milers, Scire and Kleier, both came through with outstanding performances. We only raced over 4 miles back then, and I really thought I could win it. I ran myself to an absolute standstill, but could only manage third. I would have felt like I let everyone down except I couldn’t think of anything I would have done differently. I think everyone else felt the same way, and that is one of the saving graces about running: When you know you’ve done everything you could, you can’t really have any regrets. Track is much more fragmented. Each specialty is so compartmentalized, so different from every other specialty that a big track meet is like some corporate undertaking. You just all do your thing and when it’s over some accountant comes over with the tallies and tells you who won. You’re still a team, but it’s a team of extremely diverse individuals. I tried to get some of that across in ‘Once a Runner.’
GCR: While in Law School in the early 1970s, how did you find competing in road races?
JP At my peak I never ran great times. My 10k PR is an extrapolation of my best 6-mile time of around 29 flat for cross country so that would be about 30 flat for 10k. I did run around 13:45 for three miles on the track which is comparable to a 14:15 5,000 meters. I had a very good half marathon which I’m proud of. I tied with Frank Shorter when he was at a low point in training in 1:07:15. That is pretty much the time given to Quenton Cassidy in ‘Again to Carthage’ when he runs at Dayton. In 1970 I ran a 2:33 marathon in Atlanta on a very hilly course in cold weather around November. That was my only marathon.
GCR: How did you get started running for Edgewater High School in Orlando and how successful were your high school running days?
JP I started running my junior year in high school. I went out for the track team just to have something to do in the afternoon after basketball season was over. I wanted to be a high jumper and cleared around five feet, eight inches. However, I found that if I hadn’t cleared a height by the time the mile came around, I wouldn’t afterward as the events were incompatible. One day we were doing 220s and jogging across the infield in between and I ‘discovered’ I was a runner. Out of the blue I thought, ‘After the third or fourth 220 I’ll blow these guys away and then they’ll kill me on the rest.’ And so I did and I ‘won’ that one. Then I was able to stay up with the front guys and I had a revelation, ‘Hey – I can do this!’ I ran about a 2:03 half mile and realized I may have some runner genes. If I even ran the mile it was over five minutes. During the summer before my senior year I ran to get ready for basketball. I kind of liked watching Jim Beatty on television and imitated him in my training. I didn’t realize it but I was doing intervals around my block without really knowing it. I didn’t train with the cross country team as basketball practice had started. But I would get excused from practice to run the cross country meets. My coach didn’t like this as it was a sign that I wasn’t focused on basketball. I won the Orange County meet by outkicking a good runner during the finishing 220 yards on the track with a 10:20 2-mile time. That was the last meet for me as the basketball coach ‘punished’ me for missing practice by putting me on second string. Then I made mincemeat out of them in practice and got back on first string. I played point guard on a good basketball team that made it to the State Semi-Finals. We had seven guys who could dunk! I was known as a basketball player and went to college on a basketball scholarship. The Edgewater High School cross country and track coach was the head football coach and he was basically moonlighting. Coach Don Blackwelder was a good guy but all he knew about running was holding a stop watch for us. In track I set the school record at 4:36 early in the season, breaking Neal Jenkins 4:37 from the previous year. The idea that I was faster than him flabbergasted me. I had about three or four races against Jack Nason where I stayed on his shoulder and tried to outkick him, but each time he won by inches. I did get down to 4:32 or 4:33. The Conference Meet was my last good meet. I went to the State Meet and blew up – I don’t know my time and probably don’t want to know. If I wasn’t dead last I was close to it. I was trying to decide between basketball and track for college and that race decided it for me.
GCR: How did you transition from a low 4:30s high school miler who went to college to play basketball to an SEC Champion miler at Florida?
JP I played freshman basketball at the University of Portland and averaged 20 points per game. I wasn’t happy with the Oregon weather. My high school coach asked around and I transferred to Florida to play for Coach Norm Sloan. But he took the coaching job that summer at N.C. State and Florida hired Tommy Bartlett from Tennessee. Coach Bartlett hadn’t recruited me but we ended up stuck with each other. During my redshirt sophomore year I practiced with the Gator basketball team while also watching track meets. Coach Carnes was salivating as he watched me as he was in charge of basketball players’ early season running. He could tell I was a runner. Coach Bartlett made it clear I would be a ‘practice dummy,’ wouldn’t travel with the basketball team or dress out so at that point I determined to switch to track, though I decided to run on my own before exposing myself to actual workouts on my own. I did some reading and knew I needed to run more over distance, but had trouble running over four or five miles. I would go out at night and do intervals on the track. So, I only had two years running for Florida – my senior year and first year of Law School.
GCR: Do you feel that you could have gone faster with several more years of focused training after Law School?
JP I think I actually came very close to my potential as I had a great situation training under Jack Bacheler. I may have been able to go a bit faster, but not much. I don’t have any regrets. I often tell runners who trained hard and competed that they were probably closer to their potential than they realize. With great effort I may have went faster, but could have run slower.
GCR: In late 2007 you experienced a serious medical condition and spent more than two weeks in a medically induced coma with a mechanical device pumping your blood while doctors waited for you to heal from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Have you recovered completely, how is your health and are you doing any running now? How has this experience changed you?
JP I’m fine and back to running, although only a few miles at a time. I still have atrial fibrillation, an inefficient way for your heart to beat, and that shortens your wind and your endurance. When I was in the coma I could hear traffic outside on the streets below and thought that the world keeps going on without me. I guess it has changed me the way any life-threatening situation does. I take it one day at a time. I try to smell the roses.
GCR: You have come up with some interesting ‘Top Ten Lists’ such as things a runner never says, signs your competitiveness is slipping and ways to tell you are injured. Do you have a list or two you’d like to share with my readers?
JP Heck, I blurt out my A material like that! Tell them to come to one of my talks some time!
GCR: Your career has included stints as an attorney, newspaper reporter, speechwriter and editor. What is the common thread that has excited you as you wound your way through these various career stops over the past thirty years?
JP In all I’ve done I’ve had a curiosity to find out what comes next. First, I think that all good writing is difficult. That’s why so many people talk about it but so few do it. Secondly, as far as editing one of the secrets I learned in Journalism is you don’t edit to make the writer sound like you would sound. Instead you leave their voice and only edit to improve what they are trying to say. I’ve been edited by people who have made my prose worse. I treasure those editors who have made my writing better, but I’ve found precious few of them around. Most didn’t try to make me sound like them, but just were inept at what they were doing. I’ve had editors change some of the most poetic things I’ve written into the most mundane because I suspect that’s how they would have said it. If you are editing someone who is a better writer than you, unless you spot typographical errors you are better off leaving them alone. (At this point of the phone interview I told John I was leaving his written answers totally alone which gave us both a big laugh!) Speech writing is a very difficult job as the challenge is to write for a human voice. A novelist who is good at dialog would be good at speech writing. I wrote a few speeches for Earl ‘E.G.’ Smith, the Mayor of Palm Beach. But I primarily wrote for Florida Governor, Bob Graham. He had never worked with a speech writer and I had written some articles that were critical of him. They approached me with some trepidation. It was ironic that they selected me, but I admired his politics and enjoyed working for him. This was before computers and he was a ‘last minute guy’ so it put tremendous pressure on a speech writer to have it ready before he went out on stage. This is one of the reasons I didn’t last as long as I did.
GCR: Is there any truth to the rumor that you may work on a prequel to ‘Once a Runner’ that follows the adventures of Quenton Cassidy during his formative years as a high school runner?
JP Yes. It’s what I’m looking about doing. I’m gathering materials and thinking about it. My agent is talking to publishers but we don’t have a signed contract yet. It would be at least a year before a contract is in place and writing begins.
GCR: You have some amazing things on your resume. Which accomplishment brings you the most pride?
JP Having ‘Once a Runner’ survive long enough to make it to a general readership. If you really understand the chances of that happening… writing a novel about a distance runner in 1978 and having it turned down by so many publishers. The chances of it ever seeing the light of day were about infinity to one. Then after I self-published it and sold it out of the trunk of my car, it’s amazing it ever got published by a major publisher, released into book stores and on the New York Times Best Seller List. It was a ‘one in a million story’ that had a happy ending and for that I will be eternally grateful.
GCR: What goals and challenges does the future hold for you mentally, physically and spiritually? Do you have things you’d like to do as in the movie, ‘The Bucket List?’
JP It’s a funny thing about growing older for me. I kind of find myself wishing I had some of those things on my list. But I hear some people saying, ‘I’m going to quit work and write my novel.’ Well, I’ve done that twice. Others say, ‘I’m going to take a sabbatical and go back to school to get my law degree.’ I did that before I was 25. I’ve heard, ‘I want to get into politics or work for the Governor.’ I also did that. Occasionally I find myself thinking, ‘What is there left to do?’ Other than the possible prequel to ‘Once a Runner,’ I think that maybe I could find something less substantial. But when I was in the coma in 2007, I came to grips with the feeling that I had done pretty much everything I wanted to do. I had a revelation that I was happy with my life and didn’t have a bunch of ‘itches to scratch.’ Interview copyright 2009 John L. Parker, Jr.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests Tennis, kayaking, reading, gicle prints, cycling, skin diving
Nicknames None that I know of
Favorite movies The Year of Living Dangerously; The Unforgiven; Broadcast News; Das Boot; Night Moves
Favorite TV shows Daily Show; Colbert Report; Chris Mathews; South Park; Simpsons
Favorite songs Theme from Moulon Rouge (Mancini); Yesterday (Beatles)
Favorite books Islands in the Stream (Hemingway); 92 in the Shade (McGuane); A Fan's Notes (Exley); Catch-22 (Heller)
First car Porsche 914
Current car Toyota Solara Convertible
Family, Children and Siblings Divorced, no children. Three brothers. Mother extant and spunky
Pets African Grey parrot: ‘Cosmo’
Favorite meal Filet mignon with really good red wine
Favorite breakfast Bagel with smoked salmon
Favorite beverages Ginger beer, iced tea, Beefeater Gin, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
First running memory A 220 time-trial in 7th grade in 30.6
Running heroes Jim Ryun, Peter Snell, Herb Elliot, Ron Clarke, Murray Halberg, Roger Bannister, Sebastian Coe
Greatest running moment Winning the Southeastern Conference Mile for the third time
Worst running moment NCAA indoor championships in 1969, dropping out of prelim after being in bed previous week with flu
Childhood dreams Make an Olympic team (didn't happen); writing a novel (did)
Enjoyable memories We had such a good-natured group of runners in Gainesville that Jack Bachelor had assembled. Even others who weren’t part of the group such as Marty Liquori, Sammy Bair and Barry Brown, were influenced by the good atmosphere of the Florida Track Club. We all got along and had such good times. We’d go out on a run and laugh almost the whole way at the stories being told. We weren’t running very fast many days so it was easy to converse. I don’t think of specific instances, but just a general good feeling
Embarrassing moment Split pants in bowling tournament on network TV going for spare against Akron. No, wait - that was Jerry Mizner.
Favorite places to travel North Carolina, Nova Scotia, Greek Islands, Isle of Wight, and Fiddler’s Green



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