I’m not sure you’ve heard this from me before but, I hate novels. So, why do people keep giving me novels to read… this time it was my brother Jim. Now, in his defense, he’s recommended a couple other books I actually read and enjoyed.
“A runner’s pursuit of an Olympic dream” is the sub-title to Following the Flame. The sub-title pretty much tells you what the story is about. It follows Jonny Langenfelder from high school and his running beginnings though his college years at Caprock State in west Texas to post collegiate running and on. You’ll have to read it to find out where it comes to an end.
He has a very supportive family: often he is asked when he is going to out-grow this “running thing.” Or, if he’s going to become something other than a running bum for his life. (Does that sound familiar to anyone out there?) Of course there has to be relationship issues along the way. In my opinion there is nothing remarkable about the family and female relationship scenarios. Though a runner-reader could certainly relate and the story line was good enough to get me to read the whole thing.
The characters in his college years are pretty stereotyped and not as well developed as the characters in The Gift. The modest banter and discussions were ok but they lacked some depth and zip.
This story like The Gift, borrows from historical races and faces. It opens with Steve Prefontaine’s 1972 Olympic 5000 effort. The phases of Langenfelder’s career are marked by a brief introduction by way of each Olympiad: ’72 and Pre’s 5000, ’76 Viren’s 2nd 5000 victory, ’80 boycott, etc. In some cases the author uses real names, races and events and other times he borrows liberally from known coaches, runners and scenarios from the running world changing names to protect the innocent.
I can’t help but think that the main character is really the namesake of the author – Greg Lautenslager. He probably lived everyone of those name mispronunciations. I have to admit I chuckled at them out loud. You must say these out aloud to get the full effect. Here is a sampling: Langenfielder, Linginfelcher, Luggenslusher, Langenslusher, Langenlodger, Langenhooch, Langendubber, Langenflubber and a real classic – LangenF***er. It would be fun just to go back and count all the variations!
Perhaps if you, like the main character, are or were a 5000 meter runner you might enjoy this story more than anyone else. The times he runs and quotes tell stories in themselves. It gets a bit long and drawn out and a bit over-dramatized in the end but still has an inspiring feel to it. Is there life after following the flame?