If I’m struggling to find motivation out on the trails, I can normally find it in running books. I’ll pretty much read anything published on running, so I’ve got a book case full of the best books for runners and a few duds.
In this article I want to share my favourite running books. Returning to these is something that I always find inspiring, whether reading the book or listening to the audiobook version on a long run.
Born to Run
I personally feel Born to Run is hard to beat. It’s probably my favourite book full stop. At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world’s top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe’s secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long.
Born to Run brings together a fantastic cast of characters including the legendary Caballo Blanco.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
One of Japan’s best known writers, Haruki Murakami is also a keen runner. I love his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running which details his personal adventures in running and coming to terms with the decline in his performance as he trains for a marathon.
This feels like a deeply personal book and it’s one which I return to most years and always find enjoyable and inspiring.
Eat and Run
One of the characters in Born to Run is the Ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek. His book Eat and Run completely transformed my own relationship with food, turning me Vegan. This autobiography follows Scott on his journey to becoming the world’s best ultra runner and a big part of this is experimenting with the food he eats.
The lessons learnt in this book saw me getting personal best times in my mid-forties, beating people half my age in races. This is definately one of the best books for runners!
Running with the Kenyans
In Running with the Kenyans, British journalist Adharanand Finn travels to Kenya to discover the secret that sees East African runners dominate endurance running. Part travelog and part running adventure Adharanand moves his family to a town in Kenya which is home to 100 of the best runners in the world. Can he discover their secret and perhaps improve his own running?
Adharanand Finn has also written The Way of the Runner in which he explores Japanese running and The Way of the Ultra Runner in which he attempts ultra distance races. All three books are excellent and I struggle to pick between them, but it makes sense to start with the first book (Running with the Kenyans).
The Runner is a beautiful book which will make you want to go and live in the wilderness. That’s what its author Markus Torgeby did, living for four years in a tent in the Swedish wilderness to get away from the world and run.
It’s an incredible book, a portrait of a talented runner and a volume that looks at illness, the pressure placed on young athletes and the beauty of wild places.
Living with a SEAL
In Living with a SEAL, Entrepreneur Jesse Itzler hires an accomplished Navy SEAL widely considered to be “the toughest man on the planet” to be his live in trainer for a month. It’s a funny book which gets you thinking about how easy it is to live on autopilot.
While not as directly linked to running as the other books, the SEAL in question is accomplished ultra marathon runner David Goggins. It’s undoubtably the funniest book on this list too.
In Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes shares his journey from marketing executive to running through Death Valley. It’s an entertaining and impressive story which is probably responsible for the ultra Running boom that we’ve seen over the past decade.
Like many I ran my first Ultra Marathon after reading this book. A must read for any runner!
Once a Runner
Originally self-published in 1978 and sold at road races out of the trunk of the author’s car, the book eventually found its way into the hands of high school, college, and postgraduate athletes all over the country. Reading it became a rite of passage on many teams and tattered copies were handed down like sacred texts from generation to generation.
Once a Runner captures the essence of what it means to be a competitive runner, to devote your entire existence to a single-minded pursuit of excellence. In doing so, it has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever published.
The Long Run
The Long Run follows a New York City firefighter’s emotional and inspiring journey of learning to run again after a debilitating accident. On the morning of December 22, 2005, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. The injuries he sustained pushed him within inches of his life.
This is a miraculous journey and one which I found very inspiring.
These are my favourite running books and I got a lot out of reading these stories. Some books changed the way that I approached running, some books made me laugh or inspired me.
If you’re struggling to find motivation running these books should help get you back on track, and if your looking for the best book to buy a runner any of these books should be gratefully received.
Affiliate Disclosure: Running Unlimited is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.