Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Club: An interview with Jennifer Graham, author of Honey Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner

In anticipation of our first book club/book review on Saturday, I sent some questions to the author of our first book. I'm hoping to do this with each book. Graham did not disappoint me! Her answers were fresh, honest, and self-deprecating, just like the book. 

Have you read the book? It's not too late....The link up/review will be posted on March 14 and will stay open until March 28, right here on the blog. You don't have to be a blogger to participate. Just post your review in the comments. Of course, the comments will remain open forever! I'm so looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts and comments. Meanwhile, here's some food for thought from Jennifer Graham.

Are you still running?  And what events do you have planned for this year?
Oh, yeah, because I really have no choice in the matter, of course.  In the book I wrote about the line runners cross, after which you know you are never going back to a sedentary life, and at some unknown point I crossed it.  That said, there are periods when I don’t run very much – unhappily, I’ve been in one for a couple of months. (Moved to Pittsburgh in January, and between handling a new job and single motherhood and icy, hilly streets, it’s been rugged.) But even then, I get out at least twice a week, just for my mental health.  And I’ve been in this game long enough that I don’t worry that I will backslide.  No matter how long since you’ve run, you’re only one run away from being a runner again. 
As for events, I am planning to do the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in May.  Still looking for summer races in my new part of the world – and I’m open to suggestions!

Something we are all still talking about...unless you live in Florida...Have you been running outside this winter? How are you dealing with the weather?   The weather – as in the snow and temperatures – doesn’t bother me, but icy roads and trails do.  I’m terrified of breaking a bone, so I won’t run if there’s even the possibility of black ice.  That said, I do have my tricks.   If the snow is not too deep, I drive to a baseball diamond or football field and run around the field in YakTrax.  I feel safe there, because if I fall, at least I don’t have to worry about falling in the path of an SUV.  And since I just moved into a house with a fairly big backyard, I took a snow shovel and dug myself a backyard track in the snow!  I still use the YakTrax running on it, and have to go slow because footing can be uneven, but I can get in a good 30-minute workout with lots of bracing, fresh air.  (I consider gyms a place of last resort.)

Would you consider running a marathon?   Oh yes, it’s definitely a goal.  I cheered on the sidelines of Boston for eight years, and every single time, wished I was out there. But I respect the distance too much to do it without serious preparation, and as a single, working mom, I have not been able to carve out the time to train.  I hope to in the next decade, God willing and my knees hold up. I would like to run the Kiawah Marathon in South Carolina and (of course) some day qualify for Boston. I am fully aware I may be 90 before I can achieve a BQ though!

Does Pre still run with you?  Dr. Sheehan?  Do they have anything new to say after all these years?     Well, of course!  I am fiercely loyal to my tribe, and they to me.   But they, of course, have work elsewhere, and there are new voices I need to hear, so I like to invite others in ….the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius has a lot to say about power and discipline. I highly recommend his "Meditations."

Some readers have taken issue with you calling yourself fat. How do you respond to that? And isn’t it really about how we see ourselves? Has running helped you to see yourself as other than “fat”? Do you still see yourself as a “fat runner”? Yes, I know, and I’m genuinely sorry about that, because I hate to see women tearing each other down under any circumstance, but especially over something like weight, which is an issue that is a source of pain for so many of us.  I think I will probably always “feel” fat because I was overweight as a child, which can be a scar you carry with you for life, particularly if you feel unloved in other ways, too. My weight has fluctuated wildly over the course of my adult life, from 180 or so (I’m guessing, it could have been more – I didn’t own a scale then) before I started running, down to 146 when I got married, up to 226 during my last pregnancy. Right now, I weigh 157, 10 pounds from where I’d like to be. That’s the point at which my thighs don’t rub together and where I “feel” thin and I don't feel (as) embarrassed to be naked.   My inability to get there, despite decades of trying and thousands of miles of running, points to a need for some serious therapy, but who has time? Besides, I’d rather run.

I have to say that when it comes to running, body size doesn’t always matter. Plenty of times at races, I’ve been passed by runners who are much “larger” than me. When women pass men, we say the guy's been “chicked”. Can you think of any term for being passed by a fat runner?   Oh, that’s dangerous territory… terms come to mind, sure, but none that I’d want to be called, so I will pass on that!  But isn’t it great that lots of large people are out there?  That’s one reason I love running so much, because it’s the only sport in which people of all shapes and sizes can literally compete on the same field (and roads), and at the same time, as the elites. How cool is that?

Your story about the bike ride/date and the runaway donkeys just made me roar. Do you still have donkeys? And how long do you wait before you tell a guy you’re dating that you have the donkeys. Is it always a deal breaker?    Yes, I still have two donkeys, because (again) I’m fiercely loyal like that. I have suffered so much loss over the past few years that I am super-glued to everyone and everything that is still with me.  I don’t believe either people or animals are disposable, no matter how much trouble they may be.  As for deal-breakers, I wouldn't waste time even having coffee with a man who doesn't love animals.

Do you have any suggestions for running related books we should read this year? Preferably humorous… --  well, anything by  George Sheehan, of course!  Even though he was a doctor and a fierce competitor, he was really funny, and humor is laced through all his books.   A fun book I read last year was “The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures and How I Became a Serious Runner” by Amy Marxkors; I’d recommend that.  And I would recommend  Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea’s  “Tales from Another Mother Runner” (subtitled: A Collection from Badass Mother Runners), which just came out, even if I didn’t have an essay included!


Here's the linkup badge for your post/book review: 

Be sure to link back to the blog and visit the other posts to see what others have to say. 

If you want to get a jump on the next book, it's 4:09:43 by Hal Higdon. I picked this one in anticipation of the Boston Marathon. And following that will be the newest release from our favorite mother runners, Dimity and Sarah. 

So many books, so little time.....


  1. This book sounds inspirational and funny! I think I signed up for this on Goodreads, but had a jam packed March and couldn't get to the book. I also didn't realize I was committing to a running related book every month - that may be more than I can handle :) We shall see...

  2. How fun to have her here! I haven't read this one yet, but she sounds wonderful and it sounds like a great read, so I'll add it to my list!

  3. I got the book and I started it but I'm not close to being finished. Wow Jennifer you are so not fat!

  4. I've seen a couple excerps from the book and it looks funny. I need to read more. I have a few stacked up here. Damn social media taking up my time!

  5. I just saw this book on Amazon the other day and really want to read it! I just might have to get it on my Kindle during my kids' naptime this afternoon!

  6. I have not read this one, it looks interesting and I am putting it on my "to read" list.

  7. I'm going to need to check this book out. Interesting as I grew up in Pittsburgh, and my last post on my blog was called "Cousin Binge Revisits" and is about using running to help me overcome emotional eating.

    1. I picked it because I thought it was a book we all could relate to...

  8. Thank you, everyone, for all the kind comments! I am so honored that Wendy invited me in here. I have taken it on the chin from a lot of people over the fat label, all the way back to the Newsweek piece that started the book, and I address this in the epilogue which is called "Ewes Not Fat." I won't rehash it here, but suffice it to say weight is still a battle for me, and may always be. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the book (or parts of it!) and for commenting here.

    1. The feedback for your interview and the book was overwhelmingly positive! Thanks for playing along!