Where are all the running books by women?

Yesterday I took a survey for Runner’s World, and one of the questions was about the survey-taker’s favorite running book.

At first I was excited because, yay books!  But as I surveyed the list of books to choose from, my book-nerd excitement drooped a bit.

Where were all the books by women?

And then I wondered…are there even any running books by women?

I’m not talking about, say, “The Complete Book of Running for Women” or “Kara Goucher’s Running for Women”  (although I do think I’d like to read that one very much, if only because it was written by my Number 1 Running Girl Crush).

I’m talking about books that are about running that are written by women or about women.

Here’s the list that was on the Runner’s World survey:

These aren’t how-to books.  No one reads Roger Bannister’s book to learn how to run a four-minute mile.  They read it to catch a glimpse of how it feels to run a four-minute mile.  These are memoirs, non-fiction recountings, biographies, even a novel.  And the ones I’ve read of these have been fantastic, the kind of books that make your feet itch with the desire to run as long and as fast as you possibly can.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny bit sad that there are no books by women that rated making this list.

So I decided to go in search of running books written by women, if only to balance this out a little bit.  Here’s what I found:

I’m definitely interested in reading the majority of these.  (Although I have to confess, I am not the hugest fan of Kristin Armstrong.  I’ve read her RW column and her blog and I find her too “you go girl!” and sentimental for my tastes, like a hot-pink Precious Moments figurine in running shoes.  But people seem to love her, so what do I know?)

But – and it may not be fair of me to make this judgment based on synopses and not actual readings – it seems like a lot of these books are sadly not quite up to the literary standards of, say, “The Four Minute Mile.”

I mean, it’s great that we’ve got books that are all about inspiring women to get out and run, but we need more memoirs, more epics, more books that depict women who run as warriors instead of resorting to self-help “girl power” rah-rah type storytelling.

But like I said, maybe I’m wrong?  Maybe I should actually reserve judgment until I read the books?  And what exactly is so bad about self-help “girl power” rah-rah type storytelling?  Am I just expecting more because I secretly wish I could be Joan Didion when I grow up?

I suppose there is good news, which is that any lady who wants to write a beautiful piece of literature about running has a wide open field all to herself.

3 responses to “Where are all the running books by women?

  1. Hey, I really love your blog (well, and first name!) and appreciate the link to mine! I have Pam Reed’s book, but I haven’t started reading it yet. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read any of the others listed in your female authors list, so I should probably get on that. Have you read Going Long: The Best Stories From Runner’s World? I’m reading it now–it has a mix of male and female authors and some great profiles of groundbreaking lady runners. So far it might just edge out Born to Run as my favorite running book.

    • Hi Cait! I am a huge fan of your blog as well – I love how funny you are, and also that you are a dedicated runner like me! I am also sad to say that I haven’t read any of the books on that list, despite owning the book by Kathrine Switzer, who I actually met at an expo a couple of years ago. She was absolutely lovely, which makes the fact that I turned into a gibbering ball of fangirl-dork when she talked to me all the more shameful.

      I have not read “Going Long” but if you say it may edge out “Born to Run” – which I loved sooooooo much – as your favorite running book, then I am going to pick up a copy and check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

      I also picked up a copy of “Once a Runner” at a Borders clearance sale this weekend so I’ll be reading that soon. I thought I’d take advantage of the sale to pick up a bunch of running books, but the sports section was completely bereft of running books. There were tons of books about bow-hunting and golf, but none about running? WTF Borders?

  2. Hi there! I just finished listening to Alexandra Heminsley’s book on itunes, Running Like a Girl: Notes on Becoming a Runner. It was wonderful, especially for us girls new to running.

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