Alexandra Heminsley - Running Like a Girl

There is more vaseline in this book than I was expecting. More talk of peeing, too. It’s the kind of book that will attract and repel in equal measure - written in a breathless, frank, girlish way reminiscent of English chick-lit. People will find it, and the author, hilarious. Or they’ll find her annoying, shallow, and self-centred. (This, the Goodreads reviews lead me to believe).

I listened to the audiobook, so I’m not sure if the print copy of the book is officially in two parts. The story and style definitely changes part-way through the book. (And I’ll confess, I fast forwarded through a lot of it as the end drew nearer.)

Part one was, for me, the better part. It’s the memoir of a woman learning to run - an overweight, out of shape woman. She’s miserable in the beginning, and writes frankly and hilariously about her early days as a runner. It’s a good “anyone can learn to run” story, and could have ended there, a lengthy essay. 

But, determined to write a book, the author plows on. After she completes her first marathon, she becomes “a runner”. More marathons ensue. More anecdotes about trading off between drinks with friends and early morning training runs. More self-deprecating humorous stories about flaking out on training and losing sight of her running goals. Interesting, but less universal. The point of the book “anyone can run” meanders into “the trials and tribulations of someone who wants to run 4 marathons a year”. 

Then the book transitions into the second part. Now the author is a running expert. She’s going to share her knowledge and wisdom with me, the fledgling runner. Except I’m totally not interested. First of all, I just want to go for a run through the park. I don’t want to run marathons. And if I *did* want to run a marathon, I’d get a trainer. Her advice is based on experience, and she’s not totally without knowledge, but the information here is random. I just wanted to laugh at her funny story and go about my day. 

I can see how it happens - “I’m going to write a book!” she thought, with really only a long essay in her. So then there’s a need to flesh it out, to make more. But sometimes more isn’t better, isn’t needed. As it is, it’s 60 pages (nearly 30%) longer than Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which is a genius-level exploration of the same topic (minus the vaseline). The first part of the book is raw and funny and honest - it’s the best part.