Wednesday, September 2, 2015

For my runner-readers! Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley


Title: Running Like A Girl
Author: Alexandra Heminsley
Publisher: Hutchinson
Publication Date: April 4, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

In her twenties, Alexandra Heminsley spent more time at the bar than she did in pursuit of athletic excellence. When she decided to take up running in her thirties, she had grand hopes for a blissful runner’s high and immediate physical transformation. After eating three slices of toast with honey and spending ninety minutes on iTunes creating the perfect playlist, she hit the streets—and failed miserably. The stories of her first runs turn the common notion that we are all “born to run” on its head—and expose the truth about starting to run: it can be brutal.

Running Like a Girl tells the story of how Alexandra gets beyond the brutal part, makes running a part of her life, and reaps the rewards: not just the obvious things, like weight loss, health, and glowing skin, but self-confidence and immeasurable daily pleasure, along with a new closeness to her father—a marathon runner—and her brother, with whom she ultimately runs her first marathon.

But before that, she has to figure out the logistics of running: the intimidating questions from a young and arrogant sales assistant when she goes to buy her first running shoes, where to get decent bras for the larger bust, how not to freeze or get sunstroke, and what (and when) to eat before a run. She’s figured out what’s important (pockets) and what isn’t (appearance), and more.

For any woman who has ever run, wanted to run, tried to run, or failed to run (even if just around the block), Heminsley’s funny, warm, and motivational personal journey from nonathlete extraordinaire to someone who has completed five marathons is inspiring, entertaining, prac­tical, and fun.


My Review:

I have been on the hunt for some great running books for a while now, for obvious reasons.  (If you're new here, check out my running alter ego.)  Luckily, Wendy at Taking The Long Way Home does a monthly running book club!  Though I have yet to get my act together and read the chosen book during it's chosen month, I have at least started to peruse the past selections and fit them in to my reading calendar where I can.  A couple months back, Running Like A Girl was the book, and I knew it was one I had to try.

What appeals to me most about Heminsley's account of her running experiences is that she is an honest-to-God, late-to-the-party, amateur runner...like ME!  I read a ton of running blogs, and I love them, I really do, but it drives me BATTY when you read the "About Me" and the author is like, "Oh I started running late in life, really wasn't into it at all until my 30's...well except for that 4 years I ran cross country in high school...and just a short bit in college...but look, I've worked so hard and now my 5K PR is sub-20!"  No!  You stop it right there!  You've been a runner your whole life, just because you weren't in the Olympic Trials by age 18 doesn't mean you can downplay that.  Do you know that the very IDEA of cross country made me want to vomit in high school?  Running for FUN?  Are you kidding me?  I'd have rather died.  I was not born with any sort of natural physical or mental ability for running.  I didn't start until I was 22, and even then, I didn't really love it or get serious about it until age 30.  As such, I adore reading about the running experiences of other athletes like me...late bloomers, people who stumbled upon a love of running during their journey for weight loss, or stress relief, or whatever, and then suddenly found themselves enamored by it, unable to do without it.  That's Heminsley's journey, in a nutshell.

I found myself laughing at many of Heminsley's anecdotes about her early days as a runner.  One of my favorites is when she talks about how intimidating it was to get fitted for shoes at a running store for the first time.  (I've done this for a while now, and my local Fleet Feet employees still scare the pants off me. THEY KNOW TOO MUCH.)  Her humor falls flat at times (feels like she tries a bit too hard for the one-liners), but I was more impressed by her ability to hit on some of the most common, yet not talked about, difficulties of getting into running as an adult.  Her narrative is easy to relate to, both for current runners and for those thinking about getting into it.  (And that is an important point here: Running Like a Girl is not JUST for the runner-reader!  If you're thinking about getting into running, or have a runner in your life, so much of this book will connect with you.)

I also enjoyed her recaps of some of the marathons that she has completed.  Having never done a marathon (but wanting to in the future), I appreciated that in-her-head look at the mental toughness required to complete such a thing.  She is open about her highest highs and her lowest lows, and that honesty makes for excellent reading.

That said, I don't know how I felt about all of the specific running advice that she gives in Part Two of the book.  Part One is an autobiographical account of her running journey, but Part Two consists primarily of some running myths/facts (I liked this section), and running advice from Heminsley herself.  Since she is, indeed, an amateur runner, it felt odd that she was giving running advice with such authority.  I suppose that sharing running anecdotes vs sharing specific do's and don't's of the sport carry different weight for me.  For example, her section on how to look good on marathon day includes advice on the proper nail polish, eyeliner, eyelashes, and moisturizer.  (Cue **blank stare** from moi, who doesn't wear eyeliner for date night, let alone when I'm going to be running for hours at a time.)  I know this is a book primarily for female runners, but...really?  I felt like this took away from her "authority" as a runner, and instead she should have perhaps done some research on tried-and-true marathon advice and compiled it here for beginners.

All in all, Running Like A Girl was a quick, lighthearted, and refreshingly honest account of the life of an amateur runner.  While I may not have always appreciated Heminsley's humor, or agreed with her running advice, I do think this is a fun book for runners (and the ones they love) to delve into.

Do you have a favorite nonfiction book about a hobby that you love?

4 comments:

  1. HA - I like your skewering of all those "I swear I'm late to the party, but I'm actually not" blogs! So true! I assume you've read Born to Run given your reference in this post...that's been my favorite running book so far!

    Reply
    Replies
    1. I have not, actually! Been recommended to me many times though. Looking forward to that one soon.

  2. Even without being very athletic, I love zumba, jazzercise, and other aerobic classes, so I'll probably not be picking up running, but the idea of a more accessible running story still appeals to me. Far more relatable for me!

    Reply
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think she's inspiring to any amateur athlete. Her determination is inspiring!

 
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