9 Must-Read Running Books to Train Smarter in 2024

Need a little boost to run your best in 2024? Check out these 9 running books to help you train smarter, stay motivated, get strong, and keep going.
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In early 2023, I wrote 33 Awesome Running Books on Training, Eating & Motivation. It was a compilation of the running books I had read over about a 10-year period. 
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Call this part two, if you will. 

It is a list of the nine running books I read in 2023 (not necessarily released in 2023). 

📕In between reading about running...

📕I balanced all that nonfiction with a lot of fiction and read:

📕Additionally, a friend started an outdoor-themed book club, so I also read: 

📕Another friend recommended: 

📕One day while perusing the library with my sons, I saw Dr. Kelly Starret’s latest book on display and checked it out:

📕Right now I’m reading more fiction: 

📕Next I plan to read:

📕Because reading multiple books at once, usually one fiction, one non-fiction, keeps life interesting, fun and fulfilling. 

🏃‍♀️Now, back to the running books!

Put these running books on your must-read list this year...

1. Becoming a Sustainable Runner

by Tina Muir and Zoe Rom

The book is divided into three parts: 

  • Part 1: Sustain Your Runner’s Mind and Body
  • Part 2: Sustain Your Running Community
  • Part 3: Sustain Your Planet

Each section is divided into chapters, and it’s all about, you guessed it: sustainability.
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Ah, finally! We now have a running book that discusses:

  • Self-worth
  • Self-acceptance 
  • Self-compassion 
  • Meditation
  • Expanding our identity beyond “runner” 
  • REDs
  • Diet culture
  • Connection through running groups
  • Volunteerism
  • Climate activism
  • Carbon impact
  • Consumerism
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • And, of course, how all those fit into the dimension of running

No, you won’t read how, for instance, strength training and proper fueling can make you a faster, better, stronger runner.
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Rather, you will read how those two components of training will make you a lifelong, healthy, happy runner, and that’s what we all desire, right?
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Throughout the book, there are excerpts titled:

  • “Zoe’s Thoughts” or “Tina’s Thoughts,” where the authors recount relatable personal experiences, such as their relationship with food and anxiety, climate action, competition and more. 

If I had read this book and those excerpts when I first started running at age 11...

  • It would have blown my mind. 
  • In fact, I encourage every young runner to pick it up and reread it through every phase of running and life.

At the time of this writing, I’ve been running for 30 years, with a bent toward:

  • Volunteerism
  • Environmentalism, and...
  • Community activism, so the information isn’t novel to me.

Yet, the way Muri and Rom blend running with the mindset of:

  • “Think globally, act locally...” is brilliant and inspirational...
  • Without making the reader feel pressured and anxious about the weight of responsibility and guilt that striving toward and sustainability-focused life can bring. 

They are real and candid and discourage perfectionism, reiterating time after time that we are all wonderful the way we are.
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Becoming a Sustainable Runner will motivate you to:

  • Take teeny tiny steps toward sustainability in mind, body, community and planet
  • Get back on the eco-conscience bandwagon if you’ve fallen off 
  • Get involved in local races, run groups and perhaps even civic service
  • Consider all aspects of life before scheduling an “A” race
  • Form new habits, like going on a buying-new-things freeze, or even a buying-new-running-things freeze, every once in a while

All in all, this is the book that has been missing from the running world. 
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It is one of the most crucial, must-read, call-to-action books I read in 2023. The other book of equal importance is number four on this list.  

2. Choose Strong

by Sally McCrae

Professional trail/ ultra runner Sally McCrae is an inspirational powerhouse...

  • Mom
  • Podcast host
  • Author
  • Running coach with a strength app...

She is a leader you’ll want to follow: @yellowrunner on Instagram.
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Her accolades are many. Just some include:

  • Two top ten finishes at Western States 100 
  • 2021 Badwater 135 champion
  • Winner of the 2023 grand slam of 200-mile races (Cocodona 250, Tahoe 200, Bigfoot 200 and Moab 240)

Choose Strong, however, is not exactly a running book.

  • It is a heart-wrenching, raw, runner’s autobiography who found the strength to carry on, despite unfathomable violence, abuse and tragedy, beginning from her earliest memories.
  • No, you won’t find running-specific advice here. Rather, you will discover how Sally reacts to and processes life events and applies what she’s learned to all of life, including athletics. 
  • The underlying theme: we all have a choice even in the most depressing and desperate situations. We can choose to be strong, the guiding principle that led Sally to overcome and thrive when all odds were against her at such a young age, or we can choose the detrimental, debilitating alternative. 

Grab your box of tissues for this one.

As a mother, I was sobbing for the majority of it. 
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Sally openly shares her private experiences, an important reminder to not feel shame around our own traumas.
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And to give love and kindness to everyone we encounter, because you never know what someone’s internal and external battles might be. 

3. Good for a Girl

by Lauren Fleshman

Winner of the 2023 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award,
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Good for a Girl is retired professional runner Lauren Fleshman’s reflection on her life as a runner living in a world unaccommodating to the holistic development of female athletes, from her school days to adulthood as an elite. 
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Described as part memoir and part call for change in women’s athletics, Good for a Girl reveals:

  • The eating disorder pandemic amongst collegiate and professional female runners
  • The lack of awareness around healthy development and coming of age
  • The inequality women experience compared to men in sport, particularly in regards to salary, and more

Fleshman, champion of the 2006 and 2010 U.S. 5,000 meter, is:

  • A talented wordsmith
  • No newbie to writing, having written a column in Runner’s World...
  • As well as her personal blog, AskLaurenFleshman, making this a pleasure to read. 

Good for a Girl is not only an excellent read for adult runners...
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It can serve as a guide for young girls and women in the sport, and boys, for that matter.

4. Running While Black

By Alison Mariella Desir 

Above, I stated that Becoming a Sustainable Runner was one of the most important books I read in 2023. 

  • Running While Black is the other one. 

While caring for our planet and society tops life’s priority list, caring for our fellow citizens should be number one, above all else.
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To put it simply, every white person would be doing themselves a huge service by reading Running While Black.
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Learning more about the many races and ethnicities that make up our diverse world is our responsibility as human beings.
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The book opens with side-by-side timelines:

  • One of Black running history, and...
  • One of white running history. 

The timelines convey Desir’s sentiment...

  • That white accomplishments have always outshone Black accomplishments, in running and in all parts of life.
  • Even when many of the Black contributions to running and society were more than or equally as profound and game changing as the white.  

Desir provides both a history lesson and an unapologetically honest viewpoint of her experience as a Black female runner living in a white world.
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She spells it out for white people - most of us lack awareness around inclusivity, and we need to change.
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With two master’s degrees, Desir is a remarkably intelligent author. She thoughtfully weaves in:

  • Overcoming depression with running
  • Founding Harlem Run
  • Recent tragic hate crimes
  • Becoming a sponsored athlete and spokesperson for the sport
  • Motherhood 
  • And more

It is an eye-opening memoir. Before spending money on another get-faster, stronger, better running book, do the world a favor and choose this one instead.

5. Born to Run 2

by Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton

You may have read my review of this one in Favorite Running Items (Part 3): Shoes, Shorts, Bands & More! If not, here it is again.
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In McDougall’s Born to Run, Eric Orton...

  • McDougall’s coauthor of this book, trains him to run alongside elite ultra runners...
  • Scott Jurek
  • Jen Shelton
  • Billy Bronco, and... 
  • Barefoot Ted...
  • As they race the Tarahumara Indians in the high deserts of Mexico. 

Born to Run 2 shares the training techniques Orton used with McDougall.
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Chapters cover: 

  • Food
  • Foot, Leg and Core Strengtheners 
  • Warmups routines
  • Mechanics 
  • Footwear 
  • And more…

I have bookmarks and dog ears throughout the book and use it to mix up my pre-run routine and for yummy recipes.
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One of my favorite pages is...

  • The list of shoes McDougall and other athletes in the book wear (mostly minimal and zero drop shoes). 

It’s a quick read and great reference book for coaches and runners alike. 

6. Breathing for Warriors

By Dr. Belisa Vranich and Brian Sabin

You may have read my review for this one in Favorite Running Items Part 4: Stuff to Make You Strong & Cool. If not, here it is again.
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Recently Runners World featured an article, Diaphragmatic Exercises: How to Strengthen Breathing Muscles, interviewing Dr. Belisa Vranich.
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While the article does an excellent job touching on the importance of breath in running, I recommend diving deeper and reading the entire book. It’s a quick read - I finished it in a few days.
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As the yogis say...

  • Innate wisdom lies in the breath, which means that the breath reveals the inner workings of the mind and body.
  • And if we spend time with intentional breathing on a regular basis, we can gain infinite insight into our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. 

In fact, the breath is EVERYTHING when it comes to cultivating mindfulness and creating next-level focus and then applying those to your sport.
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Intentional breathing is also useful for:

  • Injury prevention and recovery
  • Managing the mental challenges of racing and training
  • Bringing one-pointed awareness to a run or race
  • Calming and deregulating the nervous system, paramount for recovery and minimizing inflammation and stress

One of my favorite sections of the book is a description of how to breathe for different activities or exercises, including:

  • Kettlebell swings
  • Lifts
  • Burpees and more…

The book covers running, too, plus a multitude of disciplines.  
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It’s one I could read over and over.
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And, as a yoga instructor, I use the information gained from its pages to inform my yoga classes and to guide students through breath-led movement. 

7. Quick Strength for Runners

By Jeff Horowitz

Strength training is an indispensable aspect of a runner’s life.
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In Quick Strength for Runners: 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body, Horowitz outlines an easy-to-follow program toward increasing strength with body-weight and weighted exercises.
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The book offers:

  • A short intro to why strength matters
  • A primer covering the biomechanics of running
  • Definitions of strength terminology 
  • Full-page illustrations depicting the anatomy of running muscles
  • And lots of colorful, large photos

In fact, the majority of the book is:

  • A visual reference with detailed description of the prescribed exercises...
  • Followed by the eight-week training program. 

I recommend it as a reference, which could live in your gym bag or home gym, for both dedicated strength trainers seeking inspiration and newbies looking for a simple approach. 

8. 8. Ready to Run

By Dr. Kelly Starrett with T.J. Murphy

I’m a fan of Dr. Starrett’s work...
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Beginning with Becoming a Supple Leopard (reviewed here) and his latest, Built to Move.
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He is the Mobility / WOD king, and Ready to Run is the ultimate resource for runners of all levels.
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The book is a wealth of knowledge, a necessity for longevity in the sport. In it, runners will learn: 

  • 12 performance standards to strive toward
  • Injury prevention habits 
  • Recovery acceleration techniques
  • Pain treatment
  • Mobility exercises 

One of the best ways to use this book is in conjunction with personal physical therapy (PT) sessions.

  • It can inform the maintenance PT work you’re doing to run healthy, or...
  • The acute injury PT work while empowering you to learn more about your own body on your own time. 
9. Unbreakable Runner:

By T.J. Murphy, Brian MacKenzie & Dean Karnazes

Unbreakable Runner is a 191-page quick read from the perspective of CrossFit Endurance founder Brian Mackenzie.
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Out of curiosity, I read it.
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His philosophy is that runners can replace easy miles—lots of easy miles...

  • With strength training and intensity and still achieve their distance running goals. 

While I agree to a certain point, say, for the 10k and maybe even the half marathon...
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I cannot grasp how it would apply to ultra running:

  • I, for one, am not willing to give up my love of the good-old fashioned 80 percent easy / 20 percent hard rule or 20-mile long runs to put the theory to the test. 
  • I, like lots of ultra runners, actually enjoy spending hours and hours in the woods.

Yet, if overuse injury plagues you: 

  • Perhaps the Unbreakable Runner concepts are a good thing to add to your training routine. 
  • Or maybe you’ll read the book, taking from it what may work for you and leaving what won’t. 

The book is small and short... 

  • Complete with photos of the exercises Mackensie prescribes along with structured training programs. 
  • It’s another quick read, one to add to your home gym.

All in all, I appreciate the many experiences and perspectives of all runners, including the authors, and enjoyed this read.  
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Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with the book’s advocacy for strength training. 
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I think I’ll always love binge reading strength books for inspiration for my own workouts and application to my yoga teaching practice.  

🏃‍♂️What are your favorite running books?🏃‍♀️

Tell us in the comments.

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...

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