Publication Date: June 18, 2024
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Award-winning journalist Maggie Mertens uncovers the story of how women broke into competitive running and how they are getting faster and fiercer every day—and changing our understanding of what is possible as they go.
More than a century ago, a woman ran in the very first modern Olympic marathon. She just did it without permission.
Despite women proving their abilities on the track time and again, men in the medical establishment, media, and athletic associations have fought to keep women (or at least white women) fragile—and sometimes literally tried to push them out of the race (see Kathrine Switzer, Boston Marathon, 1967). Yet before there were running shoes for women, they ran barefoot or in nursing shoes. They ran without sports bras, which weren’t invented until 1977, or disguised as men. They faced down doctors who put them on bed rest and newspaper reports that said women collapsed if they ran a mere eight hundred meters, just two laps around the track. Still today, women face relentless attention to their bodies: Is she too strong, too masculine? Is she even really a woman?
Mertens transports us from that first boundary-breaking marathon in Greece, 1896, to the earliest “official” women’s races of the twentieth century to today’s most intense ultramarathons like the infamous Spine Race, whose current record holder is a woman. By a lot.
For readers of Good and Mad, Born to Run, and Fly Girls, Better Faster Farther takes us inside the lives and the victories of the women who have redefined society’s image of strength and power.
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