Thursday, March 1, 2012

Marathon Woman Book Review

Running related books are by no means the only thing I read, nor the majority of what I read (although if more were available that part might change), but I do love a good biography of a running legend.  You may have noticed I added a page to this blog entitled “Running Books”.  These are all the running related books that I have read, and as I read more, I will add them, along with a review of the book.  I am not sure if I will go back and do reviews of the books I have already read long ago, mostly because my memory may not do the books justice, but at this point, it’s a possibility.
There are many reasons that my family, friends and even strangers think I’m weird.  One of them is because I like to read books about running in my free time.  They don’t understand why it would interest me, but this passion is all encompassing.  I get even weirder looks when my labmates find out I’m listening to running related podcasts while I do benchwork.  What can I say?

Switzer in the iconic 1967 Boston race
Recently, I read Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer.  She is quite iconic in the running world, having been the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967.  What may be even more famous are the pictures of race director Jock Semple trying to get her out of his race (once he realized she was a woman) and rip the race number off her clothing.  This book chronicles the life and career of Switzer, starting in her childhood and ending shortly after a women’s marathon was added to the Olympics (1984). 

I really enjoyed this book and give it 4 out of 5 stars.  I thought it was an excellent mix of historical information that was cleverly woven such that a true plot and story shone through.  Sometimes this is hard in non-fiction, but Switzer did a great job.  The most interesting parts for me were her early running career, mixed with a very busy and challenging personal life.  Roughly the first half of the book is devoted to this.  The second focuses on her career in the running world and the intricate and important role she played in the evolution of women’s running.  Switzer was probably the most important woman in running at the time, traveled the world and started up hundreds of races focusing on women.  As someone who went to high school in the new millennium, I was not aware of the full extent of sexism in sports and learning about this was both interesting and inspiring.  I live in a world where I am treated as an athletic equal because of people like Switzer.

I highly recommend this book and think anyone interested in running and marathoning would enjoy it.  In particular, this book will appeal to women but I sincerely feel men would enjoy it to.  

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