Point Me To the Good Female-Authored Running Resources

Women's Centipede
So many good women runners, so few running resources written by women (Photo credit: naturalturn)

If you are reading this blog, it’s likely that (a) you are a runner, (b) you want to be a better runner, and (c) you are a woman (unless you are Mark).  Not that there’s anything wrong with hanging out on Salty Running as a man, so long as your interest in bouncing boobs is purely scientific (and I’ll verify that there is no video included in that post).

So let me ask you a question – why does the Salty Running team seem so unique in trying to provide sound, science-based advice for women, while, lo and behold, being women themselves?  Do you disagree on this?  Let’s take a tour of the world of resources available for competitive runners, shall we?

Exhibit 1:  The major running publications like Runner’s World, Running Times, and Competitor, as well as their blogs. 

Other than Jenny Hadfield, “Coach Jenny” of RW fame and creator of several marathon’s “official” programs (as well as a few books on marathoning), is there another female author focused on coaching and advice?  Rachel Toor’s articles in RT look like they are created by a professor of writing who also happens to run (oh yeah, that’s basically what she is).  Susan Lacke on the Competitor blog doesn’t even have her own “column”, and she usually provides just a lighter side to Mario Fraioli’s otherwise hard-hitting training advice.   And if I made anything other than food that I’m sure my three sons would eat (or at least a solid majority of them), I’m sure the recipes and nutrition advice provided by countless RW contributors would be tasty and helpful – but at the margins of my training, not at the core.

Exhibit 2: The books by elite runners such as Kara Goucher.

Compared to the works of  Jack Daniels, Pete Pfitzinger, and others, books by elite women runners seem a bit soft, more about “nurturing” than “coaching”.  I’ll admit to not having read Kara’s book (and not actually being on a first name basis with her) or any of Kristin Armstrong’s work, as hanging out here is about as soft as I get.  Though I will say that the book Adam Goucher (Kara’s husband) wrote isn’t all that compelling either.

Exhibit 3:  The broader blogosphere (do we still use that word?)

And for us amateur bloggers (or semi-pros, as some of us do make a bit of money through coaching or writing books), again where are the women?  Most lists of top 20 or top 10 running blogs (written by men, of course) do not include any female authors. And have you thought of an answer to the question in the second paragraph yet?  Feel free to chime in with a suggestion, as I’m always open to discovering new resources.  I follow 50ish running blogs, and women write only four of them.

Woman's Home Blog Book
We need a better reference book for woman-authored running blogs (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Oh, I recognize there are fine running blogs written by women of all performance levels.  But can you think of one that is not primarily focused on personal experiences, basically an extension of Facebook?  I’m not saying these journals aren’t interesting, and some of them do get a lot of comments from a passionate audience, but do they strive to make that audience better runners?

If you agree with the premise, what are your theories on the reasons for this void?  Since I’m not the president of Harvard and therefore (hopefully) can’t lose my job by saying this… are women still put off by science?  Do they, despite being >50% of the running population, lack confidence in having something meaningful to contribute? Are they too worried about looking like bad-asses and not coming across as feminine enough?

I’d argue that it is possible for women to:

  • Embrace science and use it as the basis for sound running advice.  After all, I’m married to a doctor, and while I did help through a tough college engineering curriculum, her sports medicine minor and general medical knowledge make her a permanent member of my running board of directors.
  • Use a female perspective and sense of intuition to take science and experiences and provide unique and valuable insights on training applicable to both women and men.
  • Toe the line between aggressiveness and compassion, helping women specifically find ways to maintain their balance while pursuing their running goals.

I hope the Salty Running team, at least, continues to step up to this challenge and doesn’t stray from this blog’s principles.  That would be a shame, as I’d far rather increase, not decrease, the number of women-authored blogs I follow.

Greg Strosaker, while lacking boobs that bounce (at least these days), focuses on helping both men and women make competitive running a fulfilling part of their already busy lives on his Predawn Runner blog and in his book, Running Ahead of the Sun. Beyond running and writing, he works as a product manager while doing a lot of house-husbanding and fathering for his wife and three sons.  And this feminine side does show through on his blog, though he’ll never admit to crying. You can read his riveting interview of Salty here.

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Sal is a 4 year old 77 hour trail marathoner looking to whittle a few minutes off next time. Being a gastropod, Sal is neither male nor female but will accept either set of pronouns. Sal's spirit animal is the cheetah and Sal's mantra is, "What's slow to some is fast for others." Sal writes about Salty Running news.

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  1. Thanks for the opportunity to post. I can’t believe you tagged it with “boobs” though. I hope no one Googles my name and finds the reference to boobs. I probably should have thought of that before writing this.

  2. ROFL at the above comment 🙂 Very cool to see you posting here Greg… and interesting thoughts. As a woman scientist 🙂 (who went to school with and works with many female scientists, I might add), I definitely don’t buy the “women are put off by science” concept. That may have been the case in the past but I just don’t see it (although obviously my personal experience might be biased). What I COULD potentially see being the case is that there aren’t as many women out there who are confident enough in their expertise (esp. those who are not pro–or semi-pro–runners/coaches) that they feel they have any right to “tell people what to do,” let alone have people actually take their advice… this is actually something I struggle with myself in both my work and personal life and I think I see it in a lot of other women, too!

    1. Thanks Rachel – I see my wife struggling with that occasionally, though as a pediatrician she is in at least more of a balanced field. I too don’t personally think that women are any less capable (or interested) in science. I suspect you are right about the confidence aspect – maybe more people should read my “fake it until you make it” post!

    2. That’s definitely a good observation, Rachel! I often struggle with that feeling, but maybe it was writing for a journal in law school, but I feel pretty comfortable researching and synthesizing info and spewing it out in a reader-friendly manner. I think of myself more as an interpreter than an expert, if that makes sense. Calling myself an expert feels funny no matter what I’m talking about!

  3. Nice to have you here, Greg. I agree that the content out there is often just an extension of Facebook. There are certain personal running blogs that I do like, such as My Year To Thrive, because they are unique (runner with bipolar disorder) and fill somewhat of a niche. However, I do think it’s rare to find such. I think Kara and Adam Goucher’s blog (Run The Edge) is great for motivational purposes. Plus, to see elite runners attempting to connect with the masses is nice. But I see them as more beneficial to the psychological side to running. Lauren Fleshman has a great blog that gives good insight into the mind of an elite runner. But really, other than those mentioned above and Salty Running (bias? yes!) you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for getting the word out there and supporting our efforts. I want to be pointed in the right direction, too!

    1. Thanks Ginger with a J. I think you caught that I wasn’t implying that personal/journal blogs are “bad”, especially if they fill a niche that meets certain needs. And we all need a few blogs that hit our motivational core – the psychological side of running is every bit as important as the physiological.
      I do struggle with finding interest in the elite runners blogs – their lives are so different from those of us who balance family/career/running, that I often find their world a bit distant and inaccessible. But to each their own, I guess. Keep up the good work you are doing here!

      1. I agree with you both. I do enjoy the personal narrative style blogs–I had one of my own for years. They certainly serve a purpose and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years. I also agree on the elite bloggers. While they may be very inspirational, there also isn’t a whole lot of real world practical advise for us hobby-more-than-joggers. I found myself looking for good resources and became frustrated that they were all so dude-focused. And anything woman-focused almost invariably felt like fluff–30 days to a beautiful belly and you can run while pregnant if you listen to your body (you don’t say) just don’t do it for me. Anyway, that’s why I started this site and I hope we do fill that void. If there are others out there point us to them. I would love to have something new and great to read!

  4. I disagree! First off, it seems that you are only defining “good” as science-based content, when first person accounts have plenty of value, too, if they’re done right. I didn’t know much about ultramarathons and what actually went into them until reading both Clove’s posts and following Runner’s Rambles‘ journey to her 50 miler. Posts with photos of what you ate every single day do get old, but I think that some resources written in the narrative style can be very educational. I also like Nutrition Success, a blog by sub-elite runner and dietitian Jackie Dikos. I think that we can learn from others’ personal experiences. It is possible for these experiences to be portrayed in a deeper, more generalized way than the route that some running blogs take of basically serving as an online training diary.

    You have overlooked lots of good resources. Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea strike a balance between anecdotes and science – a recent podcast of theirs talked about the importance of sleep and rest days. And what about Women’s Running magazine? I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that most of the articles are too “soft” for you, but Christine Hinton is a regular contributor on the coaching side of things. In the book world, Claire Kowalchik wrote The Complete Book of Running for Women. Dagny Scott Barios (also a woman!) has written multiple books, covering things like trail running and injury prevention. Most of the works I have named are much more heavily marketed towards women (if not exclusively), while running resources written by men aren’t categorized as “men’s running”. So I think that could be part of the issue!

    1. Hi Sassy – I guess you are living up to your namesake on this one, and thanks for doing so! I guess one could argue the premise can be changed from “women aren’t writing good running resources” to “women aren’t writing good running resources for the general audience”. And that may well be a winning strategy, far better to focus on a niche (especially a big one) than to try to be all things to all people. But the folks like Pete Pfitzinger, Jack Daniels (the running coach and physiologist, not the distiller), and the like do pick niches too – advanced marathoners, runners interested in the physiology of the sport (or mistakenly interested in whiskey). I guess what surprises me is that the vast majority of women writers pick a subgroup of women as their niche, instead of going more broadly. The knowledge base is certainly there.
      I’ll admit to not subscribing to Women’s Running (I didn’t even know it existed!) so I don’t know if it’s soft (and, for the record, I don’t subscribe to Men’s Health). I’ll certainly look into the work of Christine Hinton as that sounds interesting – so thanks for the leads!

      1. Your revised premise is maybe true. One thing I’d like to point out is that the niches aren’t as narrow as they seem! I am not a mother but I still love a good 80% of the Run Like a Mother/Train Like a Mother stuff. Most all of it still applies to those who are busy and balancing lots of different things. If it’s specific to babies/kid/pregnancy, I just kinda gloss over it. Christine Hinton is great, I am following one of her training plans right now.

        Thanks for sharing your insights with us! I really do appreciate your thoughts, even though I get a little sassy.

    2. Thanks for sharing more resources! One of my hopes for Greg’s post would be that we’d discover new resources. I agree with you on all fronts, except I read Greg to be saying that personal blogs are fine, but that’s all there seems to be from women running bloggers. I’ll let him defend himself, though.

      Anyway, the thing about the resources you’ve sited is that they are more geared to beginners and less competitive running. There isn’t anything out there for women – that I know of – saying “this is how you train to run a sub-3 marathon” or “this is how you crack the 20:00 5k barrier.” When I find myself looking for training advice I find it hard to come by. I feel like very few participants on RLAM, for example relate to my competitiveness. On a different site a couple of years ago I posted how the marketing of some Disney princess race turned me off and how I so much rather be competitive and push myself and I was skewered for it. Why can’t I want to run fast and push myself and try to win a race? How is that offensive to women who are content to simply finish? To this day, I don’t get it!!! One of the reasons I started SR was to create a place where women can feel comfortable pushing themselves, being competitive and perhaps “unladylike.” I know there are a lot of women who care about their performance – A LOT – yet, they seem under-represented in the training advice\moral support arena. Until now of course 🙂

      1. Hey Salty, I’m with you on the Disney race front. I don’t understand paying that much if you are just going to stop and take pictures, or have people stop right in front of you. And much of the advice in those resources I listed is really general. There’s a difference between general and beginner, though.

        I want to preface this by saying of course I think Salty Running is great! But I think when you start throwing out time goals like that (which are so awesome, BTW) it maybe doesn’t offend people who are running just to finish, but it can be a little alienating depending on the situation. I am acquaintances with someone who will literally only talk to you if you run below a certain time. I felt like Greg’s position was sort of the online equivalent, taking a very dismissive stance towards other women’s running resources, when, really, we can learn a lot from them.

        I want to run my fastest, therefore in my mind that is competitive. You can be competitive without being a contender. Plenty of women are not beginner runners, but not competitive in your definition of trying to win the race.

        Not everyone fits into these simple categories of a beginner who knows nothing about the sport and is pulled in by marketing tactics like wine races and princess stuff, or a competitive runner who starts in the first corral, has a legit shot at winning the race. There is a large gray area. Not to make it so overly personal, but I feel strongly about this issue!

        1. I’m not anti-Disney – go for it if it’s your thing. Dressing up like a princess and running just doesn’t do it for me 🙂 And the price – eek!

          I just threw out the time goals I’ve been interested in personally. I could have said sub-4 and sub-30 and it would still be true! I don’t look down on those who don’t want to, can’t or aren’t yet ready to aim for the same goals as me. I am often disappointed by the assumption that fast runners somehow look down on slower runners or think they’re better than slower runners or whatever the assumption is that causes being faster or competitive to make others feel alienated. We have two Salties who have run sub 3 marathons (by a lot) and neither of them are judgy against me or any other slower runners on this site or in real life. In fact, they are both super encouraging of all their running friends fast or slow, as am I and everyone else on the site. When it comes down to it, no matter what our goal times are, we have MUCH more in common than not in common. Why be intimidated or judgy of another runner when having something like that in common could make you great friends. That’s one of the things I’d like to demonstrate with our interviews of elite runners–they are people too and share the same passions and struggles as us “schmucks” do. We’re all in this together and it’s a beautiful thing so not talking to someone, or dismissing what someone has to say because of their race times is missing out on many possible friendships, learning possibilities and so much more.

          I think I might be guilty of over-simplifying when I said the other resources are for beginners and non-competitive types. I like your description of “general” better. I think there is a lot of overlap between a site\brand like RLAM and us and as you know I am a big fan of their site and have been participating on their FB discussions for years now! I was one of the first L moms 🙂 I have a tremendous amount of respect and reverence for Dimity and SBS and am inspired by what they do. I did not mean to dismiss them or any of the others you listed! I just think SR is different and catering to a more specialized audience.

          Finally, and then I’ll end this book you made me write :), SR is about helping all runners, regardless of where they currently are with running, get faster, improve performance and become better people through the process. I am well aware that some might be put-off because of some of our bloggers’ accomplishments, goals or attitudes that might come off as elitist, but I know that no one here is an elitist and that whole concept is going to be confronted in a post some day soon. I think the fact that we have such a wide range of runners blogging for the site should demonstrate that times don’t matter–it’s all about the attitude, the passion, etc. I’ve learned just as much from runners who are slower than me than from runners who are faster than me. We welcome runners no matter what shade of gray they are!

          THANK you so much for challenging me and making me think – hard! My brain hurts and I’m going to stop writing now. Fo’ real. 🙂

          1. Rather than write a sequel to your book, I’ll just say that I think you sum it up wonderfully when you say that we have more in common than not. Thank YOU for having the great idea for SR!

  5. Hi Greg! Thanks for throwing out such a great challenge. You gave us all a lot to think about. Women have succeeded in so many areas and have no trouble writing brilliantly! There really is a lack of good running books and blogs written by women but I am hopeful that this will change as so many areas for us are changing — job opportunities, salaries, and even the way we raise our children. I spent some time exploring some of the reasons for the disparity you wrote about. There are genuine differences between men and women, not only physically but culturally, but even that’s not the whole story. I’ve jotted down my thoughts at http://runningsweet.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/running-loose/ if you’re interested. By the way, I’m looking forward to reading the Kindle sample of your book that I downloaded this morning. You have some great insights and I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks for your comment Candy – I’ll check out your post when I can access it, as it is blocked for me at work. As a husband with a wife whose career has now become more successful than his own (and whose favorite managers in the past have often been female executives), I agree completely in regards to the successful heights women are now reaching in career and personal endeavors. That’s why it strikes me as a bit odd that there is still such a gap in the creation of valuable resources in a field where women actually make up a majority of participants. But, as you say, there are genuine differences, and maybe us men feed our egos (or, to put it more kindly, “build our self-esteem”) a bit more through our writing ;o).

  6. Greg – add me to the list thanking you for posting with all of the ladies. 🙂 I agree with your observations and take your challenge as a contributing blogger to continue ensuring we are providing quality training content along with the motivating/motivational/personal stuff.

    1. Thanks Mint, please do keep up the good work! There are a lot of women runners struggling to balance work/family/training, so the more ideas on how to do so with creativity and commitment, the better (and some of us men continue to need the advice too!).

  7. Competitor/Triathlete has a female running expert named Erin Beresini. She’s also the fitness coach for Outside Magazine, if I’m not mistaken.