I wouldn't necessarily call myself a runner. Sure, I enjoy running, but if we're being honest, it's hard and requires a lot of mental energy for me, so it's not always my go-to option for exercise. In the past year or so, I've only gone on a handful of runs, but after reading The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion, I've felt inspired to lace up my sneakers and take another shot at being a "runner."
Here's the thing about this book: it's not a typical sports memoir. Catriona Menzies-Pike is not a famous athlete. She's run a handful of marathons and many, many half-marathons, but when you put her running accomplishments in perspective, she's pretty much on par with any other ordinary person who also happens to run marathons.
What makes this memoir interesting is not that it's about running, but that it's written from a feminist perspective. Within the first chapter, I realized that this was one of the most well-written memoirs I've read, and by the time Menzies-Pike mentioned her PhD in Literature, I could tell that she was a voracious reader, and someone of extraordinary intelligence. She not only writes about her own life experiences -- a plane crash that left her orphaned, a downward spiral shortly after, and her discovery that running helped to heal her -- but also writes about the history of women in running.
I learned so much about the discrimination of women in this sport (starting in the time of Ancient Greece and continuing well into the 1960's) and the stories of individual women who dared to run alongside male athletes. One of the most interesting (and disturbing) facts that I learned? Women were often told to avoid running because it would threaten their fertility. Women runners who entered races were often scolded for their selfishness, race organizers certain that to run a marathon was to sacrifice a future as a mother. Now, of course, we know that a woman can be both an athlete and a mother, so it seems absurd to think that this was a huge reason behind the discrimination. There are some spots where I felt the history (or the focus on sexism) was a little drawn out and sluggish, but in the end I came away from this book feeling inspired to run and to encourage the women in my life to pursue dreams that may feel impossible. Her story is proof that dedication bears fruit and I loved her overall message that no matter your size, speed, or distance, when you set out on a run, you are a runner.
This title will be released on May 23, 2017.
Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5
Title: The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion
Author: Catriona Menzies-Pike
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group, 2017
Source: Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!