A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Book Review: First Ladies of Running

on June 16, 2016

This month’s book club selection is “First Ladies of Running” by Amby Burfoot (link FYI – no perks for me). I enjoyed this far more than I was expecting to! Thanks as always to Wendy for hosting the Taking the Long Way Home book club.


I confess, I initially thought this would be another book about elite runners who were nothing like me and that I wouldn’t be able to connect with. From the beginning, I could tell that wasn’t going to be true. In the introduction, Shalane Flanagan highlights the variations on a theme that came up over and over in the book:

Before I started running, I was very shy and insecure. Running gave me a sense of self, and a voice to express that self.

I didn’t expect to find something so true to my own experience at the beginning of a book full of women who made history, so it definitely had me reading on with a more open mind. I was not disappointed. Many of the stories in this book were ones I was very familiar with, like Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb, but so many others were new to me. It amazes me to imagine how different the world was for some of these pioneers, who ran in school uniforms because it would be “unseemly” for them to wear anything else. In many ways, we take for granted how far we’ve come as women (although we still have a long way to go). I am amazed and grateful for these women who stood up in small and yet huge ways to pave the way for the rest of us.

Keep on keepin on

Most of these stories were of women I’d never heard of. I think my favorite might be Joan Ullyot, who wrote Women’s Running and got to use her brains (a doctor, so already going a bit against the grain for her era) to counter all of the reasons women shouldn’t run. My favorite might be the bit about why we don’t worry about sagging in guys if we’re so worried about sagging boobs in women. After all, “they hang a lot looser than breasts.” Definitely a woman with a lot to say! Her books are on my summer reading list now!

I confess, I even have a new appreciation for Oprah’s place among women runners. I’ve never been a big Oprah acolyte, although I absolutely respect her accomplishments. I’ve never thought of her as having a place in the history of women’s running, but I don’t know if a back of the packer like me would ever even be in the position to consider a marathon if someone as “normal” (in an athletic sense at least) as Oprah hadn’t done it so publicly to open the door for anyone to run. That isn’t to say that there weren’t a wide variety of people running marathons before she did, but she definitely raised the profile in a way that impacted many of us. I also found myself cheering for her (not a position I ever thought I’d be in!) as I read through the author’s recounting of that marathon, even though I know that she finished okay. I’ve got to say, reading that chapter did a lot to quell doubts I’ve had lately of my own marathon dreams.

Amby Burfoot does a great job telling the stories of these women in a way that is engaging, inspiring and very re-readable. It’s nice, too, that these are short chapters, so the stories stay focused and don’t wander too much into random territory like a single longer memoir might. I am glad I got this as an e-book. I keep it on my phone and find myself re-reading these stories when I get frustrated or distracted in my day and it always gives me that small break to re-focus and re-energize. If these women could do these amazing things, big and small, I can handle my day.
TLWH book club June

I recommend this highly for your summer reading and for your “gift idea” list for any runners and/or women in your life. These stories are a badly needed boost of “can do” in a world that feels full of “can’t” and bad news these days.

What do you read when you need a little boost?

4 responses to “Book Review: First Ladies of Running

  1. Wendy Joyce says:

    Wasn’t this just a great read? I loved hearing your perspective. I’m finishing up my review as we speak! Thanks again for reading this month’s selection! You’re the best!

  2. I so hate I don’t participate in Wendy’s book club my only excuse is I have so many blogs to read til I don’t hardly have time to ready anything else.
    We are going on vacation and I said I was going to try and read a whole book so who knows. Maybe I will get to participate!

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