Title: Running Like a Girl
Author: Alexandra Heminsley
Genre: Narrative Non-Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads)
Alexandra Heminsley had high hopes: the arse of an athlete, the waist of a supermodel, the speed of a gazelle. Defeated by gyms and bored of yoga, she decided to run.
Her first attempt did not end well.
Six years later, she has run five marathons in two continents.
But, as her dad says, you run with your head as much as with your legs. So, while this is a book about running, it’s not just about running.
You could say it’s about ambition (yes, getting out of bed on a rainy Sunday morning counts), relationships (including talking to the intimidating staff in the trainer shop), as well as your body (your boobs don’t have to wobble when you run). But it’s also about realising that you can do more than you ever thought possible.
Very funny, very honest and very emotional, whether you’re in serious training or thinking about running for the bus, this is a book for anyone who after wine and crisps for supper a few too many times thinks they might . . . just might . . . like to run like a girl.
I’m not normally a fan of narrative non-fiction but I demolished this in a couple of days. It’s pretty short compared to some narrative non-fiction tomes I’ve attempted over the years, but it’s also well written, incredibly engaging and honest and at times very, very funny.
Heminsley doesn’t hold back in her anecdotes – from her mortifying experiences attempting to buy proper trainers for the first time, to dashing into a scary pub to empty her bowels mid-run, she takes you through all the highs and lows of running, capturing the accompanying emotions with an eloquence that makes this book so readable.
Many times throughout the novel (not so much on the marathon sections – I’m not anywhere near there yet!) I wanted to shout into the pages: I’ve been there! I know exactly what you’re talking about. You’ve just put my feelings into words. From the biting assertion that ‘Running is awful’, to the description of how your first run feels, to the catalogues of aches and pains you experience, there were countless moments of recognition. And relief – my experiences are clearly not alien, my insecurities shared by Heminsley. And if they’re shared by her, they are probably shared by hundreds of thousands of others.
If you’re reading this review wondering why bowel movements, aches and pains and what ultimately amounts to an ‘awful’ pastime is something that anyone would ever want to read about, let alone subject themselves too, I challenge you to read this book.
Currently, my family – never before sporty types – have been largely converted to running. We are trying to convert Ivy, who will throw every excuse in the book at you when you ask her why she won’t come running. ‘I’m not built for running.’ ‘My boobs are too big.’ ‘I just can’t do that sort of exercise.’ Well, Heminsley had all those excuses too, and she found a way. Her journey is so inspirational – a case of the everyman (or woman) achieving something incredible – that it even made me tempted to try on this whole marathon thing. Trust me, if it can do that to me, it can get you off the sofa.
Running has honestly changed my life, and while I doubt I will ever be a distance runner, I love how running has given me confidence, energy and a boost in vitality that helps stave off depression, listlessness and general lethargy. Running is awful, but it makes you feel great. And it’s that emotion, that sense, that Heminsley captures so perfectly in this book. Even a staunch non-runner, I think, could come to understand the answer to that question of ‘whhhhhyyy?’