The Long Run: A Memoir Of Loss And Life In Motion by Catriona Menzies-pikeThe Long Run: A Memoir Of Loss And Life In Motion by Catriona Menzies-pike

The Long Run: A Memoir Of Loss And Life In Motion

byCatriona Menzies-pike

Hardcover | May 23, 2017

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An unlikely marathoner finds her way through grief and into the untold history of women and running.

Thirty-year-old Catriona Menzies-Pike defined herself in many ways: voracious reader, pub crawler, feminist, backpacker, and, since her parents' deaths a decade earlier, orphan. "Runner" was nowhere near the list. Yet when she began training for a half marathon on a whim, she found herself an instant convert. Soon she realized that running, "a pace suited to the precarious labor of memory," was helping her to grieve the loss of her parents in ways that she had been, for ten messy years, running away from.      
     As Catriona excavates her own past, she also grows curious about other women drawn to running. What she finds is a history of repression and denial—running was thought to endanger childbearing, and as late as 1967 the organizer of the Boston Marathon tried to drag a woman off the course, telling her to "get the hell out of my race"—but also of incredible courage and achievement. As she brings to life the stories of pioneering athletes and analyzes the figure of the woman runner in pop culture, literature, and myth, she comes to the heart of why she's running, and why any of us do.
Catriona Menzies-Pike is the editor of the Sydney Review of Books. She has worked in digital media for a decade and her journalism and essays on feminism, literary culture, and politics have been widely published. She holds a PhD in English literature and has taught film, literature, journalism and cultural studies units to undergradua...
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Title:The Long Run: A Memoir Of Loss And Life In MotionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.6 × 5.8 × 0.9 inPublished:May 23, 2017Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1524759449

ISBN - 13:9781524759445

Reviews

Read from the Book

1Making a sceneOn a cold night in early May, a Saturday, I stood in a park with six thousand women. We were all wearing the same dark pink singlet. As we shivered under the bright lights, two clowns in heavy jackets and winter beanies bopped around on a stage and barked commendations into microphones. Ladies, you all look so hot. You girls are amazing. You got yourselves here tonight and that’s a huge achievement. Give yourselves a massive cheer! The party music didn’t stop for a beat. That particular shade of pink, a late-night raspberry with a hint of blood, is one of my favorite colors, and I resented having to share it with so many people. I was waiting to start the 2014 Nike-sponsored She Runs event in Sydney’s Centennial Park, a 10-kilometer, women-only night run. The words She Runs SYD were printed at nipple-height on our six thousand pink singlets: no one could possibly forget where we were and why we were here. No event singlet, no run. Sorry ladies, those are the rules. I had everything that it took to fit in: a singlet, a gender identity and a willingness to run 10 kilometers in the dark.If you’ve never mustered with thousands of people at the start of a running race, you won’t be familiar with the encouragements that are bellowed into these crowds. At She Runs the Night, the script had been tweaked to suit women runners. All of you at the back of the pack, give yourselves a huge cheer. Let’s hear it for the first-timers! Anyone here from out of town? Come on, give them a cheer! And let’s hear it for the mums! You’ve all made it to the starting line, so you’re all winners to me. I’d run in scores of races, and should have been used to this relentless bonhomie. The beginning of any big run is intimate and slightly awkward. Nervous strangers are squashed into a small space to wait for the starting gun, sometimes for hours. It’s more common to gather in the early morning, close enough to other runners to inspect their tan lines, tattoos, scars, and scabs in the half-light. That May night was unexpectedly cold, and the floodlights picked out goose bumps on the women around me. Some hugged themselves and jumped on the spot, others danced in front of a friend’s camera or turned cartwheels under a disco ball. At this bright, noisy threshold, I had no hope of accessing the steady roaming headspace that I reach when running alone. That’s what I love most about running—but without races like She Runs on my calendar, I’d probably slack off on the training, even though I know how exhilarating it can be. And so, despite my ambivalence about the crowds and the fuss and the motivational claptrap, my running career has been almost entirely structured by events like these. “You know, I’m not really into sports,” I recently reminded a friend who’d invited me to a cricket match. “Yes, you are,” he said. “You’ve got your running.” If this claim that I don’t really fit in with the running scene keeps me going, over the years I’ve had to accept that it’s not completely true. I’ve grown used to the carnival of the starting line. I wish I had a story to tell about running that didn’t involve goons with megaphones and party crowds. I wish I didn’t need a race looming to convince me to get up early and go for a run—but I do. And so I keep finding myself in places like this, fighting the instinct to elbow a path to the perimeter, beyond the range of the strobe lights and the amp, and then to hop over the railings and bolt home.I’d never run in a women-only event before and I hoped that night to encounter something new at She Runs. One aspect of the event was distinctive: it was pink. Shockingly pink. Magenta, fluorescent pink, cutie-pie baby pink, stripper pink, and every shade of princess pink that’s ever tinted a plastic hairclip. Pink neon lights stretched over the stage. A floodlight swept through the crowd, picking out shining, happy faces and pink, slippery shirts. Glowing tubes were bent around scaffolds as if to convince us that the lights were held up by musk sticks. Stalls selling shoes and sports drinks were festooned with pink fairy lights. A tour de force of monochrome branding. The starting line hadn’t been sluiced with pink only to dazzle and seduce us—it effectively conscripted every raspberry-singleted woman as an extra in the show. Above us floated drones fitted with cameras, as if we were performers in a song-and-dance spectacular. Only runners were permitted in this pink arena, designated the “event village.” Supporters had been banished to the other side of the barriers. An event village might sound cozy, but really it was just a set of stalls, stages, and scaffolds standing in what the day before had been an open patch of parkland. Security guards held the barricades, their nightclub schtick ludicrous: “Pink singlet? In you go.” In spite of the party trappings, the village wasn’t a space of gleeful exclusion, one freed from the inhibitions and restrictions of everyday life. No, it was much more like a tiny Swiss municipality, complete with service infrastructure and many rules: first-aid officers and ambulances stood at the ready, and so did Nike sales reps. Event officials in safety vests and ask-me-anything smiles fielded questions about public toilets and water bottles. Flashes and cheers ricocheted around the event village. A huge screen loomed over the stage, and several more hung high from a pink scaffold. The most impressive was the selfie tower, its four faces representing the northern, southern, eastern and western suburbs of Sydney. Four queues of excited women and girls spiraled around this tower, new communities created by running bodies. If their pics were marked with the right hashtag, they were projected onto one of the screens. Photos of women in pink singlets scrolled by: Pymble girls, Shire girls, #northsidecrew, Bondi legends, Bankstown legends, Penrith runners, Katoomba runners, on it went. We want to hear you girls make some noise when you see your selfie, said the hucksters with the microphones. Let everyone know you’re having the time of your life!This was the third year that a She Runs event had been held in Sydney; similar women-only night runs stamped with Nike swooshes are held all over the world. The emphasis is firmly on inclusion and participation, rather than aggressive competition. You should totally do it, friends told me. You love running. They were right—a night like She Runs should have been just my thing. And yet, why did it have to be a reiteration of the thesis that ladies love pink? What happened in the marketing meeting that turned a running event into a glorified shoe sale? Maybe I’d forgotten how to have fun. But who’d made the decision to give a pair of sexist dirtbags the microphone at a women-only event? I was irked by their assurances that we were all beautiful and amazing and really, really hot. I just wanted to get on with it.*The day hadn’t begun auspiciously. It was raining when I woke up. Big races require participants to pick up a “race pack” in the week before the event: essentially showbags that are packed with advertising guff, samples of new products for amateur athletes—maybe a sachet of sunscreen or a can of electrolytes—as well as vital items such as timing chips and, in this instance, the pink singlet. Carrying a race pack around is a quick way to signal that you’re a runner. In six years of running, I’d amassed a pretty good collection of them. This time, however, I’d neglected to pick up my race pack and now, to retrieve it, not only would I get a scolding from irritated officials, I’d also get drenched.Home and dry, I ate a late lunch and flicked through the running magazine that had been shoved into the pack, seeking some last-minute training advice. Be thin. Be strong. Be sexy. Be in control. Do it your way. Let yourself lose control. Live a little. Have it all. Eat more carbs, more protein. Fill up on good fats. Love yourself, but don’t slack off. Watch out for avocados. Treat yourself sometimes. Wonderfoods, superfoods. Five-minute ab revolutions. New shoes might put the spring back in your step. Romance at the gym. Free workouts. There were so many rules, so many exceptions to the rules. I lacked the dexterity to dodge the cuts and thrusts. And so, rolling my eyes, I chucked the magazine into my recycling pile.The rain finally stopped, and I marched through the twilight to Centennial Park. I’d been warned that the event village gates would shut early—if I didn’t appear on time, wearing my uniform, I wouldn’t be allowed to run. These are the injunctions delivered to schoolgirls, not to grown women. I’d layered up: running shorts over leggings, a slippery long-sleeved shirt under my pink singlet. Neither flattering nor comfortable, but I knew that I’d stay warm. I felt extremely foolish, but I kept going because I was drawn to the idea of a women-only event. I wondered how it might be different to run in this crowd. The magazine hadn’t given me much cause for optimism, but I hoped that some shared experiences might not, for once, be left unspoken. I can’t remember exactly what I was anticipating. Breasts, bras, bleeding, and babies? Hardly. Would a feminist trailblazer be called up to lead us on our way and inspire us to pick up the pace? Maybe the organizers would be bold enough to acknowledge the lived experiences of trans women. I hoped, I suppose, that the event would at least be free of catcalling and pervy bystanders. I also hoped that the sense of uneasiness that so many women feel when running in public spaces—especially alone, especially after dark—would somehow be suspended. Running in the dark piqued my interest. I would never run in Centennial Park on my own at night. Years ago, I sometimes cut through the park on my bike after midnight, taking a route home from the pub that mostly wasn’t illumined by streetlights. I was more reckless then, and still it frightened me. I’d grip the handlebars tightly and stare into the short wan beam of my headlight, hoping its batteries would hold out. I told myself that possums were responsible for the shuffling and grumbling in the bushes, and chastised myself for not having taken the longer, well-lit path, even if there were more cars and hills to deal with. Every time I left the park at the Oxford Street gates, I exhaled the tension, shrugged my shoulders, and resolved never to take that path again. On morning runs, I have occasionally followed a dirt and sand track that hugs the perimeter of Centennial Park, encountering only a few dog walkers and other runners. Usually it’s spookily quiet, a surprising contrast to the packed main paths of the park. I’d be overstating it if I said that I’ve felt in peril on that sandy track in the early morning, but I am acutely aware of my surroundings there. I get a jittery sense of confinement in sections with a high fence on one side and high shrubs on the other, and mild alarm strikes when the path is too twisty and overgrown to give me a strong sense of who might be approaching. Do I expect belligerent strangers to leap out of the bushes? Perhaps. I grasp at the hope that I’m fit enough and fast enough to run away from anyone now—and that the park is full of friendly people. Whenever another lone runner crosses my path, we exchange greetings, maybe a wave, and carry on. I still often find myself uncomfortable when alone in poorly lit, depthless places like these. And that’s why, in spite of all the pink neon, I was excited to see the park full of people, to see the space cordoned off for a safe communal activity.Centennial Park is the largest urban park in Sydney. When it opened in 1888, no one would have dreamed that six thousand women might gather to run its circuit, let alone in the dark. Women running for any reason other than to get out of trouble is an extraordinarily recent phenomenon—not that you’d know it under the pink lights. It’s a shock to discover that only a few decades ago, a women-only distance run would have been highly controversial. In fact, the history of running is shaped by ancient anxieties about women on the move and stern prohibitions on where they could go. The road for today’s women runners was first trodden by brave, rebellious athletes a few generations older than me. They broke rules and bothered race officials, sports commentators, their fathers, moralizing tut-tutters, and many other women. Now the objections that were, not so long ago, raised to women running even 10 kilometers—it’s unladylike, it might affect fertility, it might stimulate weight loss, it’s altogether silly—sound preposterous. She Runs is a very well-groomed and well-behaved culmination of this history. That I heard no one mention the past was at least, I told myself, a sign that it had been left behind. *The title “She Runs the Night” makes the event sound a lot like another gathering of women, Reclaim the Night, and its American sister, Take Back the Night. These explicitly feminist events also involve women and girls taking to public spaces after dark—but marching down streets, not running around parks, in the name of safety for women. When I joined these marches in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, they were lit with candles rather than neon tubes. It’s thrilling to venture into public places that are normally decreed out of bounds. Protesters and runners both get the chance to take over the roads on foot, sending vehicles into exile. When I first ran in road races, I was vividly reminded of the wonderful city views I’d enjoyed when protests took me off the sidewalk and onto the pavement. Familiar sights are transformed when viewed from the center of the road. Anyone who’s been scared walking home alone at night can understand how powerful it is to fill dark streets with light and exuberant human bodies. I’ve still got a calico bag from a late-1990s Reclaim the Night march, which now stores obsolete computer cables and plugs. (If the She Runs carry bag lasts as long, I’ll be impressed.) The image on the speckled cream fabric is printed in purple ink, of course. When I tip out the junk and smooth the bag on the carpet, I see a woman with Medusa dreads wearing a kaftan and playing a drum, blissed out on the beats, her eyes closed. Next to her is a woman with Gloria Steinem glasses, striped pants, and a guitar. The Harbour Bridge grins in the background. There’s also a ballerina, a woman in a wheelchair with spiky hair and a choker, a woman in a daisy-printed waistcoat with her hair cropped short. Everyone is smiling and holding candles, and someone has brought a confused-looking cat and dog to the party. You can almost smell the nag champa in the air. I have to be honest: the bag is an incredibly dorky artifact from feminist history, all right-on hairy armpits, bongos, and menstrual dirges. The kind of clichés that I think make young women who are invested in equal pay, safety from violence, and reproductive rights tell journalists that they don’t actually see themselves as feminists. Markers of identity are rendered in thick, earnest strokes. It’s hard to detect any cultural diversity. I think the short-haired women are supposed to be lesbians. In these days of intersectional, trans-positive feminism, the bag strikes me as a friendly but very unsophisticated map of feminist community. In the battle over visual identity, Nike clearly has the upper hand. Everywhere I looked at She Runs, I saw slick branding. Pink cranes held bright Nike swooshes aloft. Cheerful PR assistants wore backpacks to which floating, logo-printed balloons were tethered. There were long lines for the enormous inflated trampoline, another unmissable selfie opportunity. The night was a virtuoso demonstration of the marketing sleight of hand that turns participation into consumption. Every orifice was designed to reassure participants that we were sexy, modern, and cool. I drafted lines for the twerps onstage: We’re not here for politics, we’re here to pa-a-arty. As unstylish as they might have been, it was in earnest and optimistic environments such as Reclaim the Night that I formed my ideas about gender and politics. They made me a feminist long before I was a runner. And so, to me, efforts to separate one section of the community—women, say—from the rest, whether for profit or protest, are inherently political. It bothered me that I didn’t hear one word from that pink stage about street safety, about how frightening big parks can feel to women alone at night, how crowds can share not just fun, but also solidarity. No one asked questions about the category of woman or made gestures of inclusion to trans women. If there was a welcome that acknowledged Indigenous women, I missed it. Not a word about sexual harassment, or income disparity, or domestic violence. What a downer that would have been. It was just a group of women running in a brightly lit park on a Saturday night, their menfolk relegated to the sidelines. Everyone around me was having a great time. What’s political about that? Grumbling away in the crowd on my own, I didn’t feel like an edgy feminist critic; I felt like the odd one out.

Editorial Reviews

“Elegant and erudite….The most resonant parts of [Menzies-Pike's] narrative deal with her own personal loss, and how tightly it becomes interwoven with her experiences as a runner….Gorgeously written and extremely moving.” —The Atlantic"Satisfies in every way." —Oprah.com“Menzies-Pike’s engaging book braids together feminist and literary theory, cultural criticism, history, and a moving personal narrative…Important and fascinating.” —Publishers Weekly"You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate The Long Run....Engrossing." —Bustle"Honest, funny, and moving." —Kirkus Reviews“This engaging memoir navigates the complexities, misconceptions, and the oppression of female runners in film, literature, and art throughout history. It will leave an impression on women and runners alike.” —Library Journal"In The Long Run, Catriona Menzies-Pike illuminates one of running’s great contradictions: incredible restoration found through repeated breakdown. Drawing on her own journey from grieving daughter to confident racer, as well as the experiences of female pioneers who paved the way, The Long Run offers a convincing nudge for all of us to get out there and let the open roads work their magic."—Becky Wade, professional marathoner and author of Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe“Catriona Menzies-Pike’s narrative opens up the possibility that we can redefine our world through running. She seamlessly and brilliantly weaves history with her own life in a way that feels both personal and accessible, shedding a unique light on the sport and the women who have pursued it.” —Alexi Pappas, creator of Tracktown, essayist, and Olympic athlete"Running is about so much more than exercise: running is about freedom, healing, introspection and community. It is about using your soles to search your soul—and this wonderful book captures that feeling so well. Running through these pages with Catriona Menzies-Pike is as rejuvenating as a dash down the trail where your burdens can be, if not left behind, at least carried more easily. This is a book of rebirth, effort, courage, and caring—the qualities few runners expect but the lucky ones find." —Tom Foreman, author of My Year of Running Dangerously“The Long Run weaves the rewards of a running life with the sport’s rich history. An educational, entertaining and soulful journey through the miles.”—Deena Kastor, American Record holder and Olympic medalist, marathon