When I heard Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery were working on a book, I was excited about reading it. Molly Huddle is a two-time Olympian for Team USA and a six-time American record-holder and Sara Slattery represented the US at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championship and was a four-time NCAA champion. Knowing this, it was interesting to see what kind of book these two accomplished runners would write.
How She Did It is different from any other book about runners that I’ve read. First, it’s only about female runners and includes parts taken from interviews the authors had with 50 prominent female runners going back to the pioneers like Patti Catalano Dillon (also pictured on the cover), Kathrine Switzer, and Cheryl Bridges Flanagan Treworgy, Shalane Flanagan’s mom and ends with more recent runners like Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego.
The authors’ main question was “How did you do it?” but they asked similar questions like what was their support system like, how did they overcome challenges, how did they take care of their bodies, along with the general information about personal records at different stages of their running careers. There were many overlapping stories with the athletes such as stress fractures from under-fueling.
There’s much more to this book than interviews with famous runners. After an introduction by the authors about how the idea for the book was conceived and their running stories, part one is called “The Experts.” Huddle and Slattery brought in experts to help cover what they call the four keys to being a healthy young female runner. The four areas are: physical health and injury prevention, hormonal health, sound nutrition, and mental health and sports psychology. Not only is there advice from experts they talked to on each of the four areas, there are citations of scientific articles included in case anyone wants to dive deeper.
Part two is the bulk of the book and is comprised of the athlete interviews, which I’ve already discussed. While I enjoyed reading about each of the athletes in the book, I found it did get a bit much and in my opinion some of the athletes could have been left out. I heard on a podcast with the two authors that originally the book included interviews from 80 female runners and they whittled that down to 50, so I guess they already felt like they were cutting out quite a chunk of their book.
The next-to-last section, called “The Cooldown,” is short and includes anecdotes that happened to some of the runners in the book that weren’t included in part two. For example, Molly Seidel tells the story about when her phone was stolen from a track in Ethiopia and the whole town came together to help find it. Carrie Tollefson recalls the story about how her husband proposed to her on a run.
The final section, “Favorite Workouts” includes some of the runners in the book’s favorite running workouts, as you might imagine. I found most of these extremely vague so you won’t find true workouts, at least not in the sense I think of as a workout. For example, 2008 Olympian Anna Willard Grenier states that “all-out 200s, all-out 300s, and 150s” were her favorite workouts. Four-time Olympian Coleen De Reuck’s favorite workouts are “hill repeats. I don’t go too far because I think if your form breaks down, then you lose some benefits.” It’s interesting but is less than four pages long and just has comments from ten runners.
In total, the book is 336 pages in the paperback version and it’s available on Amazon and other book sellers. I borrowed it from my public library, which I encourage others to do unless it’s a book you know you’d read over and over. For most books, I like to see if they’re available at the library before I buy them. It’s better for the environment and is a lot cheaper! Or, you can order directly from the website and get a signed copy: https://howshediditbook.com.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I’ve never read a book comprised solely of information about female runners through the years and from this type of angle. It’s not meant to be a training guide so as long as you don’t think that’s what you’ll be getting, it’s a worthwhile read.
Have you read this book or heard about it? If so, what did you think? Would you like to read this book?