Friday, September 18, 2015

Taking the Long Way Home Book Club Book Review: Daughters of Distance

Ultramarathoner Vanessa Runs wrote this book with two questions in her mind: 
"How is endurance sport unique to females?"
"How does our womanhood play a role in endurance?"
In her book, Daughters of Distance, Vanessa uses her own experience, as well as that of many other well-known endurance athletes, to answer both questions. The end result is a book that is very readable and very relatable for women endurance athletes of all ages and abilities.

The book is divided up into chapters, each exploring different aspects of women's endurance running. She allows for femininity and emotion in our tough sport. In "Race Like A Girl", she talks about being "chicked". I've talked about this a little bit on the blog. In a half marathon I ran last spring, I shared an experience of a man refusing to let me pass him on the race course. Every time I passed him, he'd speed up and pass me again, like a game of cat and mouse. Of course, he finally ran out of gas, and I passed him for good.
Regarding "being chicked", Vanessa says:
"There are two camps of opinions on this word. On one side, it is considered empowering and inspiration, representing a woman's full athletic potential. She may be a chick, but she is able, competitive, and not to be underestimated...."
"To others, "chicked" is a sexist and offensive phrase....The underlying message downplays a woman's place in endurance sport, reinforcing the belief that women don't belong there and therefore don't officially count as competition.

As on the road and as in life, I think! I could write a whole blog post on this, but Vanessa does a great job summing up my thoughts in this chapter alone! And by the way, I do think endurance sports are the great equalizers between the sexes. So many women do "chick" men in long distance events. It's just the way we are built. By the way, as I learned in the book, did you know that women still cannot race the Tour de France and that there is no female equivalent event?

She asks the question: how do you feel about women's only events? Have you ever done any? I have mixed feelings about them. I love the supportive atmosphere of just being around women, but being somewhat, ok, very competitive, I do like the competitive edge that men bring to a race.

Throughout the book, Vanessa sprinkles in quotes from famous women's endurance athletes (some of whom you might be familiar via their blogs!). In one of my favorite chapters in the book, on confidence, she quotes Jennifer Benna (you can read about her adventures at her blog: A Girl's Guide to Trail Running), a 100 mile champion:
"If I never run another step, I will always be able to dig deep and find the confidence that running has give me." 
Yes! I found myself thinking this and nodding a lot while I read this book.

She also addresses the unsupportive significant other and Mommy guilt.  Do you have "Selfish Runner's Syndrome"? Did you know that SRS was "a thing"? Regardless, she points out that "making yourself the priority is not the same thing as being selfish". It's a fine line between selfish and selfless.

Vanessa also shares some tips and tricks for endurance parents to help manage training guilt and discusses ways to avoid being the "martyr parent". You know who they are. We all know them. Martyr parents are the ones who tell you how they "can't train" for a race because they need to put their kids' needs first. While this statement appears selfless and sacrificial, this can actually make the other person feel guilty for not making the same sacrifices. I have had parents say this to me, and it was nice to see that there is actually a term for this behavior.

Other chapters include topics such as competition (with other women), safety, life stages, and my favorite of all, the chapter on aging.
"Not only are older runners exceeding the performances of their younger peers, there is some evidence that older athletes may have an endurance advantage..."
"Older runners aren't going to be held back by nagging doubts, cop-out excuses, or society's expectations. They may not get another chance. They will plow ahead. They will meet their goals. They will finish the race." 
It's like she was in my head when she wrote this. Now you know why I push myself so hard.

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. Vanessa does an amazing job of summarizing the issues facing women endurance runners. And she keeps it credible with research and quotes from famous runners. If you decided not to read this one because you thought it was for ultrarunners only, I encourage you to reconsider. Daughters of Distance celebrates the woman athlete, and should be required reading for anyone who is a female endurance athlete or loved one.

Have you read Daughters of Distance? What are your thoughts?

And don't forget to link up your review! Remember the rules, link back to this blog post and comment on some of the other reviews. If you don't have a blog, please share your review in the comments! Thanks again for reading.

Taking the Long Way Home Book Club

Be sure to check out next month's book: Confessions of an Unlikely Runner: A Guide to Racing and Obstacle Courses for the Averagely Fit and Halfway Dedicated by Dana L Ayers is a hilarious account of Dana's adventures on and off the road. If you liked Run Like A Girl, you will love this one! You can download this one on Amazon for $2.99.


  1. Sounds like a good book - except for the idea that we older runners may not have another chance!

  2. If I had to judge a book by its cover I would call this a great book, but your review makes it sound pretty awesome also. I kind of like the word chicked. I see it as an empowering word, as in this chick works hard and is tough and just passed you. I love friendly competition but I also believe in not putting down someone else's effort so maybe it is a mean word really

    1. I don't look at chicked as a mean word either...for me, it's empowering!

  3. I read her first book - The Summit Seeker. It is a memoir about her transition from non-running to long-distance trail runner. I'd love to read this one too.

  4. Ha! I hadn't heard of being "chicked"! I like it! And - I can't believe you had that experience with a guy (well, really with anyone) on the racecourse! I did have a guy draft off me for a lot of a 10K, then he passed me and I drafted off him for a little bit, then I passed him again right before the finish. He came up to me and said I deserved to beat him since he drafted off me for so long.

  5. I have heard of her, but never read her books. Daughters of Distance seems like a really good read! I'll have to check it out. I have also read part of Confessions of an Unlikely Runner. I love it so far!

  6. Daughters of Distance is on my to read list. The list gets longer with your posts :)

  7. Oh this looks like a good read! I will have to check it out. Thanks for sharing. :)