Ah, the excitement of marathons. It’s hard not to get caught up. If you’ve ever had that crazy thought ‘I want to run a marathon’ but feel too fat, too old, too unfit, or indeed have naysayers in your life laughing at you for the mere mention of it, the Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running is for you. Or indeed, if you’ve had someone say, ‘You’ll never run a marathon’*, this book is for you.
Julie’s book is dedicated to ‘anyone who ever dreamed of running a marathon, and everyone stupid enough to actually do it.’ Yep, it’s hard work as anyone knows who’s done the training and completed those miles.
I’m not a plus sized runner but wanted to review this book. I’d come across Julie’s work before and was kindly sent a pre-print version to review.
The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running
I’ve never had to deal with the negativity and abuse that Julie and other plus sized runners have had to sometimes face. From strangers on the street to family and friends – ‘you’re too fat to run,’ ‘you’ll fail’, or ‘do you think it’s fair on the other runners’. It’s hard to believe this shit goes on. But there’s more to this book than this.
I wish I’d had this book when I first embarked on this running lark. Why? If focuses on the how and why of marathon running with down to earth practical advice. It covers the head stuff, the physical stuff, and the food stuff. And it provides real insight into what it is to be a runner, and indeed a plus sized runner, and the world of running which can seem a mystery to the uninitiated.
And if you’re thinking about it? The advice is to shut up and sign up to a race, stop fannying about. But give yourself enough time to do the training – from 6 months to 12 months depending on fitness levels. It also goes into the importance of nutrition, constructing the all important plan, and what it’s like to be a plus sized runner. Underlying this is a real understanding of how the training and the marathon itself can impact on one’s headspace – from confidence, to getting or not getting support, to expectations of what it will be and feel like in the days and weeks after.
I really enjoyed reading The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running. And the main reasons why?…
First, the advice given is down to earth. On nutrition and training, the author makes clear that no one approach suits all. What is important is to have good food and to do the miles. This works for me. I find overly prescriptive plans tedious and they tend to be tailored to a one size fits all approach.
Second, there’s a lot in here that breaks down the ‘mystery’ involved in running and getting better at running. The book includes clear descriptions of what a training plan should consist of and the importance of speed work, breaking it down into plain English.
Third, this is the best account I have ever read of what race day is really like. From race day prep, to mindset to dealing with crowds of runners at the start as well as spectators. The aim here is to run as much of the marathon as you can. And there’s a lot that resonates with my own experience including that last mile – ‘If you can feel anything at all, you will feel dead’.
And last but not least, the stuff noone really talks about. This includes advice on dealing with ‘chub rub’ and chaffing, having ‘accidents’, cut-off times, the dreaded DNF (thankfully Julie nor I have ever experienced this), clothing malfunctions, the time it really takes to do that training and so on.
And if you want to find out more about Julie and her Too fat to run? Campaign, check out her website here.
*A year or so before I started running, I had a case of runner’s knee. I used to do a lot of walking and then one day I was in agony and my knee swelled to double the normal size. I was referred to a specialist who joked and said ‘You’ll never run a marathon’. Hmmm. Now I have a funny way of thinking so I started running. At the beginner’s course, I think it might have been on Week 2, I remember saying to one of the helpers ‘I want to run a marathon’. She didn’t laugh, there were no raised eyebrows. The response was ‘great’. Since then I’ve run London Marathon twice, covered marathon distance in training and completed a 50k!