I must explain before I tell you what I thought about this book that I’m a bit of a fatty. In the past I’ve harboured dreams of running, while holding a Mars Bar in one hand and the telly remote in the other. One of the items on my bucket list, though, is to run the London Marathon and Running Like a Girl is the only book that I’ve ever picked up that has ever made me think it might, one day, be more than a vague notion.
In the first half of this book, Alexandra Heminsley (Hemmo) tells her story of training for her first London Marathon. In the beginning she has a list as long as your arm of reasons why she can’t run, but after sage advice from Dad (along the lines of ‘You can run, you just choose not to’) Hemmo takes the bull by the horns and starts her regime. Much of what Hemmo has to tell of her early training runs is hilarious, but actually full of good advice – how DO you run with a phone, a wallet, a drink, keys etc, and what exactly is wicking fabric?
The chapter where Hemmo actually runs the marathon is inspiring, and it feels as though you’re almost running alongside her (I say running, perhaps in a support vehicle or something…). It does give you a real insight into the emotional – as well as physical – toll running that distance can have on a person, but also the stories of other supportive runners and the cheering crowds on the roadside makes the running community sound so much like a little family that it’s really touching.
In the second half of the book, there is some really good practical advice on how to start running, and also a history of women and distance running, which needs to be read to be believed. Did you know that women were originally banned from marathons because people thought their wombs would fall out?! Some of the abuse suffered by women who were just trying to run, even as late at the 1970s is just appalling, and if you weren’t inspired to run by Hemmo’s example, then Dr Julia Chase-Brand, Bobbi Gibb, Kathrine Switzer and Joan Benoit Samuelson and their stories will make you strap on your trainers immediately.
Personally, having harboured my little dream, I have been inspired to run despite being several stone overweight and in dreadful condition. I have started the C25K programme – by no means anywhere NEAR a marathon, but baby steps, and it’s going well. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll run down the Mall and cross that finish line, but if I ever do, I’ll owe Hemmo and this book a very big thank you.
Please note: A copy of this book was obtained from Gullivers Bookshop, Wimborne for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are, as ever, my own.