When Jamie posted about starting a virtual book club, I wanted in. I love reading, especially books about all things fitness, health, and wellness, so I didn’t think twice about joining. For the month of October, we read Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong. (And who was also married to
alleged doper cyclist Lance Armstrong!)
OK, I’m not going to run in circles: I had high expectations—given the publisher (Rodale) and the author’s credibility (who blogs at Runner’s World)—but overall, I found this book inaccessible.
“In Mile Markers, Runner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences. This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community. With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life. From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman. Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.”
Publisher: Rodale Books
Publication date: 3/1/2011
Although I believe Armstrong’s purpose behind writing Mile Markers was well intended, I had a very difficult time relating to her, to her stories, and to her experiences. Granted, there is a 20-plus-year age difference, which equates to different life stages. However, even in terms of running, the one interest we share, I struggled to find common ground.
Before getting to the not-so-great, I appreciated the book’s structure; twenty-six chapters (plus an epilogue for the final .2) organized by themes—like “endurance,” “body,” and “confidence”—made reading the book easy. These categories helped the audience stay engaged and let them spot the underlying message. Also, from a writer’s standpoint, I valued how Armstrong avoided using clichéd similes. Peppered with unique comparisons—“… I felt as stiff as an Old Navy mannequin …” (201)—her narrative seemed fresh and authentic.
Even though I found Armstrong’s tone, structure, and writing style effective, I felt isolated by a lot of her stories. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not discounting her as a runner or writer. However, I couldn’t relate to her entire “mothers” and “kids” sections, which is unsurprising. Being a mother and having kids comprise her self-identity, so a majority of her anecdotes revolve around these characteristics; and since our writer-reader relationship lacked that commonality, I had trouble connecting with Armstrong. Also, her narrative emphasizes running with friends—whom she lovingly calls her “sweat sisters”—but this focus on sisterhood didn’t resonate with me. Again, this running group accounts for a huge part of her running and social life, but I don’t have a “sweaty sisterhood” of my own to draw upon. Finally, as a runner, I respect Armstrong’s accolades: Running a sub-1:35 half-marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and taking on trail running are impressive feats, but from a running standpoint, I felt like she’s totally out of my league. I wish I could run a marathon on the trails of Austin after dropping my kids off at school, but frankly, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Overall, I think a reader who has a lot in common with Armstrong will enjoy this book, but that reader isn’t me.
Edited to add: Here’s Jamie’s post with links to all participating bloggers–check it out!