Monday, June 13, 2011

If You Like That...Then You'll Like This

I recently read Kristin Armstrong’s new book, Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run. I was moved to read the book, because in looking at my own book on, I’d noticed that hers came up as both one of the “buy these two books together” books, and as one of the “people who bought RLAG, also bought…” books. So I wanted to read what other books my readers were reading.

First, you are probably all much more “in the know” than I am, but I didn’t realize she was “the” Kristin Armstrong, if I’d ever actually internalized Lance Armstrong’s (he of so many Tour de France victories) ex-wife’s name. In fact, to own up to my exceeding dimness on the day I read the book, I thought it was an interesting coincidence that the author, whose last name was Armstrong, had a “wasband” (her neologism, which I loved), whose name was Lance. Her ex-ness is not really relevant to the book, except to the extent that she took up professional writing and serious running post-divorce, which is an impressive and happy state of affairs, for we, her readers, and, according to her in her book, for her, too; because Kristin has a lot that’s lovely to say about running and its place in our lives, or more precisely—in our hearts.

Here’s just a few bits I liked…

The expression “sweat sisters,” which she uses to describe the girlfriends we run with and pour our hearts out too and seek solace from and laugh with and give solace to and laugh with. She doesn’t mention them, but I’d add sweat brothers, too.

She refers to studies (which I haven’t yet been able to track down, but which sound intuitively and common-sensically right on) that show “that the best way to foster positive body image in girls is for their mothers to speak kindly and positively about their own bodies…” Kristin goes on to say that she is careful to make a point of complimenting her own figure in earshot of her daughters. Even better, of course, would be if she actually believed the compliments enough to say them to herself out of earshot of her daughters. But hey, I’m not that evolved yet, so I can’t demand it of others.

When talking about identity and how running can be a touchstone of identity in hard times, she writes, “[W]hen we breathe deeply into one passion, we provide oxygen for others.” Oh yes. I like that idea of oxygenating all our passions, by beginning with one.

On confidence and setting an example of confidence for others, she writes, “We have to be willing to be seen if we want to earn the relationship to be understood. If our lips are moving but our actions don’t match, we become a badly dubbed foreign film, without benefit of subtitles.” A bit of a mash-up metaphor, but very apt and effective. I remember the French-dubbed version of Sex & The City (the movie) I saw in a tiny gymnasium in Southern France. It turns out there’s not much to dubbing when a large proportion of the dialogue is just squeaks and squeals over handbags and shoes.

And on hills, “You simply cannot become soft or complacent if you seek hills on purpose. You practice something enough times when it doesn’t count, you can bet your shapely bottom that you will have what it takes when it does.” And to give context, she means more than just the hills we run, she means all the stand-ins for hills we face in our lives. This passage vividly reminded me of the repeated passages of Owen and John practicing “The Shot” in A Prayer for Owen Meany, about which I’ll say no more, for those of you who haven’t read it…except this—read the book. I read it in one sitting during law school exams, when I should have been studying, but didn’t, because I couldn’t put the book down (p.s. I did very well on the exams). Anyway, as Kristin so aptly points out, hills are a way of practicing our own “Shots,” preparing for the unexpected rigours that assail us in life.

Made me look forward to my summer runs in the mountains of CA.