In the November issue, Runner's World rolled out a retro running theme for their 50th anniversary that provided a fun little blast into the past for me! One specific article that caught my eye was "Front Row of the Revolution," by Tish Hamilton, which does a fantastic job tracing the rise of women in running. As a runner for some 30 years, it is interesting to put into context just how important women have become to running--and I guess running to women--over that time. In coaching both girls and boys distance running at the high school level for 25 years, I have witnessed not only the dramatic rise in participation of girls in the sport, but the quality of female runners and the PR's being set in races are nothing short of incredible. There truly is a revolution!
In light if this, I thought I would highlight some books on women and running. In looking through my collection, however, I was shocked to find that about 90% of my running books involved male runners! While I am sure that the female runners in my school could identify with male running characters and would read those books, there was very little I had to represent their specific side of the sport. To make matters worse, as I set out to find books for female runners, there was a clear lack of material to satisfy this need. Not only was I neglecting female runners, but authors were as well.
Luckily, a few strong options are pressing their way to the front. Amby Burfoot does a nice job tracing the history of women runners in his book First Ladies of Running. I can assure you that when I ask my male runners about great distance runners throughout history, they can rattle off Pre, Shorter, Rodgers, Salazar, etc. with ease! When I ask my girls team to talk about influential female runners, I get crickets. The book does a nice job of highlighting female pioneers of running, and would be a wise addition to any library.
Other books highlight more inspirational stories of female runners. Some are professional athletes, most are ladies looking for outlets to better themselves. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley, and Mile Markers by Kristin Armstrong provide fantastic examples and motivation for females looking to running for empowerment. There are also some excellent titles about running and family. My Year of Running Dangerously talks about the author's challenge of keeping up in running with his 18 year old daughter (I can relate!) and the Run like a Mother books by by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea are entertaining looks at the correlation between running and being a better parent.
Finally, I wanted to include a very relevant book I just purchased for my library called Fit Not Healthy by Vanessa Alford. As a story about how a woman's obsession to be the best runner caused unhealthy habits, it is very applicable to a growing segment of competitive female runners that I see who are pushing themselves beyond what is healthy to maintain a competitive edge.
Here is one wish I have for future running books. I have been able to stock up on many great running titles about male high school and college cross country team experiences. I would love there to be some of these same inspirational stories involving female teams. I know they are out there!