Published on November 17, 2014
Best Running Books
RunningMonkey is frequently asked for recommendations for the best running books so, with Christmas fast approaching, we thought it timely to put together a short, far from exhaustive, list of some of our favourites. We’ve started with the assumption that there isn’t a runner out there who hasn’t read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (but if you haven’t you should) and have really concentrated on books that inspire rather than the ‘how to’ variety. We have listed current Amazon paperback and Kindle prices but these obviously fluctuate.
Happy reading, happy running…
50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days
Karnazes has been the go-to ultra-runner almost as long as the term has exited and whilst his Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner and the simply titled Run! are both more than worth a read, it’s 50/50 that makes our best running books list. Concise and revealing – about both the man and the possibilities of ‘going long’ – 50/50 manages to inspire in just the right way; it allows us to jaw-drop at the incredible achievements described but also make them feel somehow (almost) achievable by us mere mortals. It’s a case of give it a read and then give it a go. Read the RunningMonkey review of Dean Karnazes Ultramarathon here.
Paperback £12.99, Kindle £3.99 – available on Amazon here.
The Perfect Mile
In the year that marks the 60th anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister becoming the first to break the four-minute-mile no list of the best running books would be complete without a mention of his achievements. But Bascomb’s book goes beyond this, weaving together Bannister’s story with those of both Australian John Landy and American Wes Santee as all three fought it out – thousands of miles apart and under very different circumstances – to become the fastest man alive. As a companion piece Bannister’s own book The First Four Minutes is highly recommended too.
Paperback £11.99 – available on Amazon here.
Run or Die
Whilst the writing style might be a little ‘flowery’ for some, we like to think of it as poetic and either way there’s no denying the Jornet is, as the New York Times describes him, ‘The most dominating endurance athlete of his generation.’ Born and raised in the towering Catalan Pyrenees, Jornet grew up amongst the mountains that remain his play-things and his prowess (he broke the ascent/descent Matterhorn record last year in a time of 2hours, 52minutes) makes an interesting nurture/nature study. Read RunningMonkey’s full review of Run or Die here.
Paperback £9.09, Kindle £6.02 – available on Amazon here.
Run Like Crazy
Quit the job, go running. If we were being reductive (and unfair) that’s the message here and basically what Australian Miller did back in 2010 – he sold everything he owned and ran 52 international marathons in 52 weeks. But this is more than a travelogue and certainly more than a mere description of 52 globe-trotting races; it explores the fundamental question ‘what if?’ and how it might be employed in all our daily lives. If that sounds overly-serious, relax (like Miller does), he runs with Bulls in Pamplona, parties almost as hard as he runs, finds love and basically reminds us all how much fun we should mix with the running. Read RunningMonkey’s full review of Run Like Crazy here.
Kindle only in the UK £3.99 – available on Amazon here.
Just a Little Run Around the World
Rosie Swale Pope
A companion book of sorts to Run Like Crazy. Rosie Swale Pope follows in the spiritual footsteps of those great Victorian and Edwardian female explorers, setting off to literally run around the world (rather than explore Africa’s interior), covering 20,000miles in a 5-year odyssey. Whilst both her story and spirit are utterly inspirational the book is let down by poor editing; but look beyond that and you’ll be immersed in a pure passion for life and running.
Paperback £7.19, Kindle £4.05 – available on Amazon here.
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Food is fuel to runners, but you don’t need to go to the considerable ultra-lengths of the legendary Jurek to appreciate his take on the symbiotic relationship between eating and running. His personal journey from self-confessed ‘Pee-Wee’ at school to the kind of athlete that eats up the miles (and makes it look simple) is beautifully chronicled here and the vital message about ‘clean eating’ isn’t overly evangelical. Jurek would seem to have a lesser international fame than Karnazes, but Eat or Run should help to redress this imbalance.
Paperback £6.29, Kindle £4.63 – available on Amazon here.
Running Like a Girl
A zero-to-hero account that every new runner (yes, even the men) should be able to relate to. Heminsley’s initial ambitions ‘…the arse of an athlete, the waist of a supermodel and the speed of a gazelle’ might come off a little like Bridget Jones in Lycra but this book shouldn’t be so easily dismissed; the achievements are real, the inspiration genuine and the fact that Heminsley pulls it all off with considerable good grace and great humour is an almighty bonus and a reminder that the best running books don’t have to be overly-serious or ponderous.
Paperback £6.29, Kindle £5.98 – available on Amazon here.
The Lore of Running
Really on the other end of the spectrum to Running Like a Girl but still worthy of a place on any best running books list, The Lore of Running (now revised and updated from it’s initial 2002 publication) is very, very serious. Detailing everything from physiology to injury and phycology Noakes book isn’t – for most we would think – an easy read. Its detailed and scientific approach requires quite a lot of slow page turning and cross referencing (or Googling) but for those who really want to understand what happens when we run there’s still nothing else like it out there.
Paperback £17.26 – available on Amazon here.
If you’ve read a great book on running and want to share the inspiration get involved with the RunningMonkey Book Baton – details here. Got a recommendation for a best running book? Let us know – firstname.lastname@example.org