Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book review: Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley


Do you remember your first run? The day that you decided to put on a pair of running shoes and run? I've been running so long that I don't remember the actual first run. But I do remember about 20-odd years ago, at a really low point in my life, going to work out at a health club where there was a track running around the perimeter of the club. I must have started there, because that's where I met my friend Jayne, who took me under her wing and taught me how to run and how to train. We eventually took our runs outside to the forest preserve path that was near the club. Eventually, I mustered up courage to run races. My first races were 5ks and 10ks. Marathons were for the "runners". Of course, I haven't stopped running since. And yep, there are a few marathons under my belt.

In her book, Running Like A Girl, Alexandra Heminsley chronicles her journey from non-runner to runner.  
"It's the most natural thing in the world. We were born to run. you just put on your shoes and head out the door, that's the beauty of it. It's just you, the road, and your thoughts..."
Cue the sound of the needle scratching across the record. Because as Heminsley says, these are the lies people tell you about running. At least, I think, in the beginning. Running is hard, right? Heminsley is open and honest about her struggles with running.

Because she's us. She is brutally honest in her self assessment:
"I wasn't the sporty type. It was as simple as that. I was a curvy girl with little or no competitive spirit...."
And she talks about the challenges she faced as a new runner. One of my favorite stories was the first time she went shopping for shoes, and was dissed by the running store employee. As if it isn't intimidating enough to go into a running store...
"Well, you'll need to run on our @$$@% machine, and then we'll need to look at your gait and analyze the data, and then @!$^, and in case of pronation pffng." 
In other words, intimidation by professional jargon. We do that in medicine sometimes...

Heminsley turns to her father for inspiration. A veteran of many marathons, he was old school, running in a pair of Green Flash sneakers. He was also her biggest cheerleader, giving her advice and encouragement. How nice that she had her dad to cheer her on!

Heminsley at the Brighton Half Marathon
source:www.mumsnet.com
When she finally does get to the London Marathon, she states:
"I could not have done more to be prepare for my first London Marathon, yet I have never been less prepared for anything in my life..." 
I found myself nodding a great deal while reading this book. She talks about the magical feeling you have after completing a marathon, becoming "the girl who did". After the marathon, she loses her desire to run, and becomes, as she puts it, "someone who has just run a marathon. Not a runner. Eventually she gets her mojo back through helping a friend cross the finish line.

There's a lot more revelation in this book, and anyone who's been a runner for some length of time will find a lot of familiar ground here. For beginning runners, this book will serve as inspiration that if Heminsley can become a runner, anyone can become a runner. Because no matter what your body size or ability, we all start at the same place. And as Heminsley states:
"...as I have learned, it is an honor, a privilege, and a gift."
At the Nike Women's Marathon
source: Huffington Post
Although her journey continues as a runner, the story has to end somewhere, and she ends it with her goal race, the San Francisco Nike Women's marathon. It's quite a story to the finish line, and gave me goosebumps. The second part of the book is chock full of helpful hints for the newbie. And some information that was new even to this veteran runner.

I really enjoyed this book, and found her writing style easy to read. The book is written almost as if Heminsley is right in the room with you, telling her stories.  I highly recommend this book for any level of runner. After all, we've all been there...

Did you read the book? What was your favorite part of her journey? Were inspired by her story?
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Be sure to link up your review below! And if you don't have a blog, feel free to post your review in the comments. If you do link up, you know the rules: link back to this post and be sure to read everyone else's posts! Sharing is caring. Thanks so much for participating!


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And join us for next month's book, which is sure to be inspiring:


The author of this book contacted me about participating in the book club, and after learning about his story, I was so inspired, I said yes! This is the story of a young Kenyan, placed with an American family, who finds solace in running and trains to run the NYCM. I haven't read it yet, but the reviews sound promising! The author has already agreed to participate so it should be another great book for the book club. Link up goes live Friday August 14. Let me know if you have any questions! 


49 comments :

  1. I loved the book and can definitely relate to a curvy girl! Great review, I will get mine done tonight and link up tomorrow! Great pick!

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    1. I love your comment, Wendy. This is exactly why I enjoyed reading her book so much. She really does makes us feel as though we are all part of the same family.

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  2. I thought the book was authentic, raw, and thoroughly entertaining!

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  3. This looks like a very interesting story. I admit, I used to love to read but just don't anymore (unless on trips). My eyes are SO tired at the end of the day. Maybe I should start listening to podcasts. That would give me something to do on those really long runs too! I could use some inspiration on my runs as well.

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    1. I have a lot of friends who listen to podcasts when they run. Me, I like to tune out...

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  4. I haven't read this, but your review made me put in on my booklist..... It seems like it sounds like my running journey, except that I don't think I will put running away for a while after I run my first marathon...maybe I'll put it away for a couple of weeks max to recover, but then I'd be back.

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    1. I don't think I could ever put running away either!

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  5. I have not read this book... I wish I had more time to read these days. It looks like a fun and interesting story.

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    1. It was one of those books where I found myself nodding a lot!

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  6. I read a lot about running.
    Now in my fourth year, I still consider myself a novice. My time and distance goals are not lofty, but I still want to absorb it all.

    My two favorite books are "Marathon Woman", by Kathrine Switzer, and "The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Four Minutes to Achieve It," by Neal Bascomb. I now have a third, "Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run."

    The first two were remarkable, beautifully written, an autobiography and an enthralling account the chase for an elusive holy grail. They inspire and fascinate, but they deal with the elite.

    What stands out with "Running Like a Girl" is that, not a born athlete, Alexandra Heminsley has run several full marathons. She writes with heart, understanding, and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor about beginning to run a bit later in life, in her thirties. A late starter myself (59) and not a marathoner (ten miles is my longest), I nodded frequently in recognition. Yes, Yes, this is what it is like. (It is exactly what I tried to achieve in wiring my own book, although Heminsley’s is narrative and mine is in journal style). She succeeds admirably in allowing the reader to understand how it feels to experience the highs of successful runs, disappointments of failure and setbacks, coping with physical, emotional, and psychic pain. She deftly explores the angst of not being able to go on, yet pushing through those negative thoughts, not quitting. How the encouragement of family and friends matter, and make a difference.

    The passage that stays with me was her description of being at a party and exclaiming that she’d had it with running, how one friend’s questions had her re-think why she was ran at all. Heminsley had registered for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco and is having second thoughts. She realizes that achieving ever higher, faster numbers have replaced her love of running, that the sheer joy of running eludes her.

    I stopped reading closed the book, and pondered my own struggles with adding, longer, faster, more difficult goals, whether being satisfied with what I have already achieved is enough. It helped me to crystallize what I really want from running, to understand that what I personally desire suffices.

    Part Two was an unexpected pleasure, addressing issues and questions all runners face. Getting proper running shoes, training, handling injury, dealing will negative people. She covers it all.

    Heminsley’s tips and advice are basic, realistic, helpful, and grounded in common sense. She understands the average runner, because, despite her considerable accomplishments, she still is.

    I loved this book. Alexandra Heminsley is someone I’d love to meet some day. I sense she’d embrace us all wherever we are in our running journeys.

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    1. I had to edit much from my review. As usual, I wrote too long! I posted before reading your review as I did not want to be influenced by your words. I was pleased and touched to read that we had similar reactions.
      For me, this was the best selection so far. Thanks, Wendy.

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    2. Don't ever think you write too much! That's the whole idea behind this book club...sharing our thoughts and opinions! I'm so glad this book struck a chord with you.

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  7. Both of those books look good, thinking I will need to read them! There are days when running is tough for me but I do think about others who would love to run and they aren't able to, that thought keeps me going and I feel blessed to be able to run.

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  8. Sounds like a very motivational read. That being said, I don't think I'll need to read. I lived it. haha

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  9. I haven't had the time but will put this one on my to-read list.

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  10. This sounds like its right up my ally! I need to add it to my Amazon wish list

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  11. This book sounds great, and so does the next one you are reading! I have thought about listening to audio books while on long runs - if I do, these will be two I choose!

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  12. I seriously love this book! I love how down to earth she was about her abilities. The one thing I didn't understand is why she didn't ever start out with a smaller race like even a 5k?

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    1. I know, right? But one of the girls at work has only run the Chicago Marathon--3 times. Crazy!

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  13. I keep seeing this book everywhere! Maybe it's a sign that I need to read it!

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  14. I have not read a book on running in a long time. It might be time to do so again!

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  15. Sounds like a great read. I don't have much time to read on a regular basis, but I might need to add this one to my list of books for vacation next month.

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  16. Great review! I really enjoyed this book and I am planning to share my review tomorrow!

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  17. this sounds like a book i'd like to read. thanks for sharing!

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    1. Seems like it really struck a chord with everyone!

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  18. I've recommended this book to a lot of people interested in getting started running because a) it's such an approachable story and b) it's such a quick and easy read - perfect for people too busy to read. :) I love that someone reached out to you for the book club! Congrats!

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    1. It was a really popular choice! I'm glad you liked it.

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  19. Another book to add to my reading list. The list is getting long!

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    1. This is a book for every runner! So relatable.

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  20. This book was such a pleasure to read. Thank you for recommending it. And I'm loving the thumbprints on the linkup. We all had the same idea. :)

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    1. That's the sign of a good book, I think! I'm so glad you liked it!

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  21. I have been wanting to read this book! Great review and I'll have to go pick it up!

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    1. It was really a popular choice this month! I think you'll like it a lot!

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  22. This book looks so interesting.THanks for yoru review!

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  23. I want to start reading more running books for inspiration! I will have to add this to my list. One I want to read soon too is Running With The Buffaloes!

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    1. I'm looking for a book for September and I need to check that one out!

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