33 Awesome Running Books on Training, Eating & Motivation

Need a little nudge to help you train smarter, eat better, stay motivated, and run your best?

If you want to be a better runner in 2023, you might think all you need is...

  • More training
  • More miles
  • More finisher medals & race T-shirts
  • and of course more running shoes and gear

But what if you could "learn" how to be a better runner WITHOUT running yourself into the ground?

You know - train smarter, not harder...

Here's a low-impact way to help you with training, eating, and motivation to help you run your best...

Sit down, take off your running shoes and read a book.

Ready to become a better runner in 2023?

Check out these 33 awesome running books...

Why read running books?

Reading:

  • Ignites the imagination
  • Motivates
  • Imparts knowledge
  • Broadens perspectives 
  • Makes us feel connected to the running community at large
  • Provides escape
  • Leads us to discover new books or resources
  • Helps us understand the ins and outs of human nature and the world
  • Gives us something to talk about with our friends, family and running groups

Reading is even a wonderful way to rest and recover post-run, and certainly a means to dive deeper into one of our favorite pastimes: running.

Hence, I’ve compiled a list of the best running books I’ve read to date in the hopes that you find one or more that spark joy within your running heart.

The list is organized by the following categories:

  • Food & Nutrition
  • Memoirs
  • The Psychological
  • Running Cultures 
  • Running Reframed 
  • Trail Running Adventures
  • Training 

Food & Nutrition

1. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

📕 Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek.

For three years during my mid-30s, I was vegan, meaning that I ate zero food products from animals: 

  • No eggs
  • No cheese
  • No meat
  • No yogurt
  • Not even honey

At the time, I was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and devoured any running book I could find about being a runner and a vegan, and Jurek’s Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness was my favorite, because, for one...

  • ...it’s Scott Jurek, who’s been titled the best ultrarunner of all time, a living legend. 

Even if you’re not a fan of veganism, all runners can benefit from the wisdom of Jurek, who won the Western States 100 seven years in a row and held the Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail, just to name a couple of his accomplishments. 

Eat and Run shows us that we are all unique and require different approaches to running...

  • From the distances we run...
  • To the shoes we wear...
  • To the food we eat

Though during my second pregnancy I gave up veganism and never looked back, I still love this book and appreciate that a plant-based diet has supported such an accomplished athlete. 

2. The Endurance Diet by Matt Fitzgerald

📕 The Endurance Diet: 5 Core Habits of the World’s Greatest Athletes to Look, Feel, and Perform Better by Matt Fitzgerald.

If you’ve ever read a book by author, coach, nutritionist and athlete Matt Fitzgerald, chances are you’ve read, well, more books by him.

Because once you’re exposed to his work, you simply want more of it. That was the case for me, anyway, because of his funny, simple, direct style, which he displays in The Endurance Diet.

Fitzgerald combines in-depth research with personal experience and observation and concludes that...

  • We do not need to eat expensive, difficult to obtain, organic “superfoods” to be properly nourished and fueled for our sport. 
  • Instead, he says, we need to focus on the six categories of high-quality foods: vegetables; fruits; nuts, seeds and healthy oils; unprocessed meat and seafood; whole grains; and dairy.  

The chapters are divided into the “5 Core Habits” in the book’s title.

  • At the end, he lists the top foods eaten by the world’s best athletes, upon which you won't find anything like wheat grass shots, goji berries or kombucha. Chances are you’re already eating lots of these foods.  

Additionally, don’t let the title fool you...

The book is not mandating a strict “diet,” rather, it is more of a compilation of short stories from Fitzgerald’s travels around the world as he observes the dietary habits of many types of elite, professional athletes in a wide array of cultures and geographic locations.

Favorite quotes from The Endurance Diet

  • “A healthy diet is only as effective as it is sustainable.” 
  • In regards to Habit number one, eating everything, and balance and variety in the diet: “First, eating everything is healthy. Second, eating everything is natural. Third, eating everything is enjoyable.” 
3. Roar by Stacy T. Sims

 📕 ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Stacy T. Sims.

Ladies, this one’s for us.  Actually, do yourself a favor and get it right now. 

A female friend told me about this book one day while we were trail running and discussing fueling strategies for ultramarathons. I bought it as soon as I got home, finished it in a couple days and told all my female runner friends about it. 

For one, ROAR teaches female athletes and active women: 

  • How to eat and train based on the natural hormonal cycle (about a 28-day cycle versus a man’s 24-hour cycle), and...
  • Explains why we should fuel differently from our male counterparts. 
  • Simply put, women have a menstrual cycle, and men don’t, and this biological fact determines why we should, or need to, take care of ourselves in a unique way. 

Whether you’re a runner or a weight lifter, a cyclist or a boxer, ROAR can guide you along your fitness and wellness journey and provide insight into nourishment for athletic pursuits. 

Dr. Stacy Sims, Environmental Exercise Physiologist and Nutrition Scientist, carries the theme that “women are not small men” throughout ROAR. In fact, once you watch her TED talk, you’ll be rushing to get your hands on this book, and I 100 percent recommend it for all active women.

Ladies, get it, asap.   

Favorite quotes from ROAR:

  • “In order to succeed, you need to work with - not against - your natural physiology.” 
  • “... we produce about half as much serotonin as men and have fewer transporters to recycle it. This is yet another reasons why women need to be very careful about extremely low-carb diets, because restricting this macronutrient causes your brain to produce even less serotonin, setting you up for mood disorders, especially if you’re already prone to them.” 

Memoirs

4. Bravey by Alexi Pappas

📕 Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas 
 

We all have our “favorite books of all time” list, right?

For instance, some of mine include: 

One thing that Bravey has in common with my non-running favorite books listed above is its superior writing and storytelling, which surpasses any running memoir I’ve ever read...

  • Probably because of author Alexi Pappas’ talent in weaving together heartbreaking, rock bottom tragedies with chasing and achieving big dreams
  • And finding one’s voice in the process, not to mention her degree in creative writing and English from Dartmouth. 

Furthermore, Pappas is an Olympic athlete, professional runner, filmmaker and actress.

Need I say more for her ability to write a book worthy of an award, in my opinion?

Furthermore, for our poetry lovers out there, Pappas includes her poetry, mostly as chapter titles, in Bravey.

The following poem, which inspired the name of the book, exemplifies her charm and way with words:

run like a bravey
sleep like a baby
dream like a crazy
replace can't with maybe

I dare venture to say that we can all relate to that, if not now, at one time or another in our running lives.

And we can all relate to navigating the highs and lows of life, just like Pappas did.

Go ahead, treat yourself to Pappas’ masterpiece (yep, I said it), which isn’t just for runners. I recently recommended it to the book club to which I belong, and not many of them are runners.

5. Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor

📕 Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor.

Maybe I just really favor memoirs by women, because Let Your Mind Run, like Bravey, is one of those books I could read again and again.

Deena Kastor, a three-time Olympian and American record holder in the marathon...takes us through her journey to greatness under legendary coach Joe Vigil. 

  • Her degrees in English/Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Arkansas shine through in this book and sets it apart from some running memoirs on the market. 

She makes you feel as if you’re there with her...

  • Running in the mountains of Colorado
  • Living in her every thought and feeling...
  • Like a tiny fairy hovering around her head as she overcomes obstacles and crushes workouts and races and fulfills her dreams. 

I could not put this book down. It is a must-read. 

6. Out and Back by Hillary Allen

📕 Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds by Hillary Allen.

Hillary Allen was ranked the number one skyrunner in the world when she fell 150 feet from a ridgeline during a race in Norway. 

  • She broke numerous bones and was bound to a wheelchair for weeks.
  • But eventually worked her way slowly and diligently back to the top. 

If you think you just couldn’t have it worse because of, say, an overuse injury like a stress fracture or iliotibial band syndrome, think again, and read this book.

You’ll find optimism in all things and the light at the end of the tunnel and fall in love with Hillary’s perseverance and appreciation for the small, detailed work of recovery and making a comeback.  

In summary, Out and Back is a quick read and will keep your perspective in check. 

7. A Runner’s High by Dean Karnazes

📕 A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion by Dean Karnazes.
 

Each chapter of “ultramarathon man” Dean Karnazes’ book tells a separate story about his lifelong running experiences. 

  • In other words, it is more like a collection of short stories rather than a sequential novel. 
  • This format makes it a great book to read alongside any other book, which I often find myself doing, and keeps you engaged and entertained with colorful descriptions and powerful parallels of running and the broad spectrum of life. 

Favorite quotes from A Runner’s High:

  • “In my soul, I was a runner, and if I were anything else my life would never be fully lived.” 
  • “Running an ultramarathon builds character, but it also exposes it. We learn about ourselves, we gain deeper insights into the nature of our character, and we are transformed by these things. To know thyself one must push thyself.” 
8. Running Home by Katie Arnold

📕 Running Home: A Memoir by Katie Arnold.

A friend of mine recommended this book after reading about it in Outside Magazine, because it was about running and the death of a woman’s father, something I had just experienced

  • In fact, as Arnold shares her thoughts about her father’s death, it feels like she’s reading my mind, dictating the exact thoughts and feelings I had and felt while my own father was dying when I was pregnant with my first child.  
  • Running Home is cathartic and heartwarming all at once, a story for anyone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one, especially if that loved one was your number one running cheerleader..  

There are large chunks of favorite quotes from Running Home highlighted in my Kindle, too many to type here, but I’ll share some:

  • “Motherhood is a kind of schizophrenia.” 
  • “Nothing drives home mortality like motherhood. When you care for a wrinkled, helpless creature who depends on you for everything, from whom you are inseparable, you realize that you absolutely, cannot, must not, die. And then you watch your father die and you realize that you absolutely will. And someday so will they. Just not now, please. Not for a very, very, very long time.
  • “The more you clutch, the less you flow.” 
9. Running the Dream by Matt Fitzgerald

📕 Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age by Matt Fitzgerald.

Another one of Fitzgerald’s lively, hilarious, engaging books, Running the Dream recounts his time training with the HOKA Northern Arizona Elite professional running team as a recreational runner with a bit more talent than just the average Joe (his marathon personal best is 2:39:30).

The book reads somewhat like a personal journal or log of what Fitzgerald and the NAZ Elite team do on a daily basis, with a focus around the author’s goal to break his marathon personal best at the Chicago Marathon.

Does he achieve his dream, with the guidance of coach Ben Roasario and support of his NAZ Elite teammates?

You’ll have to read to find out!

Favorite quote from Running the Dream

  • “When it seems like things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.” 

The Psychological

10. Endure by Alex Hutchinson

📕 Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson.

If you’re fascinated by Nike’s Breaking2 project, which served as the powerhouse behind Eliud Kipchoge’s amazing feat of running a marathon in under two hours, then read this book. 

Hutchinson was one of two journalists allowed behind the scenes of the Breaking2 project, and he delicately tells the story of how Kipchoge and his team of scientists worked tirelessly to push the barrier of what was thought to be impossible. 

Yet, Breaking2 is not the only story told in Endure.

Hutchinson tells stories from all facets of human endurance, not just running...

To illustrate how the human mind and body is capable of performing and surviving under more stress, hardship and failure than we can ever imagine.

11. How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald

📕 How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald.
 

Fitzgerald tells real-life stories about how the mind has done its magic and overcome countless obstacles when the body has been completely maxed out.

How Bad Do You Want It? is inspiring, awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and in some ways a cliffhanger. 

  • I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the end of each chapter, hanging on every word as I ripped through each page, striving to discover what happened at the end of each athlete’s (not just runners) difficult pursuit. 
  • Again, Fitzgerald’s storytelling keeps you engaged at each word and punctuation mark.  

Favorite quotes from How Bad Do You Want It? 

  • “Perception of effort does not disappear during flow. Hard work still feels hard in this state, but the feeling becomes enjoyable in a way that is difficult to put into words.” 
  • “An athlete who believes in herself whether she succeeds or fails is able to put her goal out of mind and race in the moment, and to race in the moment, in flow, is to race better.” 
  • “If your passion endures, so will you.” 

Running Cultures

12. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

📕 Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

Born to Run is another book that I have read again and again, every five years, since it first hit the shelves in 2009. 

  • McDougall’s book is credited for the boom of the barefoot running craze.
  • Admittedly, is the reason I began running in Vibram’s FiveFingers minimalist running shoes in 2010. 
  • Even runners who don’t read much are likely to have read this impactful bestseller that is said to have changed running indefinitely. 

Beyond barefoot running, McDougall, a professional journalist, travels to Mexico to study the Tarahumara’s way of life while also coordinating a foot race with some of the best ultramarathoners in the world, including Scott Jurek and Jenn Shelton. 

Born to Run is educational, entertaining, and can even be life changing, as it was for me the first time I read it.

  • It might even inspire you to throw off your shoes and run out the door, not to return until you’ve run 100 miles on nothing but cooked corn meal and chia seeds. 
  • I wouldn’t advise that, so if you’re inclined to jump on the latest (or in this case, not so latest) craze, proceed with caution when reading this book.
  • Visit your local running shoe store for some information on minimalist running shoes, and enjoy the book for what it is. In other words, don’t throw too much caution to the wind and end up injured.

I don’t run in FiveFingers anymore, instead sporting Barefoot Ted’s Luna Sandals (Ted is one of the guys who travels to Mexico in the book) for summertime cooldowns.

And though I never cared much for chia seeds, Born to Run draws you into the story, making you feel part of it, beckoning you to read it again and again.

Additionally, Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide, was recently released, explaining exactly how to run as similar to the Tarhumara as the average modernized human can, applying the techniques we saw in the first book.

13. Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

📕 Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn.

The Kenyans have a reputation for being the best runners in the world, and author Finn experienced first-hand what makes them not just great, but excellent. 

  • Finn travels to the “city of champions,” Iten, which sits about 7,000 feet above sea level, to immerse himself in the Kenyan running culture, training and eating with them while observing their daily habits.

Favorite quotes from Running with the Kenyans: 

  • “It isn’t that I want to achieve any specific goal; I just don’t want to look back one day and regret that I never gave myself a decent chance to see what I could do.” 
  • “You people come to find the secret, but you know what the secret is? That you think there’s a secret. There is no secret.” 
14. The Way of the Runner by Adharanand Finn

📕 The Way of the Runner: A Journey Into the Fabled World of the Japanese Runner by Adharanand Finn.

After reading Finn’s Running with the Kenyans, I was hooked on his way with words, so I dove into The Way of the Runner.

Unlike the Kenyan culture, I was not familiar with the Japanese running culture, which made reading the book not only an interesting examination of running but also a totally new learning experience.

If you like any of Finn’s books, you’ll like this one just as much.

Favorite quote from The Way of the Runner: 

“It is here, in the racing of legs, the whirl of the trees rushing by, too fast to see or care, that your mind begins to empty. You enter a space where the outside world ceases to exist, except as a path to traverse. 

Beautiful scenery becomes irrelevant. You could be running through an abandoned industrial estate and it would make no difference. All that is left is you and the road. 

And it is here, in the push to run faster, that you can begin to surprise yourself. When you really start to run, hard and fast, it can be like you’ve broken through something and come out the other side into a wide open space. It can sometimes feel like you’ve taken a drug. 

Something is always trying to drag you back - the pain, the hurt in your legs - but occasionally you can run so hard you want to laugh out loud.” 

15. The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn

📕 The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn.

The Rise of the Ultrarunners was the first book by Adharanand Finn that I read. 

He unravels the ways in which ultrarunning went from a sport in which very few (mostly men) participated to a thriving entity encompassing average working humans, not just super athletes. 

  • What I like most: Finn is FUNNY, not just in this book, but in all the books I’ve read by him. 
  • It’s his lightheartedness and courage to fully immerse himself in foreign cultures and ways of life that keeps me coming back. 

Favorite quote from The Rise of the Ultra Runners:

  • “It’s not exactly enjoyable, but in the heart of the crisis, everything is so real, you become so aware of your vulnerability, and of your strength, and ultimately, there on the edge of survival, you become fully aware of your existence. And it is there, deep in the pain cave, as they told me all along, that the fun really begins.” 

Running Reframed

16. The Happy Runner by David and Meghan Roche

📕 The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David and Meghan Roche.

Typically I don’t make blanket statements such as:

  • “Everyone should eat these foods.”
  • "Everyone should run.
  • "Everyone should do yoga”
  • Or in this case, “everyone should read this book.” 

But when it comes to The Happy Runner, I make an exception and say it, in all caps at that, to honor the way the authors type out the dialogue that they use when speaking on behalf of their dog, Addie:

EVERY RUNNER SHOULD READ THIS BOOK, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, AND YOU WILL LOVE YOU IF YOU READ THE HAPPY RUNNER!!!

Why wouldn’t I say this for any other book on this list?  

  • Because lots of them concern ultra running and marathons, and maybe you’re not into that, and others are training specific.
  • Maybe you already know everything about run training
  • Maybe you have a coach or don’t really care, while others are memoirs by runners, and perhaps you could care less about their stories. 

Whatever the reason, besides saving such grand statements for the most important things, The Happy Runner is for every runner:

  • Young
  • Middle aged
  • Old
  • Slow
  • Average
  • Fast
  • New
  • Seasoned
  • Professional
  • Road, trail, track

Every single one of us can benefit from the Roches’ approach to being a happy runner.

After all, finding happiness is the meaning of life, isn’t it?

The husband/wife authors, who are running coaches:

  • Talk about “unconditional self-acceptance” 
  • Promote enthusiasm, kindness and exemplary sportsmanship
  • Emphasize the importance of a non-results-oriented “why”
  • Make laugh-out-loud jokes, always a bonus for me in any book.

I’ll admit, I may be partial to a book with the word “happy” and “runner” in the title, as I wholeheartedly eat up books like:

  • The Happiness Advantage
  • The Geography of Bliss
  • The Power of Positive Thinking, not to mention as many running books as I possibly can, as you can see from the mere makings of this list. 

Thus, The Happy Runner harnesses two of my favorite topics and explains:

  • How we can put the happiness theory into practice, and...
  • Become self-loving, benevolent, and perhaps even faster runners whose wildest dreams come true.

The Happy Runner gets five stars from yours truly.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Gosh, I highlighted a third of this book, but here are some goodies that’ll maybe get you on board to read it and catch the happy runner vibe: 

  • “The goal of a happy runner is developing a perspective that allows you to find the magic in the mundane.” 
  • “Your best will never be enough unless it’s always enough.” 
  • “... kind runner mantra: You can take your running seriously without taking yourself seriously.” 
  • “As Darth Vader would attest, hate and ego are powerful, but they eat away at what makes us human and happy.” 
  • “To put it in SWAP language, if you’re around an awesome “F#&& yes!” person, you improve. If you're around an unenthusiastic “No” person, everyone suffers.”
  • “Easy running is where you learn that hard and fast don’t have to be synonyms.” 
  • “Run lots, not too much, mostly easy.” 
  • “Eat enough, always. Eat too much, sometimes. Eat too little, never.” 
17. Run Forever by Amby Burfoot

📕 Run Forever: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Lifetime Running by Amby Burfoot.

Want a refreshing, invigorating, perhaps new, lens from which to view running?

Then read Run Forever.

Any avid runner aiming to run the entirety of their lifetime will take great pleasure in Burfoot’s words and point of view.

He doesn't talk about getting better, faster, but instead how to incorporate running into life as a means toward longevity.

Favorite quotes from Run Forever: 

  • “Don’t let running rule your life; it doesn’t have to. Instead, use running to enhance your life.” 
  • “Don’t be perfect. Be persistent.” 
  • “Running gives you a special time to get better acquainted with yourself.” 
  • “Running is a gift, and now is a good time to appreciate it.” 
18. Running & Being by George Sheehan

📕 Running and Being: The Total Experience by George Sheehan (1978).

This is a classic, written by the great Dr. George Sheehan, who speaks as if he were a trained monk, or yogi guru, or at least a great philosopher, which I would argue that he is.

Running and Being is the perfect book if ever a perfect book exists, especially for anyone seeking the “why” or greater meaning behind the physical act of running. 

Trail Running Adventures

19. 46 Days by Brew Davis

📕 46 Days: Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail by Brew Davis.

Jennifer Pharr Davis is not an ultrarunner, but anyone who can speed hike the 2,00-plus-mile Appalachian Trail and set a Fastest Known Time is certainly worthy of being on a list of favorite running books. 

  • 46 Days is narrated by Pharr Davis’ husband, who supports her as she chases her dream of setting an FKT on the iconic AT. 
  • It is written like a long-form trip report, and anyone who is enchanted by the Appalachian Trail or who yearns to take 46 days, or more likely, four to six months, off of life to experience nature at its finest would enjoy this short book. 

Favorite quotes from 46 Days: 

  • “Try to read it as a love story. Because that’s what it is. And when it’s all said and done, love’s going to outlast records. Shoot, love’s going to outlast everything.” 
  • “Beyond romance, I believe true love is best demonstrated through endurance and perseverance.” 
  • “... something powerful and positive comes from physically moving through the wilderness.” 
20. North by Scott Jurek

📕 North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek.

I’m a big fan of Scott Jurek, and I’m probably not alone. 

  • He’s won the Badwater 135 and Western States 100 seven consecutive times, as well as many of the top ultramarathons in the world, and he doesn’t stop there. 

North is the story of his Fastest Known Time speed record on the Appalachian Trail. 

So, if you’re into:

  • Jurek’s athletic pursuits
  • the  Appalachian Trail 
  • Trail running
  • Through hiking, or
  • Ultrarunning...

Read North. I picked it up after reading Born to Run and Eat and Run.

Why? I wanted to read about another one of Jurek’s amazing running accomplishments and for my own inspiration for the Vermont Infinitus Trail Marathon and Kanawha Trace 50k trail race. 

After all, I told myself, if one man can run 50 miles per day every day for 46 straight days, I could come back from baby number two and run a marathon one month and a 50k the next. 

Favorite quotes from North:

  • “The only rationale I could offer for running north was almost embarrassingly whimsical: I wanted to run with the spring.” 
  • …”though man’s soul finds solace in the natural beauty, is it forged in the fire of pain?” 
  • “Was I here for adventure - to test myself, improvise, discover, and refill myself so I could meet midlife with an open heart and mind? Or was I here to win?” 
  • “You have to have some ego. I wish I could say I was channeling the vibrations and energy of the wilderness through my body, mind, and soul, that it was all beauty and joy. But at the end of the day, you have to want it… The ego doesn’t have to be destructive, and it doesn’t have to make you lose sight of the real reasons you do what you do. It doesn’t have to go to your head. But when push comes to shove, nothing motivates like winning does.” 
21. The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff

📕 The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand by Anna McNuff.

A trail running friend recommended this book to me while training for the above-mentioned trail marathon and 50k.

One way I get my head in the game of marathon and ultramarathon training is to read books like North and The Pants of Perspective.

Because, as it says in the title of McNuff’s book, it’s all about perspective...

And supporting other runners, whether you’ve met them or not, by reading about their enormous, sometimes mind-blowing accomplishments, does the mind and soul good, and eventually the body, because the mind governs what we believe our bodies can do, as they say.

It took a while to really get into and enjoy this book...

Perhaps I wanted to quit as I struggled through the first several chapters - but after I got over the hump of whatever was causing me discord with the book (I can’t really say, perhaps my mood), I was hooked.

McNuff ran 1,864 miles on a point-to-point New Zealand trail by herself

  • She was not supported
  • Did not have a crew meeting her at parking lots or trail heads
  • Had no one prepping meals to keep her going or waiting to give her fresh socks or shoes. 

Any woman who can persevere in such a way is a brilliant, brave human being, and her story reveals her fiery, fun-loving spirit.

Furthermore, I spent three months with my husband in New Zealand, before we had kids and got married, so this book was a nice way to reminisce about our adventures there.

Favorite quotes from The Pants of Perspective:

  • “I ran to eat cake. I ran to be free. I ran to freely eat cake. I ran to remind myself what it was like to be a kid - exhilarated and entirely immersed in the moment.” 
  • “I didn’t want to think anymore, I just wanted to let my body do what it was built to do: run!” 

Training

22. 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald

📕 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald is a running coach, and in 80/20, he discusses how most recreational runners spend too much time running in the moderate heart rate zone and not enough time in the low intensity zone. 

  • The 80/20 philosophy says that all runners should be running at a low intensity 80 percent of the time and a high intensity 20 percent of the time. 

If you’re into:

  • Numbers
  • Research
  • How a training plan is backed up by scientific data...

80/20 Running is one of those classic, fundamental training plan books you won’t want to skip. 

Favorite quotes from 80/20:

  • “Running too hard too often is the single most common and detrimental mistake in the sport.” 
  • “... low intensity training is truly a gift that keeps on giving.” 
  • “The ultimate mark of a skillful runner is the ability to run with minimal mental effort.” 
23. Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett

📕 Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett.

This is a book for every runner, every athlete, anyone who moves their body. 

One of the physical therapists with whom I’ve worked recommended it to me back in 2015.

  • It’s taught me how to resolve most niggles and even full-blown bigger issues, like plantar fasciitis. 

To use the book most effectively:

  • I recommend meeting at least a few times with a physical therapist, who can recommend recovery tools and exercises from the book based on your body’s needs. 
24. Fixing Your Feet by Jon Vonhof

📕 Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatment for Athletes by Jon Vonhof.

I got the first edition of this book in search of answers for postpartum plantar fasciitis and a heel spur.

  • I discovered that it was also a staple resource guide for runners training for ultramarathons. 
  • Though I never experienced extreme blisters or foot ailments from trail marathons or 50ks, I know a 100-miler runner who keeps this book in her crew kit. 

If you’re prone to foot injuries and maladies, get this book. 

25. Hansons Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey with Keith and Kevin Hanson

📕 Hansons Marathon Method: Running Your Fastest Marathon the Hansons Way by Luke Humphrey with Keith and Kevin Hanson.

Any book that debunks the traditional approach to training is one worth reading, and Hansons Marathon Method does just that.

It lays out the empirical evidence that high mileage weeks and super long runs, particularly the 20-mile must-do for marathon training, is actually not necessary

I followed the plan for a marathon once and have even altered it to suit ultramarathons and really liked it. 

If the traditional marathon or ultra training plans don’t seem to work for you, or if you want a new perspective, read this book. 

26. Meb for Mortals by Meb Keflezighi

📕  Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Eat, and Think Like a Champion Marathoner by Meb Keflezighi.

Back when I was training for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon, I read Meb for Mortals.

No, I didn’t want to win the race like Meb crushed the 2014 Boston Marathon.

In fact, I had zero goals and  no interest in running with a pacer, because it was the first longest race I ran after having my first child.

I simply wanted to: 

  • Run to feel good
  • To know that I could still run marathons as a mom
  • And to do it without pushing myself to the max

So, why did I read the book?

Because, like I said, when I’m training for races that make me nervous, like marathons and ultras, I like to completely immerse myself in the experience, and reading books is one of the ways I get that fix.

Meb for Mortals speaks to people like me, the recreational runner, the general population, making it easy to apply some of his own techniques to our running regimens, without having to run certain times or paces.

Favorite quotes from Meb for Mortals: 

  • “Everything that I’ve achieved physically in running started psychologically, with the simple thought, “I want to do this.” 
  • “We have to set aside that idea of “I run so much, I should eat whatever I want” if we want to do everything possible to meet our goals.” 
  • “Research has shown that people who wear compression gear after workouts report less exercise-induced muscle soreness.” (Compression for Runners: 3 Types of Clothing to Give You an Edge
27. Mental Training for Ultrarunning by Addie Bracy

📕 Mental Training for Ultrarunning: Your Psychological Skills Guidebook for Ultra Success by Addie Bracy.

I love a good reference book, and Mental Training for Ultrarunning falls into that category. 

  • Bracy outlines countless ways to train the brain for running ultras, but I think that the concepts can be applied to shorter distances, too. 
  • She uses real world experiences and features excerpts from professional runners. 
  • Also, many of the methods Bracy describes draw parallels to or are exactly the same as some of the yoga techniques I practice and learned in yoga teacher training, which I like, because philosophies that overlap from one tradition to the next are almost always the best ones.  

Mental Training for Ultrarunning is a must-read for anyone interested in tapping into the power of the mind and using it as a skill for running tough races and enjoying them. 

28. Run Less Run Faster by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr

📕  Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr.

This is another book, similar to Hansons Marathon Method, that debunks traditional training methods and emphasizes quality over quantity.

For those who love other sports besides running and find it not their style (like me) to only run, this book validates why you should not, in fact, only run, at least most of us who are non-professional athletes who might:

  • Work full-time
  • Have kids
  • And simply enjoy other activities. 

It is a must-read reference book for anyone serious about sustainable running. 

29. Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry

📕 Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stability, Strength and Speed by Jay Dicharry.

Like Becoming a Supple Leopard, Running Rewired was recommended to me by a physical therapist. 

  • How it differs is that it lies out exercise plans for the core, hips, running posture, and more. 
  • Think of it as part physical therapy, part exercise book, specifically for runners.  

Those who abhor spending hours with weights doing strength training that may not apply to running will appreciate the extremely-running focused exercises described by Dicharry as well as the knowledge he shares about running and body mechanics. 

Even more, the exercises include the simple, timeless ones, like planks, push-ups and kettlebell swings, nothing super complicated.

30. Running Your First Ultra by Krissy Moehl

📕 Running Your First Ultra: Customizable Training Plans for Your First 50K to 100-Mile Race by Krissy Moehl.

Though I am not “running my first ultra” anymore, I still refer to the training plans in this book. It has plans for:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Plus strength exercises to include in training cycles. 

Admittedly, I hardly follow anyone’s plan verbatim besides my own, but this is by and large the book that I use the most when writing out my own personal plan.

31. Strong by Kara Goucher

📕 Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher.

Can you call a book cute?

With the layout and design of this one, I would say yes.

I borrowed this book from a library, but I recommend getting your own copy to make the writing activities easier, though I was fine doing all my writing in a separate journal.

Strong is a runner/ journaling lover’s dream and fantastic resource to incorporate into a training cycle for a race, particularly one that makes your confidence wax and wane, like any good ultra might do. 

32. The Runner’s Guide to Yoga by Sage Rountree

📕 The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: A Practical Approach to Building Strength & Flexibility for Better Running by Sage Rountree.

Even though I think going to yoga classes or practicing from an app at home will give runners what they need, granted the teacher is skilled and well-rounded, this book tells us exactly why different poses are good for runners, and also covers the mind/ soul part of the yoga/ running equation. 

Any runner who practices yoga, or runner who needs a little more strengthening/ balancing/ coordination in their lives (because yoga is not all about stretching), and especially any runner who teaches yoga, will benefit from this book. 

33. Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea

📕 Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.

Postpartum running is hard, period. 

  • I’ve never broken multiple bones or been in a wheelchair due to injury, and I’ve only had two pregnancies and births.
  • But I can tell you that postpartum running can be more challenging and disheartening than returning from an injury, like a fractured heel, or broken arm (two things I have had). 

No, postpartum running doesn’t have to be like that, and in fact it wasn’t like that for my second pregnancy. But after my first, it was a 16-month ordeal.

So, I read books like Train Like a Mother, because postpartum running can feel lonely, and I needed to feel a connection to other moms who struggled after having babies, even if it was just through the pages of my Kindle. 

Train Like a Mother acted as a support team and also led me to discover Rolfing, a form of bodywork that healed my plantar fasciitis after one session. 

More lists of running books to read...

Final thoughts on running books to read in 2023

Gosh, there are still so many running books on my wish list! They include but are not limited to: 

…but I hope this list of 33 offers fellow runners somewhere to start in their running book game. 

If you’ve read any of the 33 books reviewed, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

  • And if you’ve read any on my wish list, let us know about those, too! 
  • Or reach out - I’d love to borrow them ;)

When it comes to reading, you never know what secrets, inspiration and magic are hiding in a book, do you? 

So go on, get lost in the pages of one, opening your mind to the many:

  • People
  • Perspectives
  • Training methods
  • Fueling strategies
  • Running experiences, and...
  • Cultures that make up the wide, wonderful world of running.

Happy reading! 

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, cross country and backcountry skier, yogi, mom and writer. www.inhaleexhalerun.com

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