In the film, which is based on the book's title story, an impoverished Nottingham teenager has few prospects in life and enjoys few pursuits beyond committing petty crimes. His home life is dismal as well. Caught for robbing a bakery, Colin is confined in a borstal, or prison for delinquent youth. He seeks solace in long distance running, attracting the notice of the school's authorities, but, during an important cross-country meet which he is winning, he stops running just short of the finish line to defy his captors.
It was subsequently adapted into a film of the same name.