Running and reading are probably my two favourite hobbies, so this book (Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley) was always going to be a winner for me.
I started running ‘properly’ about three or so years ago. I clearly remember the first time I ventured out onto the seafront, in neon leggings and freezing conditions – I got back and congratulated myself heartily on my achievement, then looked at a map and realised I had run less than a mile in feeble little walk/jog bursts.
However, after that, it soon became easier – making quick progress and visibly improving kept my motivation up until I actually found that I was enjoying myself. A couple of months later I ran a charity 5K with three friends. Since then, I’ve kept up running regularly, with only the very occasional little gap due to illness or holiday – I run 5–10K three to five times a week, with a longer run every couple of weeks (or whenever I feel like it) of about half-marathon distance.
I wish that this book had existed when I was starting out. I think it would have inspired me and made me feel better in about equal measure. Hemmo describes her first run in a way that sounds pretty much exactly like mine. Like me, she perseveres and keeps it up, getting better and better. She sums it up perfectly: ‘because I decided to be able to’. However, then unlike me, she went on to run six marathons and get much more serious about it than I ever have.
I’m not a big fan of ‘organised’ things. Part of why I like running is just having the freedom to get out and go. I’ve done my local Parkrun a few times and really enjoyed it (I highly recommend finding one near you). However, I’ve never really felt any great urge to train for a marathon or similar – I suppose out of fear that it would suck all of the joy and fun out of it, replacing those with pressure and other such not-fun things.
This book made me wonder about that for the first time. I cried during Hemmo’s description of her first London Marathon, finding the idea of the huge effort and support combined unexpectedly moving. I wondered if I might like to try it.
I still haven’t decided. Don’t expect to find me doing any serious training any time soon. Still, there’s a lot here to think about.
I really recommend it whether you’re a seasoned runner, starting out, or even just vaguely interested.