If the idea of running a marathon sounds like 26.2 miles of agony (and folly), Alexandra Heminsley can relate. “Running is awful. It can hijack you with breathlessness, cripple you with panic, and overwhelm you with self-consciousness,” she writes in her memoir, “Running Like a Girl.” Or so she thought in her 20s, when her lifestyle was much like that of early Bridget Jones. A “curvy girl with no competitive spirit,” the British journalist gladly chose a glass of wine over a bottle of Gatorade.
Like her literary doppelganger, all that changed when she hit her 30s and found herself in need of a little self-improvement. She put aside her scorn for “the radiant smiles of the determinedly Sporty Types” and decided to get herself in shape. And, spoiler alert: She does. Heminsley is now an avid runner, with a handful of marathons under her belt. She has become the healthy, in-shape girl she used to hate.
But don’t hate her for it. Heminsley may have shed pounds, but she hasn’t lost her sarcasm. Far from a sunny self-help book, hers is a realistic look at what it takes to transition from couch potato to amateur endurance athlete, flecked with self-deprecating anecdotes. It also includes tips for the would-be runner: how to buy a good sports bra and shoes (“Don’t go shopping for running shoes in a short skirt with no tights”), how to develop a safe running style (“Look after your head. . . . Heads are heavy — don’t leave yours lolling around . . . try to keep looking up and forward so that your spine is straight”), how to face and treat minor injuries and how to look good on marathon day (“Nail polish is the perfect boost for running.”)
“I have been that woman typing ‘What happens when you run with big boobs?’ into the search bar at the end of the night,” Heminsley writes. Readers of her book, she hopes, can avoid that experience.