Better Faster Farther

How Running Changed Everything We Know About Women


By Maggie Mertens

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$17.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 18, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

*NATIONAL BESTSELLER* “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

"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

More than a century ago, a woman ran in the very first modern Olympic marathon. She just did it without permission. 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.

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, in which women are setting all-out records, even against men. 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.

"An essential read to normalize women's existence, excellence, and humanity within the sport of running.”ALISON MARIELLA DÉSIR

  • “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
  • "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
  • 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
  • “Delightful and enraging, Better Faster Farther traces the centuries-long lineage of women who wanted to run and became feminist heroes. Mertens expertly reveals the long history of sexism and misogyny that is very much alive today in women’s athletics and across society. This book is for anyone interested in how our understanding of human biology is shaped as much by story as by science."
    Chelsea Conaboy, author of Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood
  • “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
  • “An essential and necessary history of a subject that has not just been overlooked, but often overtly and purposely ignored.”
    Glenn Stout, author of Young Woman and the Sea
  • “Chronicling these women’s relentless pursuit of inclusion in competitive running events, Mertens regains control of the narrative of female runners—and female athletes more broadly… Illuminating, informative, and inspiring.”
    Kirkus Reviews
  • “A fascinating deep dive into the myth of gender roles that set limitations on women’s participation in athletics… This insightful, well-researched book captures the struggles of female athletes who blazed a path for all who run in their footsteps, proving sports can, indeed, be a positive vehicle for social change.”
    Booklist, *Starred Review*

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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