Running Like a Girl

by Alexandra Heminsley

Read time: about 6 minutes

Remember the start of the New Year when you download a number of health and fitness apps on your phone? When you go for sportswear binge shopping? And when you count your calories for an initial few days before your forget about any new resolution you made as you slip into the second month of the year? I am not new to the experience. It happens every year since the last, if I can remember right, five years.

But this year something changed. I travelled thrice as much as I travelled in any of the previous years. And while walking in the sweltering heat of Kochi and climbing hills in the freezing cold of Kashmir, I realized the importance of being fit. Not just losing weight but to be able to walk for long, swim for long and resist adverse climatic conditions taking a toll on my body. I decided to run a marathon. Even though it was not my first it was a step towards the consistent work that I decided to put in towards fitness.

This book came along while I was watching random videos looking for tips to run a race.

Cover: Running Like a Girl

Cover page

The cover page consists of a beautiful illustration of a tank top on a hanger. It is a well composed simple illustration.

Content

The author begins with a short introduction on why she runs.

THE SECRET THAT all runners keep is that they don’t do it for their bodies, but for their minds. Slim legs can get boring, but a clear mind never does. The tight glutes, the xylophone abs, the satisfaction of knowing you can have an extra doughnut in front of the telly: these are not the point of running, but the by-product.

Heminsley explains the positives of running as a habit apart from staying slim. Nurturing of mind is what she wants to run for as the bodily transformation gets monotonous after sometime.

The subsequent chapters trace her journey from being a non-runner who looks admiringly at her roommate who enters home after a good run and animatedly talks to the author. Heminsley admires her but knows that she will never be able to run like and goes back to watching TV. The author decides to sign-up for the London marathon. This in itself was a huge step for her. And then begins the preparations. She goes for her first run thinking she was going to run round the block. ‘I had high hopes: hopes of the arse of an athlete, the waist of a supermodel and the speed of a gazelle.’ None of it actually happens. She runs to come back home and swears never to do it again. But she gets back on her feet and trains for a marathon. Because, the only way to do it is to get on your feet and run.

The author subsequently talks about her experience with purchasing a pair of trainers and other requirements to run a marathon. These are some very personal accounts that she shares to let the reader know how marathon runners are made. The author extensively talks about the people she meets on the run and the stories they have to share.

At first I thought that the sunlight was dappling shadow across his features. But no, he really did have only half a face. It was as I glanced at him, trying my best not to stumble in shock, that I saw the text on his vest was that of an army regiment. He was probably a veteran from the war in Afghanistan. And his injuries were profound. Where once there would have been eyes, there were only smooth scars. Likewise one of his ears. All of this above a body in perfect working condition. I swallowed and ran on, stunned by what I’d seen and ashamed of my knee-jerk assumptions.

The author throws a couple of tips and tricks to ease your way into it. There are also talks of injury and taking care towards the end. There are a couple of pages dedicated to looking good while running which in turn boosts your confidence.

There was nothing new that I learnt in the book that I didn’t already know. However, it was great reading an account of someone who starts running with no self-confidence but runs a series of marathons after rigorous practice only because she wants to. Her journey is what gives you a confidence that you can run too.

As I approached it there was only one thought in my mind: I am never, ever doing that again. My feet carried me over the line and I threw my hands above my head to look up at the red banner. That thought was immediately replaced by another: Next time I think I could probably do it a bit faster.

Language

The book is a candid narrative of the author. It is written in a simple conversational language which makes it very easy to read. The relatable factor is what keeps you hooked on to the book.

Good points

I absolutely loved the cover-page. The content is engrossing. The language eases you into the book.

Bad points

For someone looking to discover a secret of some sort, this book may be a little disappointing. This is no magic box but a narrative of someone’s journey.

Overall

I absolutely enjoyed the book. I always knew I could run a marathon but the extent of which I will have to prepare came as enlightenment.

Whom do I recommend this to

The book comes handy for those who are looking to run but do not know how to start. Or those who want to run but are too embarrassed to start for whatever reason.

Quotable Quotes

It turns out that to survive, you just have to keep going.

Finally I could see with startling clarity that the time I had spent experiencing any pain on account of running was embarrassingly outweighed by the amount of time that I felt good about it.

I imagine people wondering how I’ve done it and the answer is simple: I decided to be able to.

After a lifetime of accepting that my body was to be looked at rather than used, I was learning to appreciate what it could actually do.

I was a tourist attraction, a superhero, a medal winner.

I gasped, not just out of breathlessness but excitement. This route was proving to be as astonishing as I had hoped. The views continued to be more and more spectacular as the mist cleared. I felt like an explorer, understanding the drive to seek out the unknown and push myself to the limit. There was also the drive to see really cool houses like the one that Sharon Stone’s character has in Basic Instinct, sitting on her deck, staring moodily into the woods.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.’ Dr. Seuss

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com