Better Faster Farther

How Running Changed Everything We Know About Women

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By Maggie Mertens

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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 GirlsBetter Faster Farther takes us inside the lives and the victories of the women who have redefined society’s image of strength and power.
 

Genre:

  • "It is hard and frustrating—and ultimately inspiring—to read about how women have continually been dismissed throughout our sport's history. This book shows and credits so many of them, who hurdled roadblocks and continued to fight for their place. Better Faster Farther is a look behind the curtain that all women who love running and sport should read.”
    Kara Goucher, Olympic runner and New York Times-bestselling author of The Longest Race
  • “From foot-binding to corsets, patriarchal societies have found ways to immobilize women, but now, marathoners and Olympians are proving that women can run like the wind!” 
    Gloria Steinem
  • Better Faster Farther traces the history of scrutiny over women's bodies and capabilities as runners at the intersections of race, gender identity, and sex development making clear just how little we actually know (and care to know) about them. An essential read to normalize women's existence, excellence and humanity within the sport of running.”
    Alison Mariella Désir, author Running While Black
  • "A meticulously researched examination of the history of women's competitive running, with valuable takeaways for athletes of all sports." 
    Bonnie Tsui, author of Why We Swim and Sarah and the Big Wave
  • “With her evocative prose and ever-present attention to detail, Maggie Mertens has written a much-needed examination of women's running. Better Faster Farther is a blistering examination of how sexism, racism, and transphobia have so deeply impacted a sport that should be the ultimate democratizer. This book has the potential to change the sport as we know it.”
    Frankie de la Cretaz, co-author of Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women's Football League

On Sale
Jun 18, 2024
Page Count
304 pages
Publisher
Algonquin Books
ISBN-13
9781643753355

Maggie Mertens

About the Author

Maggie Mertens is a writer, journalist, and editor located in Seattle. Her essays and reporting have appeared in The Atlantic, NPR, Sports Illustrated, ESPNw, Deadspin, VICE, The CutGlamourPacific Standard, Refinery29, and Creative Nonfiction, among others. Her work has also appeared in The Year’s Best Sports Writing 2021 (Triumph Books)Women and Sports in the United States (The University of Chicago Press), and has been nominated for the 2021 Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting. She earned a B.A. in English Literature and Italian Studies from Smith College, and an M.F.A. in Creative-Nonfiction Writing from The New School.

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