Again to Carthage

Again to Carthage

by John L. Parker Jr.


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Again to Carthage is the "breathtaking, pulse-quickening, stunning"
sequel to Once a Runner that "will have you standing up and cheering, and pulling on your running shoes" (Chicago Sun-Times). Originally self-published in 1978, Once a Runner became a cult classic, emerging after three decades to become a New York Times bestseller. Now, in Again to Carthage, hero Quenton Cassidy returns.

The former Olympian has become a successful attorney in south Florida, where his life centers on work, friends, skin diving, and boating trips to the Bahamas. But when he loses his best friend to the Vietnam War and two relatives to life’s vicissitudes, Cassidy realizes that an important part of his life was left unfinished. After reconnecting with his friend and former coach Bruce Denton, Cassidy returns to the world of competitive running in a desperate, all-out attempt to make one last Olympic team. Perfectly capturing the intensity, relentlessness, and occasional lunacy of a serious runner’s life, Again to Carthage is a must-read for runners—and athletes—of all ages, and a novel that will thrill any lover of fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439192481
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/28/2010
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 333,263
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

John L. Parker, Jr. has written for Outside, Runner’s World, and numerous other publications. A graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism as well as its College of Law, Parker has been a practicing attorney, a newspaper reporter and columnist, a speechwriter for then Governor Bob Graham, and editorial director of Running Times magazine. The author of Once a Runner, Again to Carthage, and Racing the Rain, he lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Again to Carthage includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Quenton Cassidy returns in John Parker’s Again to Carthage, the sequel to Once a Runner. Having won a silver medal at the Olympics, Quenton attempts to settle into a normal life: attending law school and then working for a firm, living the good life in Florida with friends, running only occasionally. But there is something missing, and he knows it. After the deaths of two men close to him leave him shaken, Quenton decides that with the help of friend and coach Bruce Denton, he will train for the Olympics again, but this time for the marathon. As he trains and pushes himself to the brinks of human endurance, Quenton struggles to decide who he is and what his life can and should be.


1. What do you believe is the primary motivation for Quenton’s decision to try for another Olympic medal: Coming in second? Dissatisfaction and boredom with everyday life? Depression? Something else?

2. Quenton takes a dim view of post-Olympic life for medalists. Think about athletes you watched place in past Olympics. Do you know where they are now? What kind of lives are they leading?

3. Again to Carthage is told primarily from Quenton Cassidy’s point of view, with brief interludes following pivotal characters such as Mizner, Henry, and Andrea. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story this way? How do these interludes affect the reading experience? Whose side of the story do you wish you could have seen?

4. Parker includes a lot of running terminology – fartleks, for example. Were you already familiar with the vocabulary of running, or did you learn it along the way? If these terms were unfamiliar, how did that affect the reading experience?

5. Quenton’s drive to train as a marathoner is partly informed by the deaths of his relative Henry and friend Mizner, and he comes face to face with his own mortality as he struggles to finish the qualifying run. How does this paradox of extreme fitness accompanied by extreme physical trauma help Quenton deal with his losses?

6. Parker writes lovingly of the South, particularly Florida and North Carolina. How does geography play a role in the plot’s development? Do the vividly described settings enhance the story, or are they more background? Can you imagine training at the Poutin’ House?

7. The sabotage attempt on Quenton during the trials may seem extreme, but in the 2004 Olympic men’s marathon, a Greek religious agitator shoved Olympic men’s marathon lead runner Valnderlei di Lima off the course, costing him the lead. While this real-life interference wasn’t a personal attack, it does highlight the delicate nature of the trials and events, in which the slightest unplanned incident can cost an athlete their chance at glory. Should judges take these kinds of incidents into account? What is the fairest way to deal with interference?

8. On page 181, Roland and Quenton discuss the theory that there are only really two sports: ball and chase. Do you agree? Which do you prefer? Which category does your favorite sport fall into? Can you think of sports that don’t seem to fit this theory?

9. It would seem that sports in general, and particularly the Olympics, should rely entirely on the skill of the athletes. Quenton’s unofficial “trial” for drug use points out the political side of athletics. How much have the politics of judging tainted the Olympics? How much do you trust the scoring and judging systems to be free of personal bias? Does it vary from sport to sport, event to event?

10. Quenton and his friends are constantly telling each other stories, both true and apocryphal. How does the author use these internal stories to shape the narrative? Are they merely entertaining anecdotes or do they connect to the plot in a more profound way?

11. Over the course of his training, Quenton frequently experiences the euphoria some call “runner’s high” (although he dismisses it at one point). Have you ever experienced this high in running or another sport or activity? Would you agree that it can be, as Bruce suggests on pg. 171, a form of self-medication?

12. The novel ends before Quenton ever reaches the Olympics – and it’s not at all clear that he actually will. Quenton himself tells Andrea that it doesn’t matter. Do you believe him when he says it? Is it enough for him to know that he could have gone? How have his goals changed over the course of his training?

13. If you are already a runner, how does Quenton’s story resonate with your own experiences? If not, how does it shape your ideas about running and athletics? Does it inspire you in any ways?

14. If you have read Once a Runner: Which characters were you happy to see return, and which did you miss? If not: Which characters do you wish you knew more about? Were there passages that you felt you didn’t fully understand because you were missing back-story?


1. For additional reading on running, try some of the following titles:
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Christopher McDougall, Born to Run
Danny Dreyer, Chi Running
Allan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

2. On pg. 224, the fictional Quenton runs alongside real-life runner and Olympic medalist Frank Shorter. Shorter has been described by many as a driving force in bringing running to public attention, and is still active. Check out an interview with Shorter from the 2009 Bolder Boulder 10K on how running has evolved (

3. It may be too soon to cheer on Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but the USA Track and Field website calendar lists championship races and qualifying meets for the next several years:

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Again to Carthage 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
AJGuck More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I enjoyed the H@## out of this book. I don't want to compare it to Once A Runner, as that may be the ultimate book written about running, but this continues perfectly Quentin's tale. I own the Hard cover's for both, and am going to purchase the E-books for both, as I read these books bi-annually. Did I mention that I enjoyed the Read?
YogiABB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Again to Carthage", by John L. Parker Jr.,published in 2007, is the sequel to Once a Runner published in 2007. Quinton Cassidy the collegiate mile runner in Once a Runner is now 10 years older. He has gone to law school and is doing quite well. He hangs out with his buddies and has a cute girlfriend and all that but he isn't happy. He feels his youth slipping away from him and he wants to prove that he still "has it."He mulls it over and decides that he wants to make the Olympic Marathon Team so he excuses himself from his law practice and heads to a family cabin up in the hills and commences a brutal training regimen running over 120 miles a week (about two and half months worth of running for me.)The book is pretty good but the end of it is the best when Cassidy runs the Olympic trials to see if he made the team. Parker is a former competitive runner himself and his best writing is describing the races and how brutally hard they are for the top competitors. (Like I'll ever know.)Parker waited 29 years between the two books. The writing style of the second book is much more mature without sacrificing any of the passion. The first book is a runners cult classic, I've seen it on the counters of some of the running stores in town. (My brother, who started running long before it became cool and still runs about 40 miles a week gave it me, he gave me the second book also.)The book is well written and very interesting if you want to know about the life of a competitive runner.I give it three stars out of five
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A strong beginning, the plot wanders in the middle, then finishes strong. The novel would be of those familiar with the challenges of training and racing.
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