Remora Runner

Posted by Filed Under: Running is Funny

remoraBack when I was a kid (you know, right around the time of the Civil War), one of the most exciting days of the school year was when the Scholastic Book shipment arrived.

For those of you who can’t remember a time before computers and, Scholastic had an arrangement with schools in which a small catalog of children’s books was handed out to the kids every month. Then you would badger your parents for 60 cents or so to purchase your favorite title. The teacher would amass all the individual orders and send them in. Six to eight weeks later, a big box would arrive in the classroom and these treasures would be handed out.

It was a big deal. You don’t have to believe me, there are a lot of people who feel the same way.

Being a reasonably normal kid, I usually selected horror, science fiction or sports stories. I specifically remember one Scholastic collection of short stories with a high school sports theme. They featured football and basketball – even rowing. But for some reason I distinctly remember one about cross-country track called “Remora Runner.”

Through the miracle of the Internet, I was able to turn up the full text of the short story (and at 1,300 words, it’s pretty short). It was written by Jay Worthington, who apparently was a prolific writer of such tales back in the late 1940s through 1960s.

I’ve posted the full text on my blog. It’s the saga of Clifton “Clipper” Ritter, who runs cross-country both in the shadow of his older brother, who was once the top runner at the same school, and Augie Shaver, a fellow runner whose pace is perfectly matched to Clipper’s.

Clipper attaches himself to Augie in every race, earning the derisive epithet of “remora runner.”

I don’t want to ruin the ending, but on the day of the big meet, Clipper learns something about himself.

I don’t have children, but I get the sense that stories like this one—positive, effective and concise—are pretty rare these days, particularly stories about running. And as I read “Remora Runner” again after all these years, I can see clearly that it’s not so kid-centered that adults can’t enjoy it, too.

If any readers can suggest other stories about running (track and field in general would be fine as well) suitable for the whole family, I promise to do some research and assemble a top ten list.

In the meantime, I can put Clipper, Augie, Red, and Moreno the Machine back into the happy childhood memory vault, wherein also resides Mister Softee and the 1969 Miracle Mets.

About Mike Antonucci

I ran 6-minute miles when I was in the military, then tapered for 20 years. Two-time marathoner (3:43 PR), my next goal is to stay healthy enough to run another. There are literally thousands of people handing out running advice and serious tips. I prefer to focus on the humorous or odd facets of our shared obsession. Let's face it, running is funny.

  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on March 7th at 9:05 am

    Nice story! That’s a good find, I’d never read it before.

  2. Jeanne on March 7th at 8:18 pm

    oh my god, i had forgotten about those! I loved those books, and especially loved getting a package of them!

    I still don’t know what a remora is or why it’s on that guy’s bike. guess i’ll just have to buckle down and read the story.

  3. Jeanne on March 7th at 8:18 pm

    that guys BACK. not bike. bike on the brain.

  4. roadrunner on March 8th at 3:55 am

    In the UK, we had a small catalogue of books and a sample of each one. Each child got a catalogue and the choice…. to take one…book home to try and see if they liked it. The books would arrive weeks later in a large box

    We still have a catalogue but it just directs you to the website and is presumably dro shipped by amazon. How clinical and cold…

    roadrunner’s last blog post..Paula Radcliffe out of London Marathon

  5. 2008 Duke City Half-Marathon Report « Butterflies & Running Shoes on October 20th at 12:44 pm

    […] game was, in part, inspired by this post from the Complete Running Network, so I called it the “Remora Runner” race strategy.  […]