Whether you’re braving the snow and running anyway, or you’re good to curl up on the sofa with a book about running, it’s time to get psyched for the upcoming running season. From training tomes to quick-read novels and deep dives into sports psychology, there’s a running book that might change your life just waiting to be cracked open.
“NATURAL BORN HEROES”
by Christopher McDougall
McDougall’s breakout work was “Born to Run,” but “Natural Born Heroes” is an entirely different type of book. You’re transported to a small island in Greece, where, during World War II, a ragtag band of misfits made history and changed the course of the war by using methods that sound awfully similar to parkour, fat adaptation and distance running. McDougall weaves in Paddy’s tale of intrigue and espionage with current studies and research on the methods that the group of spies stumbled upon on the island as they literally scrambled to escape it. It’s a fun read that seems like a great work of historical nonfiction — and in the process, you’ll learn a ton about running.
Read it already? Read (or reread) “Born To Run” for insight into how a tiny community in Mexico changed how we think about ultrarunning and inspired thousands to go barefoot and go long.
“WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING“
by Haruki Murakami
This is a classic running memoir because it’s so well-written — and inspirational. It chronicles famed fiction writer Haruki Murakami as he takes on his toughest challenge yet: the New York Marathon. He’s often written about using running to clear his head and to get his best ideas, but this book helps you see that process in action. Here, the notoriously private author gives us a look into his life. The memoir puts his literary talents to good use as he chronicles his journey to the marathon’s finish line.
Read it already? If reading about a literary genius’s take on running isn’t your thing, try a different running memoir. “Running Man: A Memoir” by Charlie Engle combines ultrarunning with soul-searching in an imminently readable way.
“ONCE A RUNNER“
by John L. Parker, Jr.
Originally self-published in the ‘70s, this novel is a cult classic for the running set. Parker uses his background as a collegiate champion to pen the story of runner Quenton Cassidy, who strives to run a four-minute mile. The Vietnam War intervenes, and, eventually, Cassidy finds himself off the collegiate team and in a monastic retreat training for the run. It’s inspiring, funny — and it makes you want to run… Fast.
Read it already? Try “Running Free: A Runner’s Journey Back to Nature” if fiction isn’t your favorite, but you want a novellike story with some training advice. Author Richard Askwith relearns a love of running through nature, and he’ll inspire you to do the same.
“RUNNING WITH THE MIND OF MEDITATION: LESSONS FOR TRAINING BODY AND MIND“
by Sakyong Mipham
If practicing mindfulness was one of your resolutions — right below “run more” — you’re in luck. This book manages to combine the two, and comes highly recommended by yogi and runner Mo Bruno Roy. Author, Tibetan lama and leader of Shambhala (an international community of 165 meditation centers), Sakyong Mipham combines a fitness program for runners with a spiritual practice, turning your runs into meditations. You’ll find basic meditation instruction blended into your running practice — and if you’ve constantly tried to start meditating and failed miserably, this might be the way that sticks.
Read it already? Consider “Running Mindfully: How to Meditate While Running for Your Body, Mind and Soul” by Brett Thomas, for similar content with a different story. Thomas, facing running injuries, found a yoga instructor who recommended mindful running, so the book weaves his journey into the practice with practical advice.
“BRAIN TRAINING FOR RUNNERS“
by Matt Fitzgerald
Matt Fitzgerald is practically a legend in the endurance sports world, which makes it pretty much impossible to have avoided any of his training books. “Brain Training for Runners” combines the often overlooked mental side of the sport with some training suggestions. If you feel like you need to ramp up your mental run game and your actual running, this is the book for you. Fitzgerald covers how to avoid running fatigue (we’re not always bonking, that ‘wall’ is often more mental than physical), the art of pacing and learning to get in the zone, and even how to eat for maximum brain performance.
Read it already? Try one of his newest books, “How Bad Do You Want It?” for a deep dive into sports psychology through the lens of elite athletes.
“READY TO RUN: UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL TO RUN NATURALLY“
by Kelly Starrett and T.J. Murphy
“Ready to Run” starts so far before your run will that, at first, you might feel a little confused. For those of us who are used to training manuals that suggest we run harder or longer — only occasionally mentioning that we might benefit from correcting our stride or strengthening our glutes, this book is a huge departure. Starrett, the trainer behind Mobility WOD (workout of the day). puts his movement skills to use and teaches runners how to prepare their bodies for running with exercises like the perfect squat, the habits we need to prevent injury while promoting gains in our training, and how to equip and use an at-home mobility setup. It reads better than your typical training manual, so it’s actually pleasant to get through.
Read it already? If you’re inspired to perfect your squat technique, check out Murphy’s “Unbreakable Runner: Unleash the Power of Strength & Conditioning for a Lifetime of Running Strong” for more specific advice on how to strength train as a runner.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN