Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Recognize Some Amazing Female Athletes, Shall We?

It’s International Women’s Day (i.e. my favorite holiday)!

I realize that many of you might not even know that this day of recognition exists, but it’s been on my radar for a very long time now and I always celebrate, even if only introspectively.  Professionally, I’ve worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence (largely gender-based violence) for many years.  Personally, I’ve been an all-around advocate for gender equality for as long as I can remember.  So March 8th always feels like a holiday to me – a day to celebrate and honor my people.

I’ve been deeply privileged to know a great many incredible women throughout my life and I’ve been inspired by thousands more that I’ve never met in person.  With that said, it’s only been over the last few years since I started running that I’ve truly connected with finding inspiration in women athletes.

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Becoming a runner – a female runner – has brought so much into my life and I am continuously inspired by those women who have battled hard to be respected in the world of athletics, those who have demanded resources and support for athletes of all genders, and those who have simply trail-blazed the way for the rest of us – proving with their actions what women were capable of before anyone would listen to their words.  (Let us not forget that not all that long ago people believed running a marathon could cause a woman’s uterus to fall out!)

In honor of International Women’s Day and female athletes everywhere who are getting it done, whether it be alone at 6am on their local trails or in front of crowds full of people, I thought I’d take a minute to recognize a few of my personal favorite female runners who inspire me on a regular basis.

  1. Kathrine Switzer – I can’t put up even a brief list like this without mentioning the first woman to ever (officially) run in Boston.  And that, of course, doesn’t even begin to cover everything she has done for female athletes since!
  2. Shalane Flanagan – One of my current favorite marathoners.  I am so excited to see what she’s going do at Boston this year and I’m still hopeful that one day I’ll get to see her around Portland.  I’m always on the look-out!
  3. Kara Goucher – My other current favorite marathoner.  We miss you in PDX, Kara!
  4. Lauren Fleshman – I have so much darn appreciation for Lauren.  What she’s doing in terms of being a strong, proud athlete and representing women in the sport is amazing.  Her ‘Keeping it Real‘ project?  So awesome.  Picky Bars?  Fantastic.  Her newish partnership with Oiselle?  Can’t get enough of it.
  5. Deena Kastor – If someone were to ask me who I wanted to be when I ‘grow up’, my answer might very well be Deena.
  6. Cami Ostman – Cami is not a professional runner like the others listed above, but she is a force to be reckoned with as an athlete, a writer, and an all-around inspiring human being.  Her book Second Wind is a favorite of mine.
  7. Rachel Toor – An ultrarunner and writer that seems to always know how to really speak the truth about what it’s like to be a runner and a woman.  Her book Personal Record is a great read and I always look forward to her articles in Running Times.

Happy International Women’s Day!

7 Resources for New Runners – To Learn, Connect and Be Inspired

Something very strange (and very exciting) happened recently.  I was contacted, twice on the same day, by two different people – asking me for advice/recommendations on where to find good information about starting to run.

You may wonder why this is strange.  Perhaps it isn’t strange to many of you, but to me, it felt . . . odd.  People are asking me for resources?  People want my input??

I still sometimes have a difficult time thinking of myself as someone that others would come to for such information, but I am also rational enough to know that I have learned and experienced so much over the last year+ that I can proudly share what I know with new runners.  But, of course, I am a resource only because I’ve sought out and learned so much valuable information from others who have been doing this running thing a lot longer than me.

In that vain, I wanted to share some resources that I have found to be invaluable in my journey to becoming a more experienced runner.  Anyone can start running without accessing any of these resources at all – that’s one of the wonderful things about the activity – but if you’re looking to become a more efficient or effective runner, it can help to do some reading and research.  If you want to run faster, farther, longer, or safer, for instance, it’s beneficial to draw upon the bounty of information that is out there.

I hope others who may be thinking about taking up this great activity, as well as those who have already done so, will find these resources useful and will put to good use the tips, encouragement, and motivation to continue hitting the pavement (or the track or the trails or whatever)!  Please know, that this is not an exhaustive list.  I have accessed many, many books, articles, websites and other resources over the last year or so.  These are, in my opinion, just some of the best places to start!

For Useful Information, Understanding the Basics, & Tips on Training & Recovery:

1.      The Runner’s Handbook: The Bestselling Fitness Guide for Beginning to Intermediate Runners by Bob Glover  runners handbook

This book is a gem.  Some of the information may seem very simple, but it’s fantastic for building a foundation of knowledge about running basics.  From gear to injury prevention to various training methods, this book will answer loads of questions – including some you didn’t even know you had.  It’s been around for decades for a reason.

2.      Runner’s World

Both the magazine and the website are filled with useful information.  Whether I have a very specific question I need answered or just want to browse interesting stories and helpful tips, I head here first.  I used their SmartCoach Training Tool to guide my training for my first half-marathon and I always get excited when a new issue arrives in my mailbox.  They also pay special attention to include specific features (print and online) for beginner runners.  Have a question that you feel dumb for asking, because you think you should know it (you shouldn’t feel dumb, by the way, but I can relate)?  Go to Runner’s World.  You’ll find the answer.

3.      No Meat Athlete

I’m a vegetarian.  Maybe you’re not.  I bet that even if you’re not, you can still get benefits from this website.  Matt Frazier, the creator of this site (and the podcast, which is also worth listening to) knows his stuff.  He provides training plans, tips, advice, recipes and stories for runners at all levels and he does so in a very accessible, engaging way.  I was thrilled when I found this website and I subscribe to the RSS feed so that I get all updates.  I’ve also recently purchased the Marathon Road Map as a guide in my continued training.  One of the things that I think I like most about Frazier and his site is that he conveys such a genuine love of running and respect for all runners – at all levels, all ages, all types.

4.      Strength Running

Jason Fitzgerald is another regular runner guy who really knows what he’s doing.  Or at least he seems to from his website, which I read regularly.  He’s a USATF-certified running coach and he provides his coaching expertise privately (for a fee) and more generally (for free on the site).  Check it out  for great training tips and information on how to stay injury free (and, we all want that, right?).

5.      Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention  by Jay Dicharry

On average, you may not pay much attention to anatomy or be all that intrigued by science.  I know that I’m generally not, except when it comes to my health and fitness.  Then, my ears perk up a bit.  This book is written for people like me.  It provides clear, relevant information about my anatomy and how to leverage it for my best running potential.  Best of all, it reads intelligently, presenting what may be unfamiliar biological terms and concepts clearly, without dumbing anything down. This book is fantastic for getting to know how your body really works and sorting out facts versus myth about running-related anatomy.

For Inspiration & Motivation:

6.      Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Since the release of this book, Jurek has become a bit of a running rock star.  He’s often talked about in regards to his success with and promotion of a vegan lifestyle (for overall health and running benefits), and as important as that is, his book is so much more than that.  It’s an incredible personal journey to read and also offers loads of helpful information about running along the way.  Not to mention that it also includes tasty recipes for a healthy runner’s diet.

7.      Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents by Cami Ostman   second wind

To say that this book inspired me is an understatement.  Ostman’s story is told with an honesty and frankness that is refreshing and enlightening.  I don’t want to discourage men from reading this, because I think they can get a lot of out of it, too, but I will say that for women runners in particular, I highly recommend this to help with seeing what’s possible and what running can do for your spirit.