Book Review: The Long Run, by Catriona Menzies-Pike

Every once and a while, a book comes along that rings all my bells--and then some. The Long Run is one of those books. Running. Distance running. Trail running, even. Grief. Loss. Meditation. Feminism. History. Feminist history. Memory. Writing. Literature. Books. Here's a book that manages, in the span of a few hundred pages, to talk about dactyls and iambs, trans rights, art history, the Ancients, and distance running without any piece of it feeling out of place. Yes, please, sign me up.

Catriona Menzies-Pike's parents died when she was twenty. After a decade of searching--for herself, perhaps, or for answers, or for ways to hide from, run from, bury the grief left in their absence--she found herself telling friends she would one day run a marathon. And one day, she did. But not before several shorter races, several half marathons, two failed attempts to start a marathon, and several months of research, study, and examination of the sport of running--particular of women's running.

"Stories of running are often like this, in that they're about something else. They are tales of shape-shifting, of the desire to shed one skin and sleep in another."

The Long Run is an account of all of that. Of racing and of failing to race. Of pushing through the wall. Of bonking and of feeling like your feet are made of air. Of transforming, almost without realizing it, from a person who disdains runners to a person who identifies as one. Of the women who paved the path before the female runners of today, of the struggles they faced, of the ways history has chosen to gloss over, put down, or otherwise ignore them. Of the empowerment of women's running movements today, and their failure to be intersectional in favor of being astonishingly pink. Of working out "how to run for long enough that being still would be a consolation."

It's hard for me to sum up exactly how much this book resonated with me. It's been a roller coaster of a year, emotionally, and though I have not lost both of my parents in one fell swoop (thank whatever gods may be), I've experience loss in new and challenging ways in recent months. I've come to terms with failures in the feminist movement, and yet found ways to embrace the label for myself. I've taken to running long distances--some might call them stupidly long distances--and realized, through injury and time off and time spent rebuilding some kind of mileage base, how much this sport means to me, not only as a runner, but as a woman.

"I wanted only to run for a long time," writes Menzies-Pink, "and to be soothed by the incomprehensible emotional shifts this produced." This, though.

The Long Run may not be for readers who do not share some love of the sport of running on its own merit. But for those who value the mind-clearing power of a good run (or, let's face it, a bad one) without truly understanding what calls them to tie up those overpriced shoes and hit the trails, Menzies-Pike's memoir is a heartfelt, powerful story of one woman's transformation into a runner, and the many ways running has changed her, wrapped up in a comprehensive feminist history of the sport. A++, would read again, etc. etc. etc.


The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion, by Catriona Menzies-Pike | May 2017 | Hardcover | Crown Publishing | Buy from an independent near you

No comments

Thanks for stopping by!