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24 of 24 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
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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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