First published back in June of 1985, Richard Laymon’s short tale ‘Marathon’ was released as a stand-alone story for the Fearon Education ‘Fastback’ series.  The Fastback series were designed to encourage reluctant readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and thrilling. This one was published as part of the Fastback Sports Books.

DLS Synopsis:
This would be Rod Claymore’s seventh marathon. Ever since signing up for the marathon some two months ago, he’d being looking forward to the race with a feeling of impending dread. Now his stomach felt tight and jittery.

Rod had won his last two marathons. He planned to win this one too. He felt fit and well and ready for the challenge. With over one-hundred runners competing against him, Rod knew it wouldn’t be easy. However, he also knew his own abilities. He also knew marathons were more a test of determination than anything else. And Rod had plenty of that.

Rod was preparing to start the race when a young red-haired runner approached him, introducing himself as Tex. The kid was confident to the point of cocky. But he seemed to know his stuff. And he had his eyes set on first place too.

However, there could be only one winner. And in this particular race, the two runners would be tested by more than just their abilities at endurance running. For these two runners, the race will be a test a pure, unadulterated determination…

DLS Review:
Marathons are gruelling endeavours. A test of character and determination as much as they are a test of physical endurance. This makes the race an ideal one for a short, sharp, slice of sport-themed fiction. A fast-paced tale that pulls in all of those hard-fought tests of endurance running, into one quick-fire story.

Laymon’s usual straight-to-the-point and utterly unpretentious way of writing suits this type of fast-paced story well. And he absolutely delivers with this short tale, even though the theme (sport) is completely outside his usual go-to genres – horror and thrillers.

To be honest, the story is the kind of ‘test of determination’ you’d expect it to be. Much of it is written from inside of the head of Rod Claymore. His thoughts as he pushes through the race, hanging back at first, then picking up his pace as the other runners start to flag.

The ‘big twist’ that’s flung in as the plot turning point within the story is also pretty predictable. Yeah, one of them gets injured along the way (I won’t ruin it by saying who) and then it’s about what the other runner decides to do with the race. Nothing particularly inspiring, thought-provoking or indeed anything that adds much more to the tale or the characters. But it’s enough to keep the short story engaging for the reader and powering ahead until the end.

Ultimately this really is a story for Richard Laymon collectors and completists only.

The Fastback runs for a total of 26 pages (which are just 4” x 5.5” with an average word count of around 100 words per page).

© DLS Reviews


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