The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop

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Overview

A cross between Once a Runner and Chariots of Fire, the heartbreaking story of the man known as “The Ghost Runner”The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared.A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as "the ghost runner," John Tarrant, the extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid L17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur status had been compromised. Forever. ...

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The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop

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Overview

A cross between Once a Runner and Chariots of Fire, the heartbreaking story of the man known as “The Ghost Runner”The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared.A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as "the ghost runner," John Tarrant, the extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid L17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur status had been compromised. Forever. Now he was fighting back, gate-crashing races all over Britain. No number on his shirt. No friends in high places. Soon he would be a record-breaker, one of the greatest long-distance runners the world had ever seen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sparked by seeing a 1985 documentary of the Manchester running club Salford Harriers, Jones realizes the life of John Tarrant, noted athlete and a former Harriers member, could be a promising book subject. A veteran of Granada Television, the author examines Tarrant, “The Ghost Runner,” from his rough-and-tumble London childhood in the 1930s, his stint in a “brutal child’s home,” his mother’s tragic death, through his short-lived boxing career ended by serious injury. Tarrant, a self-centered and single-minded athlete, turned to track and long-distance running with great focus, but after several mishaps with numerous racing organizations, he was barred from competing. The Tarrant legend grew as he disguised himself and ran with no number on his shirt, defying the officials and endearing himself to the adoring British public. Despite his courageous English track exploits, Tarrant’s reputation was solidified when he challenged the rigid apartheid rules in South Africa to race along with the colored citizenry. In the end, Jones has written a vibrant account of endurance and rebellion. (Mar.)
The Daily Mail
“A terrific story—a comic strip hero made flesh.”
The Independent
“An astonishing story of staggering grit and determination.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“Jones has unearthed and told quite brilliantly the tragic story of a man condemned not only by authority but also by his own stubbornness.”
Unshelved

Why I picked it up: I love the idea of anyone so driven to do what he loves that he ignores officials’ efforts to keep him away.Why I finished it: Even his training partners, men who spent countless hours with him, considered him difficult to like, stubborn and selfish, yet, each man admired his determination and drive. Tarrant suffered from debilitating stomach problems which often caused him to vomit or have diarrhea many times a race. (Despite this, he won several!) Once, to get his stomach ready for an ultra-distance race, he prepared his stomach by eating a half pound of cheese and drinking a half cup of lukewarm tea. He then ran forty miles with no other sustenance, winning easily. While training to break the world record for a 100-mile race, he logged over 5,000 training miles in a single year. A clear motivator for Tarrant was his childhood. He spent the majority of WWII and a few years afterward in a government home with his little brother. It was an important moment in his development, and the boys’ self-reliance may have been responsible for his ferocious concentration and determination.

Library Journal
In his first book, Jones, a longtime documentary filmmaker for Granada TV, tells the story of the 1960s British runner John Tarrant (1932–75). That story illustrates how so-called "old fat men" ruled British amateur sports and strictly adhered to Victorian standards of amateurism, thus closing participation in international and Olympic sports to working-class Britons, who lacked independent means to train and compete without stipends or funding. Jones relates how Tarrant was declared a professional and thus barred from international competition for accepting about $250 in expense money once as a teenage boxer before he switched to running. Tarrant won many road races and set several world records between 1960 and 1970, often as a "ghost runner," i.e., an unofficial and unregistered participant. For a decade and a half, Tarrant unsuccessfully and bitterly fought against the amateur establishment for the right to race officially and represent Britain internationally. Jones vividly captures the world of the 1960s British working class and club athletes, who worked days, trained evenings, and competed weekends. VERDICT The Ghost Runner will appeal to those interested in the history of "amateurism" in sports, especially in international sports competitions.—Mark K. Jones, Mercantile Lib., Cincinnati
Kirkus Reviews
The lonely fight of a long-distance runner. A brief, failed career in boxing earned John Tarrant (1932–1975) £17. In the middle of the 20th century, that paltry sum meant that he was no longer an amateur in the minds of the world's sporting hierarchy. Documentary filmmaker Jones uncovers Tarrant's star-crossed fight against those authorities in his quest to pursue competitive long-distance running, his true love. Tarrant was obsessive. He doggedly and even admirably fought capricious and seemingly vindictive British amateur sporting officialdom in his quest to have his amateurism restored--something they fully had the capacity to do. In many ways, Tarrant is a sympathetic figure. His lifelong struggle to run legally--his willingness to run unsanctioned in official races earned him fame and respect from fans and competitors alike and garnered him the nickname "The Ghost Runner"--was sandwiched around a childhood spent in a Dickensian children's home and an early and tragic death from cancer. But his obsession also made him a lousy employee and a selfish husband and father. Except for a few occasions when he gets in his own way, Jones tells the story well, albeit in a British idiom that may occasionally ring odd to American readers. His book serves not only to uncover Tarrant's largely forgotten story, but also to remind readers that the amateur model of sport was oftentimes a hypocritical morass that victimized poor and working-class athletes while protecting a privileged class of sportsmen. John Tarrant fought against a sporting establishment that held him hostage in what could have been one of the great international ultra-distance-running careers. Jones restores his legend while revealing his very human frailties.
Starred Review - Booklist
“A fascinating study of one man’s obsession and the heartless,hypocritical bureaucracy that aligned itself against him. Unforgettable reading.”
STARRED REVIEW Booklist
“A fascinating study of one man’s obsession and the heartless,hypocritical bureaucracy that aligned itself against him. Unforgettable reading.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605984131
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 3/13/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 422,018
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Jones worked for Granada Television for twenty-seven years,
where he was an award-winning documentary maker. He was researching a documentary about the centenary of the Manchester running club, Salford
Harriers, in 1985 when he first came across the story of John Tarrant (a former Harriers member) and it has haunted him ever since. This is his first book.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 30, 2013

    This is an incredible story. The author first heard about John T

    This is an incredible story. The author first heard about John Tarrant in 1985 when he was doing a documentary about the Manchester running club (Tarrant was a member) and read his memoir. From that time forward, he would not stop thinking about Tarrant and became intrigued to know more about him.
    Bill Jones has written a great book about an unknown man who ran for revenge and justice.

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