Better Faster Farther

How Running Changed Everything We Know About Women


By Maggie Mertens

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$39.00 CAD

For women runners, the race has only just begun…In this groundbreaking work, award-winning journalist Maggie Mertens uncovers the little-known story of how women broke into competitive running and how they are getting faster and fiercer every day¾and 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). 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 competed disguised as men. They faced down quack science, doctors who put them on bedrest, and newspaper reports that said women simply collapsed if they ran a mere 800 meters, just half a lap around the track. Still today, women face relentless attention to their physical bodies: Is she too strong, too masculine; is she even a woman?

Mertens transports us from that first boundary-breaking marathon in Greece, 1896, which Stamata Revithi successfully finished, to the earliest “officially” sanctioned women’s races of the 20th century, to the most intense running a person can participate in today, the ultra-marathons¾like 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, the races, and the victories of the women who redefined society’s image of strength and power.


  • "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

On Sale
Jun 18, 2024
Page Count
304 pages
Algonquin Books

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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