The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik is a great resource for new runners and even for experienced runners. I began running in October 2006 when my best friend convinced me to run a 5K with her. I’ve competed in about 10 races since them, including several 10Ks and a half marthon. However, I’ve never taken my training very seriously. I basically sign up for a race and hope for my best. But when I did a half marathon last year and ended up walking a good six miles of it, I decided it was time to take my training more seriously or quit trying.

Since that time I’ve been looking for training schedules and information to help me become a better runner. Kowalchik’s book was the first one I actually picked up and read – cover to cover. I even read the chapters on running through pregnancy and running through menopause, even though they don’t apply to me yet. I found the book to be incredibly informative and actually ended up buying it after I returned it to the library because I think it will be such a great reference for my running future. I have to admit that the thing I liked most about this book was that it was written by a woman. I’ve seen plenty of women’s running guides out there, but they were all written by men and that really bothered me. I felt like a woman would know more about what it takes to be a woman runner. And I also thought a woman would cover the problems we face with more empathy. I think I was right on both counts.

This book includes information on everything from nutrition, to safety tips on the road. It has a whole chapter on how to pick your running shoes and another about how to prevent common injuries. All of the charts and graphs are extremely helpful too, giving great workout plans and tons of help for beginning runners.

For you slower, new runners out there though, be aware that you may feel a little defeated at the outset of this book. Kowalchik talks about how when she first began running she wasn’t very athletic, but I think 8 years as the editor of Runner’s World magazine and 13 years as a runner has managed to help her forget that not everyone was born running 25 miles a week. In one chapter she talks about what to do if you just don’t feel like running, a common symptom in beginning runners (at least for me). Her solution: well just go out for a short 3- to 6-mile run so you feel you’ve at least given it a try. And who knows? You may end up running 10 or 12 miles once you get started. Um, not this runner. I’m lucky if I can even finish 2 miles daily at this point in my running career. Also, in the appendix at back, there’s a chart that gives you recommended paces for training for a 5K, 10K, etc. It starts at a 32-minute 5K. My fasted 5K to date was 34:18. Seeing that I wasn’t even fast enough for the chart was a little bit defeating, but hopefully one day I’ll get there.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. I plan to use it’s advice to train for my half-marathon in October, and maybe I’ll even be able to work myself up to a full marathon in the coming year or two …