I have never, ever been so sad to finish a book of non-fiction.
Many a time I have dreaded reaching the end of a novel, but this is a first for me – when I turned the final page of this amazing book about women runners, I felt a real sense of loss. I wanted the high-adrenaline adventure to continue.
Reading this riveting book, I have grown to admire Margaret Webb, following her amazing journey to become the fittest she can as she turn 50. In the final breathless pages of the book, as she describes the World Masters half marathon she runs in, I was almost cheering out loud for her and her amazing gang of women runners.
This is an absolutely fabulous read – a happy, enthusiastic mix of inspiration and encouragement. Of psychology and biology. Of training, and wine, and aches and pains, and amazing friends. Setting out to discover how to get fitter as one ages, Ms Webb talks with a range of medical experts, sports psychologists and – most importantly – fellow senior athletes.
Ms Webb meets a group of unbelievably gutsy, tenacious women and when she describes them, especially when they are all having lunch together in Vancouver, just before the Vancouver Marathon, I so wanted to be there with them. To be part of such an amazing, supportive, talented sisterhood.
Just listen to the author’s description of three world-record holders arriving for lunch:
“Three world-record holders arrive at a luncheon in their honor in a sleek silver sports car as flashy as their running résumés. Behind the wheel and looking Hollywood glam – a primrose yellow scarf flowing from her neck – is sprinter Christa Bortignon, 76. Riding shotgun is another sprinter, styling in a cream-colored jean jacket and jeans ensemble, Olga Kotelko, 94. And in the backseat, cracking jokes and laughing as usual, her open her glinting on this sun-drenched day, is my running soul mother, marathon BJ McHugh, 85… Each looks two decades younger than she is and moves like someone even younger as they all pop out of the car to greet the fourth world-record holder, marathoner Gwen McFarlane, 79, O’a tall, lithe strawberry blonde who, as if inspiring lyrics to some pop tune, travelled downtown on the SkyTrain.”
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of a gang like this (below)?!
I started running when I turned 60 (so the redoubtable Ms Webb strikes me as impossibly young) but so much of what she says rings true. The improved health, the increased self-esteem, the unconditional support and encouragement from fellow runners.
This book is nothing short of inspirational, especially when we follow the medical testing of these amazingly fit seniors, and see how runners, and especially women, can keep so many of the tribulations of old age at bay by staying fit.
Reading this (a) as I recuperate from injury and quite serious illness & (b) during Covid lockdown, when there is no running other than on a treadmill, I felt my heart lighten and my spirits soar. Despite my age, this encouraging happy book reminded me that I still have time to improve, still have time to work on my fitness, and time to increase my stamina.
I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is a fun read, and very inspiring.
And, delightfully, no-one takes themselves too seriously, especially not the amazing seniors. Lots of self-deprecation, lots of laughs and just so much joy at being able to lace up and head out and exercise, whatever one’s age.
I fully intend re-reading this book on a regular basis.
It’s going to be my go-to guide as I negotiate recovery in a post-Covid world.