10 Great Running Books You Should Probably Read
Done scrolling through your Instagram feed for the third time in the last 10 minutes? Baked more bread than you can/should eat? Caved in and bought a Master Class subscription but have yet to master any class?
By now, most of us are at our wits’ end when it comes to quarantine time-killing– what was once a novel skill or a quirky hobby-to-be has instead become another symptom of each day’s monotony. Even though life is starting to reopen, we’ve still got a long way to go, and things aren’t exactly looking like they used to.
But in case you missed it, reading is back, and in a big way. (As an English major it was never “gone,” but I digress.) If you’re looking for a way to engage with your running after you’ve logged those daily miles or planned tomorrow’s Strava route, you’re in luck. We at Believe in the Run put together a list of our favorite books that are sure to inspire. What follows are 10 running-related book recommendations that will do as much for your appreciation of the sport as they will for your outlook on life.
By Brian Metzler
If you’re like me, you probably find yourself reading reviews for shoes you didn’t even know you needed. Sound familiar? There’s a reason we do what we do here at Believe in the Run––runners are a tricky breed, for as much as they like their shoes, they’re also very particular about them (often to the point of obsession).
Eventually, drooling over leaked upcoming releases and AlphaFly prototypes will lose its edge, so do yourself a favor and check out Brian Metzler’s Kicksology. With years of sports journalism and shoe testing chops to boast of, Metzler is an authority on all things running and all things shoes. In Kicksology he takes a deep dive into the $10B running shoe industry, bringing you from half-baked concept to fully-fledged production model.
If you’ve ever wondered about all that goes into a great shoe, this one’s for you.GET THE BOOK
By Meb Keflezighi
Indulge in the lessons of a pro runner without putting in the thousands of training hours.
Okay, that might sound like the next big influencer hack, but Meb Keflezighi is no slouch, and this is no fit tea he’s selling. As the first person in history to win the Boston and the New York City marathons, as well as an Olympic marathon medal, Keflezighi is highly regarded amongst the marathon greats for good reason.
In 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career, retired pro runner Meb Keflezighi regals readers with stories of each of his 26 marathon performances. As much as it is a collection of race recaps and practical advice, it’s also full of valuable life lessons that go way beyond running.
No matter your history with the sport, 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career will make you a better runner (and almost certainly a better person).GET THE BOOK
By Deena Kastor
Though the physical demands of running are widely acknowledged, I don’t think the mental game gets its due diligence. It’s the ultimate test of willpower. I mean, c’mon– most people balk at the idea of even going on a run, much less having to put in the work to go faster or longer.
So what do you do when your pro running career is in full swing and you’re on the brink of burnout? After years of keeping her foot stomped on the gas and doing everything to stay ahead of the competition, Kastor found herself frustrated and weighed down by her own negativity.
Enter Joe Vigil, a legendary running coach and the founder of the first professional distance-running team.
Before throwing in the towel, Kastor took a chance on Vigil’s dream and moved out to Alamosa, Colorado. Whether it was the thin air or the breathtaking views, Kastor finally achieved some clarity in her running––deciding to focus on the power of positivity and training her mind to be encouraging and kind in the face of adversity.
Spoiler alert: It was only with a change of mindset that she was able to break American records in distances from the 5K to the marathon. Let Your Mind Run follows Kastor’s remarkable story, giving readers a look inside the mind of an elite runner and providing helpful advice for how you can train your own to give you a competitive edge.GET THE BOOK
By Matthew Futterman
From high school cross country meets to national championships to Olympic races, Bob Larsen has earned his coaching stripes at almost every level imaginable. Part scientific discourse, part narrative retelling, Running to the Edge follows Larsen’s journey from humble farm boy to American running coaching great.
In Running to the Edge, New York Times’ Deputy Sports Editor Matthew Futterman examines Larsen’s uncanny ability to bring out the best in his athletes, whether it was growing distance running in the days of its infancy or coaching marathoning legend Meb Keflezighi to victory at New York and Boston. Bob Larsen may be the focus of the book, but the result is a testament to Futterman’s own relationship with the sport.
No matter if you geek out over running science or fangirl over famed coaches, Running to the Edge has a little something for everyone.
(P.S. For an even deeper look, read our Q&A with Futterman from last year.)GET THE BOOK
By Chris Lear
I know, I know, “insider accounts” are a dime a dozen. I’ve left a few of such books unfinished, but Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes is different. Those other pretenders might be little more than a bunch of motivational quotes slapped together without any real substance, but this book lays it all out in gritty detail (like, there was a push to ban it in schools for offensive language).
Running with the Buffaloes gives readers unrivaled access to the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the University of Colorado cross country team’s 1998 season. It was one in which the Buffs were poised for success, with Olympic hopeful Adam Goucher ready to take his first individual title and the University of Colorado shooting for its first-ever team title. In spite of the season’s promise, life had other plans.
Between injury, loss, and personal struggle, the team would come to face more than its fair share of adversity. Lear created a true tour de force of the sport with Running with the Buffaloes, but its appeal is such that it has reached audiences of all kinds. Filled with both moments of triumph and moments of heartache, the book is a page-turner that I’d challenge you to put down. It’s an inspiring story of a team’s perseverance against odds that were rarely in their favor.GET THE BOOK
By Kara Goucher
All right– bit of a shameless plug, but Adrienne (our resident sport psychologist here at BITR) is a contributor to Strong, so you know it’s gotta be good.
In any case, for most runners, the mental game makes up a big part of the battle. You know the drill: You’ve done the work, you’ve put in the miles– everything goes off without a hitch. But– and this is a big but– now it’s race day. *Record scratch* Shit, what day?!? *proceeds to black out*
If you’ve ever had a case of pre-race jitters, Kara Goucher’s Strong is the book for you. Combining more tips, techniques, and experiences for improving your performance mentality than you’ll know what to do with, Strong offers a comprehensive guide to outrunning self-doubt. She’s a two-time Olympian, so you know her mind’s been tested to the upper limits. Elite athletes will do anything to get an edge, and if she’s gotten something out of sport psychology, I’ll bet you can too.GET THE BOOK
By Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox
I first heard this story on the Human Race podcast (produced by Runner’s World) a few years back, a really wonderful podcast whose run was cut short after RW was bought out by Hearst Media. The hosts of the podcast, Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox, always did an excellent job at finding great stories in running. This story was the best one of them all, and they turned it into a debut novel for both of them.
Who is Mighty Moe? Just 13-year-old Maureen Wilton, whose world record-breaking marathon time in 1967 was met first with misogyny and absurd controversy, but ultimately with triumph. It’s charming, resilient, and badass all at the same time. The book includes an introduction by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially register and run in the Boston Marathon (and Maureen’s only fellow female competitor at the 1967 record-setting race), and an afterword by Des Linden, who you may have heard.GET THE BOOK
By Haruki Murakami
I fell in love with Murakami’s fiction when I first read The Windup Bird Chronicle a couple years ago. Having worked through a number of his other works, I only just discovered that he’s a running fanatic. Naturally, when I found he’d written a memoir on running and writing, I had to pick it up.
You’ll come to find that What I talk about When I talk about Running is less about the author’s creative process than it is about his compulsive running habits. (If you’re hoping for tips to become Japan’s next prolific author, you’ll have to look elsewhere.)
Though marathoning is something of a national pastime in Japan, Murakami made his start in the sport like many others: he needed a way to get in shape. However, unlike most, Haruki Murakami ran his first marathon in historic fashion: traversing the distance from Athens to Marathon in Greece. Never one to settle (see how many books he’s written if you need more evidence), from that point on he was hooked.
What I talk about When I talk about Running follows Murakami’s training for the New York City Marathon, waxing poetic about the author’s relationship with running.GET THE BOOK
By Frank Shorter
First off, ignore the dreadful cover art and lame book title. Now that that’s out of the way, let real recognize real– Frank Shorter led one of the most iconic lives in running, but also one of the most tragic. He was the last person to talk to Steve Prefontaine, riding shotgun with Pre before getting dropped off at a friend’s house just moments before Pre’s tragic accident. In the 1972 Munich Games, Shorter won a gold medal in the marathon, but received no glory in finishing, as an imposter ran into the stadium minutes before, collecting all the cheers. Four years later, in the best shape of his life, he was outrun by a doped-to-the-gills German runner in the 1976 Olympic Marathon.
And yet none of that tragedy compares to the tragedy of his childhood, enduring horrific abuses at the hands of his sadistic father, a seemingly mild-mannered family doctor who turned into a monster behind closed doors. The fact that Shorter came out alive and thrived to become one of the greatest American runners ever, is a story worth reading.GET THE BOOK
By Danny Dreyer
Whether it’s fending off aches and pains or being sidelined by chronic problem areas, many runners have accepted that injuries are a part of the job description. (For some, it even seems to be a masochistic right of passage.)
But Danny and Katherine Dreyer feel that enough is enough. With ChiRunning, they’re challenging the notion that running has to be a high-injury sport by introducing a different approach––one that puts wellness first. Incorporating principles from yoga, Pilates, and T’ai Chi in order to shift the focus to preventative treatment and mindfulness, the Dreyers have made it possible to do the unthinkable: running faster and farther with less effort and fewer injuries.
Don’t believe the hype? Given Danny Dreyer’s prolific success in the sport (a casual 40 ultramarathon podium finishes, for instance), the rationale behind their program must be pretty sound. Simply put, they believe that “the problem isn’t running, it’s the way you run.” In other words, by redefining your relationship with running (both physically and mentally), the Dreyers give you the key to unlock both longevity and potential.GET THE BOOK
Other recommendations? Hit us up in the comments.
Disclaimer: Like pretty much every site out there, Believe in the Run may receive affiliate revenue from shop links.
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Ensure by Alex Hutchinson
We’ve enjoyed that book as well!
Becky Wade’s Run the World is a great read. It was interesting learning about the different running cultures she experienced on her travels.
“How to Race the Mile” by Jeff Hollobaugh. Full of great stories about great races. If you are not already a track fan, I swear this book will turn you into one.
I would suggest all of Adharanand Finn’s books…..fantastic!