A memoir of addiction, body image, and healing, through the lens of a long-distance runner.
Emily Pifer's debut memoir, The Running Body
, wrestles and reckons with power and agency, language and story, body dysphoria and beauty standards, desire and addiction, loss and healing. Pifer employs multiple modes of storytelling--memoir, meditation, and cultural analysis--interweaving research, argument, and experience as she describes how, during her time as a collegiate distance runner, she began to run more while eating less. Many around her, including her coaches, praised her for these practices. But as she became faster, and as her body began to resemble the bodies that she had seen across start-lines and on the covers of running magazines, her bones began to fracture. Pifer tells her story alongside the stories of her teammates, competitors, and others as they all face trouble regarding their bodies.
Through the lens of long-distance running, Pifer examines the effects of idolization and obsession, revealing the porous boundaries between what counts as success and what is considered failure. While grounded in truth, The Running Body
interrogates its relationship to magical thinking, the stories we tell ourselves, and the faultiness of memory. Fractures, figurative and literal, run through the narrative as Pifer explores the ways bodies become entangled in stories. The Running Body
was selected by Steve Almond as the winner of the 2021 Autumn House Nonfiction Prize.
About the Author
Emily Pifer is a PhD candidate in composition and cultural rhetoric at Syracuse University, and she lives between Syracuse, New York, and Laramie, Wyoming. Her work has been published in The Fiddlehead, Brevity's Nonfiction Blog, Women's Health, Esquire, and Toasted Cheese.