used to be am a runner, but until I regain my former running glory, I made the goal to read one running book a month to keep the inspiration alive as I’ve battled through an IT band injury, knee-injury, various pregnancies (okay, only three), and the sleep depravation associated with having three kids 5 and under in my life. I was hoping that Sole Sisters would serve that role of being so inspirational that I would feel like I must lace up my running shoes and go out for a few miles and while it turned out interesting, it wasn’t the call to arms that I was hoping for.
Sole Sisters is a book about women runners. Each chapter is its own essay of sorts about a specific woman and brief snapshots of their running pursuits. Some of the stories are about competitive runners, others are about women who fell into running later in life. Each chapter tells about a personal running journey, because despite all the group running we do running is an individual sport. Each chapter shows what running means to each individual woman. Some of the chapters are more compelling than others. I most enjoyed the account of Team Windsor a running group that helped a woman through her separation/divorce/single-motherhood/remarriage and all sorts of other life situations for the women in their numbers. I liked reading about Ellen Wessel, a woman who just wanted to find a pair of running shorts that fit. This was the early 1970s before the rise of athleasure wear and women’s athletic apparel companies. Her company, started with one Singer sewing machine to eventually be a trusted brand and a pioneer in creating clothing that fits and looks good for the female runner. Particularly moving was the account of Cinnamon Spear, a young Cheyenne runner, whose experience on the Fort Robinson Breakout Run connected her to her ancestors in a meaningful and profound way.
This book captured the idea that running has a greater psychological meaning. It is more than keeping fit, but the psychological benefits of running and the connection that it provides with other human beings is power and creates empathy and community. One of the happiest running periods of my own life was when I ran with a group called Stride Runners (lame, I know, I didn’t make it up). We would meet on Wednesday evenings and run down Provo Canyon on a river trail. Some groups would start at Vivien Park (a six mile run) and others at Nunn’s Park (3 mile run). We didn’t all run together, but we all ended at the same place for water and apples and then we’d all pile into the back of one of the guy’s trucks and he’d drive us back to where we started to pick up our cars. When I started, I’d never run with anyone before and did most of my miles on a treadmill. When I finished I was a solid outdoor convert. Running on the treadmill these days makes me depressed. This book reminded me of those good times and any book with nostalgia value gets points from me.
What this book didn’t do wonderfully was tell a larger running story. No transitions and nothing that really sticks out afterward. It is a book you can quickly read and then forget about. This might be a nice simple book for reading groups who want to use running as a metaphor but it isn’t something I am going to be thinking about while running.