The Frontrunner

Russ Clayton is a young man who keeps losing the important people in his life. Each time someone disappears, he finds himself left adrift. The Universe stacked against him. He only finds peace running alone on the roads of his small town in Kansas. 

Russ finally believes that everyone in his life is gone. Feeling abandoned, reckless, and liberated, he gives himself up wholly to the running by setting an impossible goal. But, he needs help.  

Long ago, Brad Coy was the fastest marathoner on the planet, but a man who also lost everything he valued to a cheating Russian runner named Yuri Grimlov.  Finding a kinship, Coy and Russ team together, retreat to the desert, and undertake a quest to shatter the brain’s protective hold on the body that prevents us from reaching our physical limits of speed and endurance. 

On the other side of the world, Grimlov has been charged with restoring Russia’s tarnished reputation for doping its distance runners. He takes two young twin boys from their family and subjects them to his special mixture of psychological manipulation, doping, and scientific training. The boys, however, come to him already strongly shaped by their fraternal rivalries leavened with a heavy dose of their mother’s demanding ethics and branded by their father’s superstitions.

Inevitably, through their proteges, Coy and Grimlov face off again. From that competition, Russ discovers whether he really ever was alone in the world and the Twins confront the limits of their love for each other. 

What People Are Saying About The Frontrunner

The Frontrunner is refreshingly different from most ‘quest of running’ type books. Fawley writes about the beautiful and sometimes dangerous aspects of professional running and of young athletes discovering they can do it with insight and grace. Though it’s touched upon by the media in the Olympic Games, the international competition story is rarely written about, and the mental aspects of training are underexplored. I am telling my running buddies about this book.”
—Bill Rodgers, Olympian and former American record holder in the marathon; four-time winner of Boston and New York City marathons

“A wonderful, touching, twisting novel about running and so much more. It captures beautifully what it means to move quickly through space and what it means to truly train. I couldn’t put it down.”
Nicholas Thompson, CEO The Atlantic, American age-group record holder in the 50k

The Frontrunner features a big cast of eccentric characters, and a hero who is chasing the impossible Olympic “quad” — the 1500 meters, the 5000 meters, the 10,000 meters, and the marathon. Improbable at times but heart-thumping all the while, the story never falters in its searing pace. Brad Fawley is as skilled at weaving a complex, compelling plot as he is at understanding the physical and psychological depths of a great runner’s training. The Frontrunner is impossible to put down, and intriguing to the last page.”
Amby Burfoot, winner, 1968 Boston Marathon; author of Run Forever, and other books

“Even if you’ve never laced up a pair of running shoes, you’ll fall in love with The Frontrunner—a modern-day ‘Breaking Away.’  Fawley’s startling first novel immediately gets you behind his underdog hero, Russ Clayton. Alone, with everything stacked against him, he chases an impossible dream, only to find the elixir he seeks has been right before his eyes all along. Like the best stories, it is a celebration of human resilience, honor, sacrifice, and triumph over loss.”
Hawk Ostby, writer of the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Children of Men,
the Marvel movie Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, and the hit television series, The Expanse

“Brad Fawley’s first novel aims high. A well-crafted, realistic story of overcoming loss through running morphs into the ultimate Olympic golden fantasy…this is Once a Runner on steroids.”
—Roger Robinson, award-winning author of Running in Literature and dozens of other books and articles about running, Boston & New York Marathon masters record-breaker

The Frontrunner belongs in the annals with the great novels of running culture. It is a story of tragedy, relationships, and heroic efforts to overcome great obstacles. Readers will come away entertained, and enlightened. I was immediately immersed in The Frontrunner. It’s a wonderful and at times heart-wrenching, coming-of-age story about human potential, and overcoming tragic life obstacles, but it’s also driven by a powerful narrative engine. Brad Fawley nails this with multiple uses of symbolism, foreshadowing, and strong character development.”
Christopher Kelsall, Athletics Illustrated Magazine

“Most runners at some point begin to wonder how fast they have it in them to run but not many ever find out. The cost of reaching our potential is simply too much to bear. But in Russ Clayton, Brad Fawley has written a character who shows that running can be the spiritual practice that allows us to transcend our limitations. The Frontrunner is a hero’s journey, but the quest isn’t for greatness, it’s for freedom. Through Fawley’s astute observations of the human psyche, Russ’s example will inspire readers to face their obstacles on their paths toward finding out who they are.”
Scott F. Parker, author of The Joy of Running Qua Running

“Within the first 40 pages, I was hooked. Doug, explaining to Chuck and Russ what it takes to race well, puts into words what many know/feel, but can’t verbalize. Brad nails it!”
Mike Dunlap, former professional with the Brooks running team, two-time U.S. Olympic Team marathon trials qualifier, and co-host of the “Beards and Dun” Podcast

“A book that rivals the cult classic, John Parker‘s Once a Runner. Fawley captures everything runners face—from the challenges of training and racing at all levels to life and love. . . . Brad‘s writing cannot be beaten.”
—Larry Coy, Six-Time All American Distance Runner

Media Reviews

“A dramatic coming-of-age story with compelling racing scenes. Fawley’s novel follows the journey of a young athlete who’s pursuing his dreams, despite all odds. . . . Fawley delivers a novel that effectively develops serious themes of passion, privilege, and the importance of family and community. What stands out most, however, is the pacing of the energetic racing scenes, which are interspersed among quiet moments of loss experienced by characters on either side of the finish line. Readers will be invested in the characters’ emotional journeys, regardless of their personal interest in the sport. The novel also avoids common tropes that often bedevil other works of sports fiction.”

Kirkus Reviews (link to full review here)

The need to run comes from within

Brad Fawley’s novel The Frontrunner — based on a lifetime of running — will launch at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro on June 1, 2024 — By Annie Landenberger




This week on the podcast Beards and Dun had a chance to sit down with author Brad Fawley to talk about his upcoming book The Frontrunner. Brad was a two-time NCAA All-American at 5000 meters and cross country. We talk to Brad about how he got started running and his process and motivation to write this page-turning novel. Brad was even gracious enough to give a few sneak peeks from the novel! (Link)

About the Author
Brad Fawley started running in 7th grade. He was a small college All-American in Cross-Country and 5000 meters. After earning a Master’s Degree in Oceanography and his law degree from the University of Virginia, Brad practices law as an intellectual property and environmental litigator and has learned the value of storytelling. He has been awarded three U.S. patents for automotive tools. Brad and his wife split their time between Vermont and California and, blessed with good genes and knees, most every morning you can find him either outside running or working on his next book.

The Frontrunner
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 416
Price: $26.95 (CA $35.95)
ISBN: 9798987663165
Publication Date: APRIL 9, 2024
Distributor: IPG/Chicago, Ingram.
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights & PR: Dede Cummings,

Distributor: IPG; also available through Follett/Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and other wholesalers.
Individuals can pre-order directly from, or contact your local, independent bookstore.
Booksellers, libraries, colleges/universities, gift shops, etc., can order through IPG:
Independent Publishers Group
814 N. Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Order Placement: (800) 888-4741

To request an advance reader copy—digital or print—email