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A Reason to Run

For fans of Jeff Zentner, Matthew Quick, John Green and classic sports fiction like Once a Runner, Vision Quest, The Rider and Breaking Away

Set in suburban Chicago in the late 1980s, A REASON TO RUN is a coming of age tale about a confused and ambitious teenage boy, his bicycle, a tragic accident and the healing power of running.

Days before the start of senior year of high school, a violent bicycling accident destroys Sam “Bags” Bagliarello’s plans to escape his status as “a low-budget nobody” and his family’s battles with substance abuse, mental illness and financial ruin. You see, if Bags blows his senior year, he’ll lose his ticket out of his hometown—a scholarship for financially-needy golf caddies—and the chance to be the first in his family to graduate college. 

When Bags starts running as physical therapy, he discovers an exceptional natural talent and an opportunity to gain the acceptance he seeks. He also learns rehab means more than fixing a broken body as he craves the morphine pumped into him at the hospital, the lingering effects of a concussion threaten his ability to return to school, his outcast brother forces his way back into his life, a budding romance dies, and he struggles to please his bitter mother while restoring a broken relationship with his distant father. 

As Bags works to salvage his GPA in order to keep his scholarship, endure withdrawal from pain killers, chase glory on the track team, navigate family dysfunction, and court the girl of his dreams, the people who matter most in his life get in the way of his plans for graduation, the state track finals, prom and family redemption. Ultimately, Bags is forced to choose between running from his insecurities and becoming the friend, brother, son and person he’s been hiding from all his life.

Bags's story is explored with a healthy dose of 1980s youthful independence and skepticism. It's a vivid take on the confusion, potential and music of a generation left to figure out adolescence on its own and question the so-called adults in the room.

Click here for a sneak preview of A REASON TO RUN.

Advance Praise for A Reason to Run

“A debut novel focuses on an athlete’s intense journey…Magluilo’s sports novel reads like a John Hughes movie that indulges in its love of the story’s setting, from the early Jane’s Addiction Sam listens to before races to Sara’s punk aesthetic…the author clearly did his research on track and field and is able to successfully convert this visual, fast-paced sport into vivid writing that will leave readers on the edges of their seats. A gripping, highly nostalgic dive into a decade  and a high school sport.”

Kirkus Reviews


“I was easily drawn into this well-written coming-of-age story about a high school senior who discovers new life journeys after a serious bicycle accident. The student, who goes by the nickname Bags, finds himself facing challenges that throw his last year in school off the expected path.

Bags meets people along the way who influence his choices. His brother introduces him to running…and an unanticipated love of the sport begins. He also learns a lot about himself and that not all lessons are learned in the classroom. He makes a friend who has Down syndrome, realizes that he does not have to hang out with the ‘in’ crowd, and that doing what is right is better than doing something just to be popular.

I would encourage anyone to pick up a copy of this book. It would be a wonderful book for students who may be facing conflict about how they fit in with their friends and classmates and provide motivation to follow the direction that is best for them.”

—5-Star Review, LibraryThing member CatChat


"High School. All of life is high school though many of us were dying to be done with it. We carry those formative years with us for good or ill. The growing up years and so much fretting about SATs, grades, dating, sex. We are pixilated for the inscrutable future and for what? The end game is finding out who you are. Yes, it is like the two most important days in your life: the day you were born and the day you find out why. Mike Magluilo adds another brilliant piece to the library of titles defining this period in each of our lives. His well drawn characters are recognizable to all of us from our own experiences. My own high school years are now fifty years in the rear view, though I remember them well. Magluilo's main character suffers many common slings and arrows, becomes a track athlete---a middle distance runner---and sets an audacious goal for himself. The trials and tribulations---can he help but succeed? Find out while enjoying this heart-warming coming-of-age story."

—Bob Hodge, author of Tales of the Times: A Runner's Story


“A Reason to Run is a captivating coming-of-age story that transports readers back to the 1980s with its vivid blend of music, nostalgia, and youthful exuberance. Sam Bagliarello’s journey from tragedy to triumph through the world of competitive running is a thrilling and inspiring tale that captures a specific moment in time with incredible accuracy and heart. A must-read for anyone who loves a good underdog story!”

—Erik Lindsay, screenwriter of American Pie: The Naked Mile, American Pie: Beta House, and Last Call


“Mike Magluilo’s novel navigates the challenges of family, friendship, and aspirations while underscoring the spirit of resiliency and repair. Exceptionally well-written with characters that are complex, flawed, and very human, A Reason to Run flows effortlessly and clearly to a finish line that is as exhilarating as the races run by its main character. There’s much to love about this book, and much that will remain with readers long after the final page is turned.”

—Greg Fields, award-winning author of Through the Waters and the Wild


“Whatever hurdles you’ve taken on in life, you’ll see a piece of yourself in Sam ‘Bags’ Bagliarello as he pursues finish lines both literal and figurative in A Reason to Run, the impressive first novel from author Mike Magluilo. Magluilo’s snarky take on late-1980s Chicago recreates a world of checked-out parents, post-punk mix-tapes, and blow-dried teenage awkwardness. Ultimately, this story will resonate with anyone who has had to find a way back from adversity without a training plan.”

—Chris Jenkins, communications professional and former sports writer at USA Today and the Associated Press


Mike Magluilo’s debut novel, A Reason to Run, is a masterful work, an extraordinary tale of modern teenage day-to-day dynamics coupled with the trauma of recovery from a serious accident. Magluilo’s character list is vast and interesting, comprising “good guys” as well as “bad guys” amongst student body, faculty, family, and friends. Their interactions result in fascinating discussions throughout the story. I instantly became engaged with these characters. Magluilo has crafted an extremely well-written story of teenage dreams, fears, and aspirations, and the trauma of a life-changing event. But the lessons of this story apply to any age; they are basic in that they describe the roads all of us must follow in our lives when adversity strikes. This, presented in a well-woven story, makes for a very interesting and fun read.

—George P. Tymitz, author of the novel Key Number 17: A Ukranian Grandfather's Odyssey of Courage


“A Reason to Run is a deeply thoughtful and inspiring story of a teenager’s journey set off by a tragic event one fateful summer night–and the long uphill battle to find his own internal peace. Magluilo writes with ease—a page-turner through and through—and each step of the adventure reminds us all of the lessons we come to learn through the personal struggles, internal setbacks, and disappointment in our own lives. But this story is much more than a tale of personal triumph and how Bags searches endlessly for his inner balance…the story explains, in detail, the entire journey and how true friendship, ample doses of humility, and extreme generosity can all be part of our very own healing process whatever we are seeking to reconcile. A Reason to Run, peppered with good-natured humor and relatable teenage hijinks, provides us with non-stop opportunities to reflect on what truly matters in our lives—family, teachers, friends—and the hope that we can all find our own secret weapon inside us.” 

—Brian Shell, Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship alumnus and golf industry executive


“As a coach, competitive cyclist, former high school and college athlete and, as a father, I loved A Reason to Run. Magluilo takes you on a trip back to the late eighties with spot on details and the heart pounding race that is high school sports and coming of age. We can all relate in some way to Bags’s goals, trauma, training, and toughness. My high school senior daughter lives in a vastly different world today, but many issues and circumstances facing teenagers remain. We can all learn a thing or two from Bags, while the thrilling races will keep you on the edge of your seat and inspire you to your own personal best!”

—Greg Waggoner, USA Cycling licensed coach, former professional XC MTB racer and competitive road cyclist, former DI collegiate diver


“Magluilo’s debut novel is hard to put down. This compelling story includes a spot-on portrayal of what it’s like to recover from traumatic injury. As a pediatrician and sports medicine and concussion specialist, I interact with patients in these situations every day. A Reason to Run takes readers on a journey through the thoughts, emotions, and fears of a teenager navigating the aftermath of a life-threatening injury. The book accurately portrays a common discussion I have with my adolescent patients about engaging in the hard work required to recover across all areas of your life: physical, emotional, academic, and personal. This is a story that will resonate with young readers and the adults in their lives and has the power to help survivors of tragedy find purpose and change their lives in a positive way.”

—Kevin Walter, MD, FAAP, medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Wisconsin and associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin


“Reading about Bags’s journey was inspirational and reminded me of all the skills I try to instill in my students—perseverance, inner strength, indomitable spirit, self-confidence, and self-worth—and reminded me I needed to tap into those skills too. Bags as a high school senior thought he had his whole future mapped out, and then in a single moment everything changed. How many of us can relate to that? I certainly can. I found myself cheering for Bags throughout the whole book, hoping and praying he would find his new passion and direction. We all have ‘Spirit Hills’ that appear in our lives, and we have decisions to make. We can change our route to avoid the hill. We can sit at the bottom of the hill and give up. Or we can charge up the hill as many times as it takes to reach the top—the view is always amazing at the top. May you all gather strength from reading A Reason to Run and charge up your own Spirit Hill.”

—Master Kellie Thomas, 6th-degree ITF Taekwondo black belt and owner of TaeKwonDo K.I.C.K.S.


“A combination coming-of-age story and self-help allegory, A Reason to Run is a compelling reminder that it is never too late to uncomplicate our lives and discover that what we need most has always been right in front of us. Just as Who Moved My Cheese? did for managing life’s changes, A Reason to Run reveals profound truths for regaining control of our lives in the tumult of others’ expectations and demands.”

—H. Edward Wynn, bestselling author and founder of We The People Project


“A Reason to Run is a must-read for any parent, sibling, or friend of a young person with Down syndrome. As a mother of a child with Down syndrome and one who serves the community in nonprofit leadership, I couldn’t put down this story of overcoming obstacles and the search for identity...This is the best work of coming-of-age fiction featuring a character with Down syndrome since Champions and The Peanut Butter Falcon.”

—Evelyn J. Walter, board president of Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association

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