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Chasing Ghosts Paperback – February 2, 2011
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About the Author
Phil Reilly is a life-long runner and writer. A Philadelphia native, Reilly competed for La Salle University and continues to compete today. A high school coach since 2000, Reilly has coached numerous all-state and All-American athletes. Chasing Ghosts is Reilly's debut novel. He is currently working on several other projects for the near future.
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The stars I gave are for the depiction of the pain during some of the races. The author describes "getting into the zone" fairly well. The spent feeling after leaving it all on the track was done well too.
It is a nice read, but nothing compared to Once a Runner or Again to Carthage. Parker does a much better job describing the kind of pain it takes to endure in order to get to that level.
All in all, worth reading though, especially if you haven't read the two others I've mentioned. If you don't have those novels to compare this to, you would enjoy it more than I did.
The writing is poor in many regards. The book is filled with cringe-worthy similes: "Sullivan blended in with the upperclassmen like peanut butter mixes with jelly." "The list of shady characters was longer than a five-year-old's Christmas wish list." The characters are so bland that even towards the final chapters I had trouble telling them apart. Of course it's difficult to care about what happens when you can't even remember who you're reading about.
However, all of this could be forgiven if the writing about the running itself shined. Sadly, the descriptions of the races, even towards the climax were just okay. Reilly doesn't capture the pure joy and excitement of racing. Nor does he show why it's so addicting. I understood why McNeal (the main character) was willing to transform his life for a shot at greatness, but not because of Reilly's words. I felt like I had to do all the work of putting myself in McNeal's shoes because the author didn't have the skill.
For a talented writer, running could offer a compelling subject. Sadly, Reilly isn't up to the task.
His cohorts are fellow running friends Ryan Cooper, Len O'Donnell and Cousin Mitch Maloney. Along with their "nuttier than Jiff" coach Seamus O'Toole this group of characters will have you pulling for them while laughing loudly. The dialog is often funny and sometimes sidesplitting, as are many of the situations the group often find themselves.
Joey lives in an apartment described by his coach as being a place where only the "depths of hell" is worse. From this home base the foursome plan workouts, watch their favorite TV show, "Monday Night Raw" and infuriate O'Toole with their eating habits.
If you have ever trained in one hundred degrees or ran through snow covered streets in hopes of improving your 5k time, taken hundreds of jump shots to make the local hoops team or responded to the compliment, "nice workout" with the retort, "thanks, but I hate you" you will understand these souls.
McNeal tells the team he coaches that if they don't try they will always be "chasing that ghost" and it might make you think about ghosts in your life too.
Don't waste your time on this book. Read Jon L. Parker or Life at These Speeds instead. If you like non-fiction, try Bowerman and the Men of Oregon.