Jennifer Graham is not fat. She calls herself fat, sees herself as fat, wants to own that label, but she's really not "fat". Sorry. I've Googled her and she looks "normal". But that's how she sees herself. And even though she talks a lot about her body image, this book isn't really about being fat. It's about feeling badly about yourself. And employing running as therapy to help you through all the crap life throws at you.
I get that. 100%.
And I have to admit I've been passed in races by lots of runners who are much bigger than me. Size doesn't always matter. We need a word for that. Like how when women pass guys in a race--they're "chicked"? I'll leave that one for the readers to discuss.
Anyways. This book is all about finding yourself through running. Like so many people, Graham first started running to lose weight. She eventually discovered that body size does not make a runner and that exertion becomes joyful:
"It wasn't because of how I felt when I ran; it was because of how I felt afterward. Accomplished. Virtuous. Clean. It's like what Dorothy Parker said about her craft. She said she didn't like writing, but she liked having written. Likewise, when sedentary people first start to run, few enjoy the actual running. The reward comes later. The reward comes from having run."Graham is funny, sarcastic, and snarky, and I had some laugh out loud moments when I read this book. I learned that using 2 sports bras to hold the girls in place is called "double bagging". Although when I checked on urban dictionary, that isn't the definition I found. No mention at all of bras. Shame on me for googling it. Guess I should have picked up that box of condoms I found in the road a couple of weeks ago.
Back to the book. Graham talks about her first running clothing and how cotton is not a good fabric to run in. Not because it isn't wicking, but because it outlines your every crevice. Her description of her zebra striped running outfit took me back to the 90s (I think she must be about my age) and I reminisced about running fashions during that decade. Crinkly pants and jackets? And those thong leotards...you youngsters don't know what you missed out on.
|November 1991. Gotta love the high waisted shorts and matching top. That's how we did it back then...|
Running with music? She calls it "amateur hour" but says that music makes her feel like she's dancing. But Graham says she'd never use her iPod in a race because if someone yells "look at that ectomorph go", she wants to hear it. Another 90s reference, she talks about running with a Walkman, which she describes as an "Eggo-sized" cassette player. Pre-iPod, I used to train with a Walkman, but I never brought it to a race. Nobody did. I still have mine actually. One of my friends (he's a little eccentric) still runs with his...
|Graham with her donkeys. Not sure if these are the escapees that are featured in the book.|
Thankfully, through everything, she had running.
A pervasive theme throughout the book is Graham's relationship with her coaches, Dr George Sheehan, and Pre, as in Steve Prefontaine. Yes, you haven't missed a thing--both men are dead. Prior to signing on with Pre and Dr Sheehan, Graham wrote to Alberto Salazar to see if he would coach her. Seriously. She never heard back from him. When she's running, she hears Pre and Dr Sheehan quotes in her head and those quotes push her through tough runs. Pre is by her side on the road and through the rough spots in her life. It's kind of funny and sweet how she channels them to get her through tough runs. Pre is always there with the tough love.
|Graham channels Pre for this quote during her half. This where she coins the term "runicide".|
In the end, she runs her Kiawah Half Marathon. She struggles, and Pre gets her through it. But she is "taunted" by the marathoners who must run the course twice. She thinks she could never run a marathon. She thinks to herself that 13.1 is "mediocre". She'll never put a 13.1 sticker on her car, because she says 13.1 means "I can't run 26.2". She listens to those voices inside her head that tell her she can't. Who hasn't done that? And then, she has an epiphany on a run after the race. She starts to feel joy. Thanks her coaches. And remembers, like we all do on a great run, why it is that we run.
I hope she feels better about her accomplishments. As they say, 13.1 isn't half of anything. Because of the word "half" in the title, the half marathon has an image issue. Maybe they should rename the half marathon. Give it a title worthy of the distance. Me, I look at the half as a gateway drug to the full. Eventually everyone wants to try it.
Oh, and yes, the title of the book? It really happened. Yes, Buick LeSabres are only driven by grandmothers. Lesson learned. Don't stop to talk to people on the run. You never know what they might have to say to you. You might not like it.
So what did you think?
Do you see yourself as a "fat runner"? Does your body image affect how you feel about yourself as a runner?
Does your partner/significant other run? If so, do you train together? If not, is he/she supportive? Do you think a marriage can survive when one person is a runner and the other isn't?
Who or what do you channel to push you through a tough run or race? Do you have a mantra?
What do you think about Graham's statement that a 13.1 bumper sticker means "I can't run 26.2"? Do you put race stickers on your car? If not, why not?
Share your thoughts in the comments below and/or link up your review! Be sure to link back to this blog post.
And next up, just in time for the Boston marathon is Hal Higdon's 4:09:43 Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners. The link up will be open 3/14- 3/28/2015.
Don't forget to grab the linkup logo!