Runner’s World blogger Armstrong (Happily Ever After: Walking with Peace and Courage Through a Year of Divorce, 2008, etc.) neatly packages a marathon of observations on running and womanhood into 26.2 chapters.
Although the miles of the book (as the author refers to its chapters) often begin at a distance from the author, Armstrong’s steadily paced prose soon takes on a more candid tone. Each chapter is filled with fragments on a theme, which often seem like disparate thoughts struggling to mesh together. The author’s repeated references to personal achievements and the inclusion of an unwieldy circle of friends, whom the reader must also befriend, may strike readers as off-putting at times—as will the constant self-promotion of her popular blog. The muscle pain and endorphin rush she describes at length may be alien to non-runners, but her renderings of the physicality of running will have readers’ muscles burning with empathy. Armstrong’s anecdotes are clever and amusing, likely to elicit an outright chuckle or two. Particularly resonant is a passage on how runners distinguish themselves from the pack with the messages they wear on their sleeves, ranging from political (“Free Tibet”) to personal (“In honor of my dad”). The witty tone and urgency of the prose, the immediacy of the scenes she evokes and the ironic one-liners (“My mother hates to sweat”) will have even non-runners stretching their reading muscles.
Part stream-of-consciousness, part self-help, but ultimately heartfelt—a compelling collection of essays, even for non-runners.