This month's Taking the Long Way Home book club selection was Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. I hope you enjoyed the book as much as I did. The review and link up will be posted on July 15. Meanwhile, I am thrilled to have this interview with Heminsley to share with all of you!
TTLWH: I really loved your story because I could really relate to so much of your story…from being intimidated in the running store (even after 20 years of running and multiple distance events, I still feel not worthy) to your struggle in the San Francisco women’s marathon. Out of all the races you’ve run, which is your favorite? Which race was the toughest for you?
AH: They all mean such different things! I think my favourite race to run is the Brighton half as it's my hometown, it's a road I run a lot, I always feel so proud of my city .. and it's short enough that you can go for a nice Sunday lunch afterwards! The toughest was San Francisco - I had massively underestimated how much the jetlag and the loneliness would get to me. I needed support more than ever that day - luckily I got a lot of texts.
TTLWH: And how did you run that half marathon while crying? As the mom of 2 teenage boys, I leave a lot out on the road, but the one thing I can’t do is run and cry at the same time! It’s too hard to breathe!
AH: Well, it wasn't just non-stop sobbing - it was more a lump in my throat that became a giant gulpy sob when I tried to smile, thinking I was sweating then realising my eyes were streaming with tears, a few gaspy sobs, then calming myself down for 20 minutes, then something would catch my eye and it would begin all over again... It really did mess up my breathing, but my head was so full of emotional after seeing what my sister and her family had been through that it felt like small fry in comparison.
TTLWH: I think that the inspiration you receive from your family, especially your father, is amazing! Does your dad still run? And do you and your brother have any races planned together this year?
AH: My dad doesn't run any more, but he has a mountain bike which he goes on huge expeditions all over Wiltshire on. I think running was such a specific part of his life, when he had three very young children and needed that escape. Now he lives in the middle of the countryside and we're all elsewhere so he has peace and exercise whenever he wants. He is an avid viewer though - we stood on the last mile of the London Marathon together this year and watched everyone from the elite men, to Paula Radcliffe on her final race, to the very last charity runners.
TTLWH: Speaking of races, SF was your “goal race”. Mine’s Boston. What’s up next for you? Do you have any other goal races?
AH: I don't have any more goal races, but my goal is trying to run 1000 miles this year. I'm a bit behind so far but I'm going to keep going to 1000 even if it takes me longer than 365 days. It's really changed my relationship with running - its forced me to do just 2 miles on days when I really didn't want to, but I *hate* that some days it feels as if hill or sprint training isn't worth it as I get exhausted without getting a good mileage in. I've already run significantly further than I did in the two years that I ran two marathons though.
TTLWH: Like many other women, I was inspired by your story! I couldn’t imagine that you almost quit running, after all those people told you that you inspired them! The first marathon is pretty magical, and it’s hard to top that experience. Are you still the “girl who did”? Do people still look to you for inspiration, advice? Have you run any of your other friends across a finish line?
AH: Yes and yes! The book has been published in 13 countries now, so every single day I hear from people in Norway, Mexico, Australia, all over - either telling me their stories or asking for advice. It's incredible the number of miles that have been racked up all over the globe now! And two weeks ago I did a 10k with my sister and my sister in law, whose first ever race it was. It was a fantastic day, and I got to meet loads of readers too. People kept coming up to me in front of my family - they find it hysterical that I can inspire people to any sort of sporting activity given my teenage years!
TTLWH: As I’ve become more serious about running, my circle of friends has changed. I spend more time with my running friends and less time with my ‘mom’ friends. Do you still hang with your same group of friends? Do you find that you have changed, that you have less in common with those friends?
AH: No, my group of friends hasn't changed at all. I was very much the outlier as the runner. I only joined a running club about 3 months ago! The thing that has changed is that I got married, and between us we have a lot of nieces and nephews, so my weekends aren't quite as free for endless long runs as they were.
TTLWH: Besides your dad, who inspires you? Have you ever met any of your idols?
AH: I find all sorts of people inspiring. There are some feminist pals like Caitlin (Moran) who really gave me confidence to write Running Like a Girl the way that I wanted to, there are sports people like Paula Radcliffe who I have now met, and I'll cherish that for the rest of my life, and then there are people like the swimming teachers I have got to know this year who change lives and give people confidence on a day-to-day basis that I find hugely inspiring. I find volunteer projects like goodgym very inspiring too - running is more than exercise, it can be used for social good.
TTLWH: It took me forever to call myself “a runner” or “an athlete”. How do you see yourself?
AH: I'm a runner. I'll always been a runner now, even if I'm playing dodgeball that day.
TTLWH: And finally, did you really think Simon Cowell was sexy? I just LOL’d at this comment!
Have you read her book? What would you have asked her if you could?
The book review and linkup goes live on Tuesday July 14! I've included the badge below for you to insert in your blog post. PS: I still haven't figured out how to get the code to link back to this post...any helpful hints would be great!
Remember, you don't have to write a blog to post your review! You can just post in the comments. Thanks again for participating.