Catriona Menzies-Pike loves to run. She hasn't always. . . . In her memoir The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion she tells her story of transition from a typical club-hopping, self-absorbed 20-something academic into a committed recreational runner. I think a lot of runners will be able to relate to her and her transition. She readily admits that she's not particularly athletic, and that she'll never be a fast finisher. Like many runners, especially those of us who start running when we are past our physical prime, Menzies-Pike celebrates the joys of running, of training, and of sometimes participating in those festivals of running surrounding a marathon or half-marathon.
Menzies-Pike doesn't spend a lot of time in The Long Run talking about gear, training plans, diet, or race strategy. In fact, she leaves the reader with the impression that she doesn't spend much time thinking about such things when she runs or races. I can relate to that! Just run!
What she does spend a lot of time talking about is the history of running for women. She writes about the irrational prohibitions against women competing in running races, and the barriers they have faced along the way. In today's atmosphere of equality, it's hard to imagine that women didn't compete in the marathon at the Olympics until 1984, and it hasn't been that long ago that women were prevented from entering the Boston and New York Marathons.
The perception of women still bothers Menzies-Pike. The fact that her body is openly evaluated for its running fitness, that women are judged by their running attire, that women are sexualized in running all point to the sexism of society. I appreciated her historical analysis; we can certainly celebrate the progress that has been made. However, her strident feminism turned my off. She views everything through the lens of gender discrimination. She comes across unnecessarily as a bitter feminist. (I know, I'm a male, of course I represent the patriarchy against which she has struggled these many decades. . . .)
My measure for books about running is, After reading, do I want to get out and run? With The Long Run, the answer is no. Her feminism aside, the whole book is really a downer. She redeems herself a bit at the end with some passages about enjoying running for running's sake, but overall, I just didn't enjoy it, nor was I inspired to run.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!