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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well told tale of one man's (ultimately tragic) obsession
Despite being a runner for many years, and a sports fan for all of my life, I had never heard of John Tarrant prior to being introduced to this book. Having now completed Bill Jones' biography of the man I find this quite surprising, and also find it rather amazing that it has taken over 35 years since his sad premature passing for someone to tell the story (apart from...
Published on 22 July 2011 by Dj Pike

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book but...
I can see the value of all the other comments about this book and whilst my review may not be favourable, I still suggest that you buy this book because of its overwhelming support. For me though,I found it a tough read and I have to admit that half way through I lost the motivation to continue. Compelling story it might be, but I found the book heavy on unnecessary...
Published on 1 Jan. 2012 by spiderboy


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well told tale of one man's (ultimately tragic) obsession, 22 July 2011
By 
Dj Pike "dougpike2" (Leeds, Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
Despite being a runner for many years, and a sports fan for all of my life, I had never heard of John Tarrant prior to being introduced to this book. Having now completed Bill Jones' biography of the man I find this quite surprising, and also find it rather amazing that it has taken over 35 years since his sad premature passing for someone to tell the story (apart from the publication of Tarrant's own memoirs in the late 1970's).

For those as much in the dark as me John Tarrant was, in short, a talented long distance runner who in the late 1950s was barred from amateur running competitions by the authorities of the day after (rather foolishly, in hindsight) owning up to recieving a grand total of £17 for contesting boxing matches in his local town. He then took it upon himself to turn up and compete in races anyway, without an official entry, and was subsequently dubbed 'The Ghost Runner'. Haunted by exclusion in one way or another for the rest of his life, he eventually found himself immersed in the world of ultra distance running (i.e. much longer than a Marathon!).

Bill Jones describes beautifully how a single punitive act could come to dominate one man's thinking, almost to the exclusion of everything else (e.g. employment, his family life), and yet also be a significant driving force behind some astounding feats of endurance. The story is told largely chronologically from Tarrant's troubled childhood to his early passing, skillfully intertwining many interesting (real) characters along the way; and by the end of the book Jones' really has you rooting for his man. No punches are pulled however (no pun intended, honest) with the author leaving the reader in no doubt that his subject was often a difficult and troubled man.

Despite my surprise that this book was not written many years ago, I cannot help thinking that it is somehow apt that it appears now. Bill Jones concludes the book with an afterword that details some of the events that highlighted the end of amateurism in sport, including the reinstatement of Dwain Chambers to the GB team (compared to the ban on JT running for his country), and the appearance of a multi-millionaire professional Rafael Nadal in the Olympic Games tennis final. He does this I think mainly to hammer home the ridiculous nature of John Tarrant's treatment by the authorities, but it left me feeling almost as depressed about the state of sport today as it did about JT's trials back in the day. Full amateurism in sport clearly did not work, but neither I would argue does unfettered professionalism.

I highly recommend this book.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!, 6 July 2011
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
Bill Jones has created a poignant book which vividly recreates the life of this talented athlete whose life was so blighted by the establishment. The story is well written and I was so involved I stayed up into the night to finish it. You would be a hardhearted person not to be moved by the life and death of this incredible man. Read it - you will not be disappoined.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, absorbing, powerful....truly tragic, 6 July 2011
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This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
I wept when I'd finished this book. The story is so tragic and engrossing, it's almost impossible to believe it's true. For a few quid earned as a teenage boxer, this man's dreams were ruined by people who should have known better. Some of the stories and characters in it are amazing. Definitely not just a book for sports-lovers either. I honestly couldn't put it down. Great stuff. A 100% recommend.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When's the film coming out!?, 11 July 2011
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
I try not to make a habit of weeping in coffee shops, but the final pages of this moving book had me sobbing into my cappuccino. This story of heart-wrenching injustice and steely determination to triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles transcends sport. I doubt there is an individual out there that would not be inspired by this epic true story, and surely everyone can relate to this working-class hero. Brilliantly written. Impossible to put down. Put this to the top of your 'to read' list NOW!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strongly Recommend..., 21 July 2011
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
Not big on biographies and certainly not big on extreme running, but picked up 'The Ghost Runner' on holiday and couldn't put it down until I'd finished.

Like all the most compelling sports stories, it's the human story beneath the statistics that really intrigues.

The portayal of Tarrant as an angry young man of the 50s, frustrated by the lingering and hypocrital class system that he percieved denied him the right to fulfil his potential is apt. Though it's also clear Tarrant was no 'working-class hero': the writer's unromanticised narrative leaves the reader in no doubt about the destructive consequences of Tarrant's obbsession to compete at the highest level.

Jones' prose is crisp, economical and always engaging. The accompanying photos illuminate further the tragic nature of Tarrant's life and death.

So, if you're an athlete searching for big race inspiration or just someone who enjoys a thoroughly good read- I recommend this book. Enjoy!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read, 15 July 2011
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
I have recently read this book and found it a truly difficult book to put down, it is very fast paced and although it deals with a lot of running aspects it is more of a human interest story than a sports publication. I do think that people from a running background will appreciate the (phenomenal) level of training and dedication more than non runners but I don't think that this will detract from the overall story. There are a wide range of emotions throughout the book; the descriptions about the places that John Tarrant ran around, worked at or lived in really draw you in to the feeling of the book. The ending is very emotive, it leaves a strong feeling of unfairness and a very conclusive feeling that the ban and continued disregard of `the ghost runner' were massive perversions of justice, I really enjoyed this book and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simply unbelievable & heartbreaking story, 6 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
I have read many, many sports biographies. Many, even if well-written, rarely affect one's emotions. I finished this book yesterday and was close to tears by the end of it.

The subject of the book, long-distance runner John Tarrant, had such persistently bad misfortune that despite his apparent pig-headedness and his lack of emotion, you cannot help but feel pity as the book charts his life story. Not all doom and gloom by any means - the book is ultimately a moral in the triumph of unwavering spirit - but it does make the reader aware of just what level of hardship Mr. Tarrant endured from cradle to grave.

Bill Jones has achieved an excellent balance of narration, speculation and reference of source material. The author has clearly dedicated significant time to the life of John Tarrant, and leaves no stone unturned. The struggle Tarrant faced to become an accepted competitor took him across the world and Jones re-creates that path faithfully; all the while assessing, via first-hand accounts, the effects that Tarrant's obsession with running caused him both mentally and physically.

This book is so good that it transcends sports afficionados, historical hunter-gatherers and running freaks alike - it is a story that absolutely anyone can marvel at; even if their interest in sport is negligible.

An inspirational book that has pride of place on my biography bookshelf.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you think you are beaten, you are, 3 Aug. 2011
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The words of that poem reflect the heart of John Tarrant:

"If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but you think you can't,
It is almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow's will.
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

God bless you, John Tarrant.

The book starts awkwardly, slowly, and you feel it is going nowhere.
The start can certainly be better written.
But once into his stride near the middle and end of this epic heroic tale you can feel what Jones wanted to say at the start, but didn't. It's a pity that he did not.
Nevertheless, this man's life and the family around him who were as strong in heart as he was are an inspiration to us all in these dismal times.
John was blessed with a wife he could trust and who loved him unconditionally.
A man of the like of John's brother you would be hard to find in this age.
A must read for those who are free to run races without wondering how it got to be that way.
A must read for John's experiences in South Africa.
A must read for anyone, not only those who love running.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Red Tape' rules!, 15 Aug. 2011
By 
Billy R (Newcastle - England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
The statement in any review that, 'I could not put this down after starting it' is often a hint to look elsewhere but in this case, I have to agree with the review I read in one of the broadsheets - this does warrant that phrase.
Having lived in the years where the likes of Crump and Gold ruled with a rod of iron and a fist of rule books (and good quality food/drink) I can understand how something so trifling (now) appeared so set in stone (then).
Tarrant is s strange character drawing sympathy in some areas and in others, appearing to be a total bore and a man possessed with his 'ban' but what you can feel is his passion to overcome the obstacles placed in his way.
Although aware of his story at the time I did not know of his South African ventures and his importance in the development of the black SA runners. He may have been seen as a pawn but with his blinkered approach it is obvious he never saw that - he was there to run and to win his own 'Holy Grail'.

Dead at an early age, clearly from the linings on his lungs from one of his jobs, it is hard to believe that even until the end he was regarded by the hierarchy as a 'nuisance'.
A fantastic read even for those who do not often pick up a 'sports book' - this is more than that!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book! Read it!, 7 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop (Paperback)
This is a fascinating and moving account that relentlessly draws you in.....an account of "an ordinary bloke who stood up for what was right" in a struggle against bureaucracy and snobbery and injustice and racism. It is a tale mainly set in the monochromic rawness of post war England when working men sold their pet rabbits to raise the bus fares to run in races, and the woman's place was in the kitchen where according to Women's Own, "day after day you made with your hands the gift of love"! And an honest working man, John Tarrant, fought for the right to be recognised as an athlete and to run for his country.

It is a serious story but there are knee-hugging moments of delight!.....the principle of sportsmanship as once perceived by the Corinthian Casuals, leaving their goal empty when penalties were awarded against them (penalties? against them? shurely not!); and the belief by some in the last century that TB could be caused by "excessive masturbation"! Great stuff!

But the well- told story of this true life hero is one that reminds us that people's rights have always had to be fought for, and we should be grateful to men like John Tarrant for their bloody-mindedness and courage. It seems an apt book for the present times.
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The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop
The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones (Paperback - 7 July 2011)
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