Past 10 hours or so, having buried my face in The Front Runner: A Novel, I felt as if I lived a couple of long intense years full of frustration that followed by anguish and joy. Those years were also filled with regrets, fear, tender love, and companionship, as well as running, a lot of fast running! I was drawn to and totally immersed with characters’ lives, so much so that the noise PG&E made tearing up the street in front of my house did not bother me at all. I almost did not realize the appropriateness and timeliness of music when my Pandora radio played the theme title from Chariots of Fire as Billy ran his 10,000 final at the Olympic Trials. The story and the characters simply overtook me. I could only obey to turn page after page that made me smile, chuckle, cry, and grieve. The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren is, as already known, a classic gay love story that I wish every person would read, regardless of sexual orientation or his/her athleticism.
The book took me to time and places that I appreciated reading about. New York in the 1960s and 70s when being out as gay was still a much bigger risk to personal safety and career, not to mention a threat to American society and history. I now live in a time and place when and where being out is much more accepted, which we embrace with pride. In such environment, we tend to forget how hard our Front Runners fought and how brave they were in those days.
It also took me to Europe where they toured and competed in many track meets. They traveled on a very tight budget, but that did not prevent them from succeeding in competition and having a great time. Though the level of competition is vastly different, I could not help but remember those days I visited Kölon and Vancouver, living and competing for the day, worries far away…
1976 – the year of the Montreal Olympics was both exuberant and devastating. Days leading up to the Olympic races that year were very calculated, in terms of training and dealing with politics. And it worked beautifully! It was exciting to read how Billy trained and ran so well, and it was heart-warming how Harlan did all he could to protect Billy. The races at Olympic Trials took my breath away, literally. As Billy sprinted his last lap in an anaerobic state, I felt pain and exhaustion similar to what I experienced when I ran 5,000m or 1,500m (No, I wouldn’t run 10,000m on track!). My palms sweated. It was also this year when they became more care-free about being lovers and enjoyed each other’s company.
But devastation awaited. I won’t go into details. Why the story had to turn that way – I don’t know. As if Harlan or Billy needed to be punished. It’s definitely not the way I wanted the story to end. Maybe it has more dramatic impact that way.
Regardless of my approval on the ending, this book is a must-read if you ask me. As a member of San Francisco Front Runners, I always wanted to read the book and am very glad I finally did.
Finally but not the least, Patricia Nell Warren is a beautiful writer. I had never read her books before but will definitely check out her other work.[schema type=”book” url=”http://www.amazon.com/The-Front-Runner/dp/B006OV5KMC/” name=”The Front Runner” author=”Patricia Nell Warren” publisher=”Audible Studios” pubdate=”2011-12-22″ ]