A book read out of order? What’s going on? Well, I’m running my next marathon in, erm … eleven days’ time (hope my cold goes in time!), and I do like to read a running book or two in the run-up to a race. Under this review, some horrific book confessions from a NetGalley account gone very, very naughty … But first an inspiring book that talks about things no other book talks about!

Julie Creffield – “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running”

(21 January 2018 – at the National Running Show)

I met life coach and running guru for the larger lady Julie at the National Running show and couldn’t resist buying this book – she was very engaging and is doing some genuinely inspiring work and activism. I’ll say straight off that I’m not the exact audience this book is aimed at – not because I’m some whippet myself, I’m definitely on the more solid side of the runner spectrum, but because it’s very squarely aimed at the new (marathon) runner and also speaks loud and clear to running mums about claiming their time and fitness. And that’s brilliant.

It’s funny, frank and a bit sweary, really like having one-to-one coaching or grabbing a coffee and a chat. Julie addresses the reader directly, helping her face her fears, reassuring her that everyone’s felt whatever she’s feeling at some time. She has quotes from famous and ordinary runners, and what’s brilliant is that when she says she’s a slow runner, she actually is – hooray! I get a bit tired of people saying they’re slow then talking of their 10 minute miles, something I can sustain for maybe a mile, but certainly not comfortably. I know that being relatably slow and middle-aged and non-whippety has helped me to inspire other people to believe they can run long, and Julie does the same but to a wider audience.

The book is packed with great advice for the marathon newbie, and I learned a great tip about weeing (honestly) and picked up an idea for fartlekking (speed play, behave!) where you pick a trigger like red cars or seeing a plane in the sky for your speedy bits. You can always learn from every running book! Julie also talks about chafing, being worried about having an accident in public and dealing with catcalls, something not many running books talk about in depth (Alexandra Heminsley and Lisa Jackson are similarly open, see my reviews of their books under the links, but it’s still rare). There are some great tips on using visualisation to help you when the going gets tough, and even though I’m famously The Runner Who Never Needs The Loo On the Way Round, I couldn’t help identifying with this quote:

Perhaps think about potential toilet stops on long runs, one of my friends says she can plot 18 miles around East London purely by Wetherspoons toilets.

We’ve all been there. Not to mention the Magic McDonalds at the top of That Hill.

One tiny point that I feel duty bound as an editor in the rest of my life to mention. Julie is quite upfront and clear about how she decided to write this book and got it out as soon as she could. A few editing issues got under the radar in the hurry to publish, and some of my friends who have read this book thought that would bother me. But you know what – if she inspired one more woman who was scared to pull on plus-size lycra and get out there to embrace the joy of running by missing a stage in the production process, then so be it. However, if Julie’s reading this and would like a donated line edit, because I REALLY believe in what she’s doing, then she should feel free to get in touch.

Frank as anything and like a friend holding your hand, this reminded me to be mindful of the fears the new runners I encounter face, and will inspire all sorts of people. Good luck to Julie in London next month, too!


Right, confession time.

First off, in “tree” books, my friend Sian has passed me Robert Ferguson’s “Scandinavia” – she’s a bit of a Swedophile (Swedenophile?) and runs a Scandi meetup in our city, and she rates this highly as being quite serious and full of good information, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also had a flurry of NetGalley “wins” recently, so here goes …

“A Grand Old Time” by Judy Leigh is about an “elderly” lady who gets sick of being in a care home and decides to go on an adventure to France. There have been a few of this kind of book recently and I hope it’s not too sappy, but it looks jolly. (Published 03 April)

Paul Theroux’s “Figures in a Landscape” is a new (I hope) collection of essays and musings, including an encounter with Oliver Sacks. I was so hoping to win this and was thrilled to do so. (Published 08 May)

“Inner City Pressure” by Dan Hancox is a history of grime music – very useful in my other day job as a transcriber, part of the time for music journalists. (Published 17 May)

Yusra Mardini’s “Butterfly” is her story of her escape from Syria and dream to swim in the Olympics – which she did as part of the Refugee team in Rio. To be honest, I’m not sure how I got this one, I seemed to be pre-approved then it was there, and I fear I may have to skim a little at the start.

I’ve also had a (rare) Did Not Finish. NetGalley win “Something Like Happy” by Eva Green did not say in the blurb that it was about someone with a terminal illness – or that it was relentlessly positive and live every day as it comes-ish, like those Tuesdays with Morrie type books, and reading the reviews people were alternately uplifted and in big tears. I just couldn’t deal with that so put it to one side. Also it was set mainly in a hospital and I spent enough time around those at the start of last year. So even though it looked well done and well written and lots of people will probably love it, not for me.

What are you reading? Any confessions? Do you like to read a certain type of book before a certain type of activity, for example books set where you’re going on holiday or running books before a race if you’re a runner?