Monica from RunEatRepeat blog recently posted her list of “Top 10 Running Books” and #10 was actually a question: What’s your favorite running book of all time? I am a huge book nerd and prolific reader! One of my least favorite things about college is that I have less time to read what I actually want to…Anyway, below is a list of all my favorite running books, as well as a few that are on my to-read list! Enjoy!
1. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
This was my running “Bible” when I was in high school! I love, love this book and have read it at least 10x. My hard cover copy is highlighted, underlined and dogeared. I recommend this book to all of my friends and loan it out whenever I can. It’s a true-to-life running adventure story! You don’t have to be a runner to read it…but I guarantee that you will want to be a runner after you finish it!
It’s a mix of biology, anatomy and physiology, anthropology, and adventure that is completely riveting and accessible to runners and readers of all ages (okay, at least to those who are old enough, ~13yrs. +)!
A word of caution: You will want to go minimalist (I know I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers) but be careful. It’s not for everyone. Keep in mind that the Tarahumara grew up running almost barefoot…we did not. They don’t live in our concrete jungle.
Also, you might impulsively sign up for a 100 mile ultra marathon. I know it’s on my bucket list to one day run the Western States 100 mile trail run. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
2. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek
Scott Jurek is my vegan-running idol! This book is his life’s story, running tales of superhuman achievement, and yummy (healthy) vegan recipes bound between two covers.
Scott is a seven time Western States 100 mile champion. He’s won both the Western States 100 and Badwater (a 135 mile ultramarathon through Death Valley) in the same year, only months apart!
He recounts his un-athletic childhood and of the hardships he faced growing up. He learned how to channel his emotional resilience into ultra endurance events and has been inspiring and motivating others ever since. I admire him even more because he’s VEGAN! He’s accomplished amazing feats on a plant-based diet and is a great example of a vegan athlete.
3. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
This is the running book you’ll want to take to the beach! Literally, the setting of Haruki’s thoughts take place in Hawaii. It’s a calm and (enjoyably) ramble-y read.
Murakami’s voice is soothing and pensive…it won’t get your heart pounding or legs itching to race, but it will make you more thoughtful about what you think about when you talk about running.
4. Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.
I love this book! It’s a fictional account of what all runners wish they could be in terms of dedication and self-discipline. (It’s also humorous!) The main character, Quenton Cassidy takes on the running monk-like ascetic of self-denial to become his absolute best. The plot is definitely unique as far as running books go, you won’t read another one like it (except maybe the sequel). Like all good books should do, the reader gets to feel the struggles and think the same thoughts as Cassidy as they train alongside him. It’s the original college athlete-turns-elite story that will make your heart pound and legs twitch!
5. Again to Carthage by John L. Parker, Jr.
The sequel to Once a Runner is just as good! The reader continues to follow Cassidy, though not as exclusively. His life after college is more than just running, but he’s soon shaken from his comfort zone by a series of events that spurs him to once again push his body to the limit. He decides to return to competitive running as a marathoner .
It’s the original version of the college track star turned elite turned marathon champion story that we see many successful mid-distance runners perform often in U.S. contemporary distance running.
6. The Sports Gene by David Epstein
This book offers a fascinating, scientific look at the biological and social evolution of all types of athletes through history. Are we really getting faster, stronger, harder? Or just smarter and more selective as a species? There is a specific part devoted to running…and a little insight as to why it might be that Kenyans are able to run so fast! I highly recommend this book, you’ll be a little more learn-ed by the end of it!
Listen to Epstein on NPR: Talent Or Skill?: Homing In On The Elusive ‘Sports Gene’ Aug. 05, 2013.
If you are time crunched and want to get the gist of his book in 15 minutes, you can watch his Ted Talk below:
7. PRE: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend by Tom Jordan
I couldn’t live in Oregon and not read about the state’s greatest and most famous runner. Pre’s inspiring story and struggle against the Amateur Athletic Union still gives young runners someone to admire. It’s a super short read and leaves you wondering what could have been…
His story gives context and meaning to some of his most famous quotes:
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
“The best pace is a suicide pace, and today feels like a good day to die.”
You’ll definitely wish you went to the University of Oregon. It’ll make you want to visit Track Town USA to run on Pre’s Trail.
Look out for part 2! I have several more awesome books to review, as well as my list of to-reads coming shortly!