Review: Good for a Girl, A Woman Running in a Man's World by Lauren Fleshman

Review by Sue Domis, Bookseller

 Two Books published in 2023 deal with the subject of women running, and doing well enough to become professional runners.  Women runners have often been traditionally discounted by men who have set the rules for the sport.   

Young female runners have had trouble remaining in the sport as they reach puberty.  Those who do, often suffer injuries due to eating disorders and other struggles.  Male coaches have sometimes discouraged girls from gaining weight, convincing them to become thin to look like a runner.

Lauren Fleishman's book, Good For s Girl is about growing up in a home with a sister, a quiet mother and a loud and alcoholic father.  She ran track in high  school.  The school's cross-country coach, after she did well in two events, asked her to join their program. She started in the "newbies" group, running with both girls and boys.  She soon progressed to the junior varsity runners and before long, the coach moved her to running varsity. Fleshman attended Canyon High  School, which was rated  the number one cross country team in California history.  She became the top freshman runner in the state.  She then qualified for the Foot Locker Championship.  She soon began receiving  college recruiting letters from all over the country and she chose Stanford University and excelled in running events there.  She met her future husband there.  In Fleshman's first year at Stanford she broke the American Junior record for the 5,000 meters and qualified for the Olympic trials.  After her first year Fleishman was granted a full scholarship for the rest of her time there. In her book, Fleishman writes about diet and nutrition for runners.  She tried to keep her weight down but found that it affected her physically.  She then started eating better with better results.  By the end of Fleishman's university years she was a five time NCAA champion and a fifteen time All American champion.  She qualified for the 2008 Olympics.  She received a $60,000 offer from Nike.  She continued on at Stanford in the Master's program and became an assistant coach there.  Her career progressed and she created and developed a fruit and nut bar called Picky bars.  She has also become part of a women's running clothing brand called Oiselle.

Des Linden's Book, Choosing to Run is centered around the 2018 Boston Marathon, which she won, becoming the first woman to win in 33 years.  Linden grew up in San Diego with a sister, mother, and a very demanding father.  She first played soccer and softball in her early years until her father signed her up for a track and field club.  She began winning races week after week.  Running felt like independence to her.  Linden says "Choosing to run was the first real decision I made because I wanted to."   She chose to go to University at Arizona State.  Linden writes about seeing women runners eating so little and ruining their bodies to run faster.  Her father had  been forceful about food as a necessary fuel for sports and she always believed that.  Linden is sensible about food.  She eats until she is full  and also is judicious about alcohol use.  (We do learn that she has a love of good bourbon.)

Lindon's book covers each mile of her Boston Marathon beginning with mile zero.  She writes about weather and running conditions as she goes along.  In alternate chapters she writes about her education and running career.  She suffered from leg and foot pains when training and changed her training methods each time.  She ran in the Boston Marathon in 2011 and finished in second place.  She finally ran in the 2018 Boston Marathon and won.  

Both  of these running books are interesting and very inspiring. My two daughters are runners, as am I, and we all  enjoyed reading about these great runners and how they became winners.  When a runner needs encouragement, either of these books will do the job.