Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guest Review: "The Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running" by Dagny Scott

Title: The Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running
Author: Dagny Scott
Publisher: Rodale Books, 2007

Hi everyone! Tahleen here. Today, my friend Sara has agreed to do a guest review. People seem to be getting into running lately, at least in our neck of the woods, most likely because of the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day. Thinking about taking up the pastime? Here's Sara's review of The Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running, which she says is essential for all women who want to start running or who are runners but want to improve. She should know, she's training for a half marathon.


Perhaps you're already a runner. Maybe you're looking for a way to stay active and better your health. Perhaps last week, you stood along Boylston cheering and screaming for the Boston Marathon runners, and suddenly it occurred to you that running just might be something more than a huffy, painful, dreaded workout. Perhaps you're working up to one mile; perhaps you were one of those Boston marathoners placing one last victorious foot in front of the other after 26.2 miles. It doesn't really matter what stage you're at physically or mentally when it comes to running—The Complete Book of Women's Running can serve as a both mini-bible the marathoner and, most importantly, a place to start for the beginner.

I picked up this book years ago, during my initial curiosity with running. In my head, I wanted to run 3 miles, and I wanted to do so as soon as possible. From a beginner's standpoint, the book provided a thorough introduction to the world of running, from what to wear, to the importance of a good running shoe, to goal setting, to stretching, and the whys behind each. On top of offering a comprehensive look at the basic elements of running, the book touched upon the important mental principles that accompany running and attaining goals. I was able to step back from my inflated, 3-mile expectations and understand that each of our bodies are built in their own way, and that running is about slowly building endurance and strength, and not instant gratification. The book emphasized not only the physical but the mental challenge of running and how to overcome both, which I feel is essential for all beginner runners to understand before they lace up their sneakers.

The language in the book is especially useful for beginners —it is simple, sensible, and easy to follow, and broken up with women's personal stories in relation to the particular topic (racing, safety, balancing running with careers and family). The outline and overall flow of the book are effective in creating a friendly, quick read, while the chapters, divided by topic, help the book serve as a quick-reference for the more experienced runner.

Of particular importance to the overeager beginner (myself, several years ago), the book offers a 6-week walking-to-running training plan that builds your body up to 30 minutes of continuous running. Short vignettes, anecdotes and tips written by women runners of all ages discuss the hurdles they faced in overcoming their own beginner's challenges, and I found myself gathering motivation and inspiration from these stories, especially when I felt the overwhelming urge to just quit. These personal stories, placed throughout each chapter and pertaining to various topics and issues, really helped break up the text and were effective in making the topics easy to relate to and accessible to a beginner. I was struck by not only the contagious motivation within each personal story, but also by the in-depth perspective it provided on running as a whole.

For the more experienced runner looking to increase their speed and distance, the book also offers training plans for 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon distances, all with thorough explanations and smart guidelines to help runners work toward goals and avoid injury.

Why the specific emphasis on women and running? This is where the book continues to go above and beyond the quick-reference-guide level. Not only does it provide the basics of running on topics such as stretching, speed workouts and nutrition, easily accessible by all (male or female) runners, it tackles larger issues that often sit closer to home with women. Pregnancy and running. Caring for your body. Body image issues. I felt these particular topics also highlighted a sense of camaraderie and wisdom among women and presented running as something to bond over and derive strength. The book covers all grounds in an informative, concise way, and I appreciated its particular focus on not only attaining physical health, but mental health as well, specifically as a female runner. As Scott writes in her eloquent, simple introduction, "my goal was to impart the breadth and depth of what running can mean to women: more than just fitness or friendship or sanity but rather all those things together."

I am currently using this book as I train for my very first half marathon. As I've increased my mileage, I've referred to the book for guidance in stretching properly, eating well to fuel my body, and the specifics of different types of workouts, including Fartlek runs, long runs, and tempo runs. I can see my own running story woven throughout the book in the voices of other women runners who have attained or are reaching for goals, and every time I use the book to look up that specific how-to, I am reminded that yes, there is something in running and that yes, I can do it, that anyone can.

If you're looking for a great place to start or want to tackle that marathon once and for all, The Complete Book of Women's Running is a solid place to find not only information and facts, but also a deeper look into why it is that so many love to run.


  1. This sounds like a very informative read! I keep trying to get back on the treadmill for my running again, but each trip to the gym has me going back to the elliptical. And I want to change that up this summer so I can run along the lake!

  2. Ooo! I've been running forever and haven't read this one. I'm so happy to hear it has training plans. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks so much for this helpful review, Tahleen. I'm a walker and occasional jogger, but just about ready to try running for real. It's great to know that this book could be of use!

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