A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy’s reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor’s prize runner.
Nottinghamian Colin Smith is a sullen young man from a working class family. He, along with his friend Mike, commit petty crimes, Colin in an effort to escape his unhappy family life. He has a difficult relationship with his mother, especially in that she seemed more interested in the insurance money from his father’s death than with his father as a man and husband. That fact is further highlighted by her taking up with another man immediately following Mr. Smith’s death. Colin also distrusts authority. He is sent to Ruxton Towers Reformatory after he is caught stealing money from a bakery. His stay there is initially a difficult one until its Governor notices that Colin has a natural ability in long distance running, which Colin states was all in an effort to run away from the police who were often chasing him. The Governor believes running may be Colin’s salvation to a better life, both at Ruxton Towers and after his release. The Governor wants to cultivate Colin’s running ability so that he will race for the school in the inaugural track meet against a public school, winning which will show the world the Governor being able to turn these boys into functioning members of society. Colin does take up the challenge as running offers him a sense of freedom. Colin may use his running to demonstrate what he considers his ultimate act of freedom.