A blog by runners. For runners.

11 inspiring books about running


I think by now the vast majority of runners out there have read Christopher McDougall’s epic book Born To Run. But did you know there’s a lot more where that came from? Runners of all backgrounds — novelists, professional athletes, and more — have written books we can all relate to, even if the focus is verging on the extreme.

No matter how far or fast we run, it’s still just one foot in front of the other, right?

Here are 11 books about running to add to your reading list:

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
by Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman
Traditionally, I don’t think the public, runners included, would think of the words “extreme distance running” and “veganism” in the same sentence. Until now, that is. Jurek is an amazing ultra-athlete literally running on an entirely plant-based diet. A great read for vegetarian and vegan athletes who are looking for personal accounts, as well as practical advice on how to optimally fuel.

Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons
by Adam Bean, Kara Goucher
I think we’re all familiar with Goucher and her incredible, Olympic-level running resume. This book lets readers take lessons from the master, if you will — from how to start running to crafting training and meal plans to running post-pregnancy. Anything and everything women runners want and need to know.

14 Minutes: A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life
by Alberto Salazar, John Brant
Imagine this: Famed marathoner Salazar’s heart stopped beating after her collapsed on a Nike practice field — for 14 long minutes! And yet he recovers quickly, returning to train just 9 days later on that same field. This book focuses on his passion for running and for his faith in the wake of such an intense, life-changing experience.

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run
by Runby Kristin Armstrong
Armstrong’s name may already sound familiar to you — she’s a contributing editor for Runner’s World and keeps up the “Mile Markers” blog. In her book of the same title, she extends her thoughts and musings, for example: “I am not a good runner because I am me; I’m a good me because I am a runner.” I think we can all relate to that one!

Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents
by Cami Ostman
Talk about taking charge of a mid-life crisis! Ostman might not seem like the type of person you’d expect to complete such a feat, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. One reviewer even describes this book as the “Eat, Pray, Love for distance runners” — definitely woven with much more than just miles completed on foot. Think travel of the mind.

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!
by Dean Karnazes, Matt Fitzgerald
Have you ever had a crazy running goal? Step into the mind of a person who realized his own dream to run 50 marathons in 50 states in, yup, just 50 days. This story goes way beyond the simply logistics (and the not-so simple, like eating an entire pizza while running!), but serves also as a practical guide for those of you with your own wild dreams.

The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete
by Charles Butler, Matt Long
Real life stories don’t get much more inspiring than this one. Long’s horrific cycling accident with a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn almost kills him, and most certainly renders him immobile for life. Or so the doctors thought would be true. This book chronicles his absolutely amazing comeback to not just a runner, but an elite athlete, which takes a rare brand of determination and courage.

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
by Dean Karnazes
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take your favorite sport to the extreme, ultramarathoner Karnazes’ debut book is for you. He has run 350 continuous miles; 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days; and — think about this one — for almost 48 hours straight. And just to name a few accomplishments.

Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss
by Dean Karnazes
In Run!, Karnazes takes readers on the road with him as he runs in some of the most exotic locations on the planet, from the Australian outback to Antarctica to a bit closer to home, the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. It may be the closest some of us get into the inner-workings of the human mind during such sustained, strenuous exertion, but is a universally interesting read whether we prefer 5Ks or 50Ks.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami
Even big-time novelists run, which is why Murakami’s mix of diaries, essays, and general life advice as they relate to his favorite sport are so compelling. One highlight of the book is his journey to complete a re-creation of the very first marathon in Greece — and he completes it, in the blistering heat, alone. I enjoy this book not so much in one sitting, but chapter at a time.

A Runner’s Literary Companion: Great Stories and Poems About Running
by Garth Battista (Editor)
This book’s eclectic collection of writing by runners of all ages and backgrounds — from Joyce Carol Oates, W. H. Auden, and Walt Whitman to lesser known writers and runners — is compelling. It’s also another work best read in little chunks, perhaps before heading out on a run, when you need an extra dose of motivation.

What’s your must-read running book or books?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.