Learning everything you can about your sport is a smart way to improve your mind before your body. So if you want to improve as a runner, you’ll need more than a great pair of running shoes or some excellent running shorts. Other athletes have wisdom and experience to share and if you’re open to receiving it, your running will only improve. Here, we’ve compiled a list of books every runner should have on their shelf. And since we all have a lot more time on our hands these days, now is the perfect time to dig in.
Before you set out to complete a new goal, like running a marathon or hiking a new mountain, it’s good to do some research. And some of the best writing out there is from people just like you who have gone there before and can offer advice or help you prep for your next running goal. If you’re into ultra marathons, iron man’s, or just need some inspiration right now, check out the best books for runners, you’re sure to find one that’s right for you.
1. LET YOUR MIND RUN
Deena Castor almost quit running after college when she realized her methods weren’t working. She instead turned to Colorado where she met her new coach Joe Vigil who unintentionally changed her life. His training regimen was a new concept to Deena and it consisted of positive thinking. How far could her mind go before her body followed? She decided to find out and changed course to building a positive platform for thinking positively against the challenges of running. She was soon able to motivate herself through being kind, resilient and encouraging, and in reading this story, you will too. Read this if you need a boost right now, both in life and in running.
Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory
2. RUNNING IS MY THERAPY
This is a great choice for those of us who are struggling with depression, anxiety or both and are running for solace. Moving your body is important in overall mental health, but it also works as a cure for anxiety. Scott Douglas outlines his own motivational journey here as he overcomes his own problems with depression through distance running. Reading someone else’s story can help you to start navigating your own, so pick this one up if you’re looking for some heartfelt motivation.
Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Live Happier
3. FINDING ULTRA
BEST LIFE CHANGING STORY
Rich Roll was turning 40 when he realized that the rest of his life was bleak: he was overweight, not active and feeling depressed. So he decided to change his life and in a remarkable three months, he became a new person. Now one of the most influential plant-based diet advocates out there, Rich Roll takes us on a journey of his self-discovery and inspires us to complete our own. His ultimate wisdom is that it is not too late to take a chance and go after a dream. Read this if you’re in need of an inspiring story, or know someone who needs it.
Finding Ultra, Revised and Updated Edition: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
4. RACING WEIGHT
If you’re an endurance athlete — triathlon, cycling, running, take your pick — surely food is number one on your mind. In Racing Weight, Matt Fitzgerald takes you on a no-nonsense journey to becoming your ideal weight without losing fitness. Your new PR’s will soon be within reach, even as you lose weight. Read this if you need healthy eating tips, new habits or general advice about your training, because remember, it starts in the kitchen.
Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance (The Racing Weight Series)
5.RUN FAST. COOK FAST. EAT SLOW
BEST FOR EVERYDAY
Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky are back with another cookbook for athletes, this one full of delicious, easy recipes to nourish you every day. Best for meal prep, snacks or just a good dinner that is both tasty and healthy, these two women have written an amazing book of recipes. Each recipe even has a little story from either Shalane or Elyse about how much they love the recipe and what type of workout they eat it before. They also have great ideas for using one recipe as a snack the next day if you have leftovers. Overall, an amazing, useful cookbook that’s great for any athlete to have in their kitchen.
Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes: A Cookbook
6. SUMMITS OF MY LIFE
BEST FOR ADVENTURE TYPES
Kilian Jornet takes us on his journey across multiple peaks as he begins his adventure in breaking all ascending and descending records. Mountains such as Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Mt Elbrus and Denali are just few a few of the records he broke. Take on his awe-inspiring journey and witness how this 29-year-old endurance athlete, mountain climber and skier conquered his dreams.
Summits of My Life: Daring Adventures on the World's Greatest Peaks
7. THE RISE OF THE ULTRA RUNNERS
MOST THOUGHT PROVOKING
Have you ever wondered why modern humans can run as far as they do? Sports are an interesting historical subject because of their origin story. And for the topic of this list, what is the story of the endurance runner? Who are the people out there running hundreds of miles? If you’re one of them, this is the book for you. Or if you just find the subject interesting, it’s a great look into how we became ultra runners.
Finn takes readers into the minds of runners and explores their stories and their motivations. He takes you across his journey of racing and competing against the world’s best and how he got there himself. Read this if you love history and if you love running. You never know what will motivate you to try a new sport; maybe ultra running is up next.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance
If you’ve been injured, you know how mentally exhausting it can be to force yourself to slow down. Healing can be a painful process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, the clinical expertise of Carrie Jackson Cheadle takes readers into the process of improving our mental health about injuries with 45 mental skills and drills. There are also experiences told from other athletes, scientific accounts and research and advice for the non-injured: these skills can help prepare you and improve your mental capacity before injuries occur. A great book for any athlete to own, these skills will surely come into use at some point throughout their career.
Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries
If you’ve ever wondered about the why’s of running, look no further. Footnotes is a mix of meditation and philosophy and will guide you along the path of how we became runners and why we continue to do it today. A journey about why people run, this book will take you to London, Paris, Venice, Seattle and California as Cregan-Reid explores new people and hears their stories about why they choose to run. Using debates in literature, neuroscience and biology, Cregan-Reid explores the human desire to run. Read this if you’re interested in the way your brain works.
Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human
10. WHAT MADE MADDY RUN
BEST FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Journalist Kate Fagan decided to take a deeper look into the all-star runner Madison Holleran’s suicide at the age of 19 when she’d just hit her peak. Why had she killed herself when it looked like she had it all? A harrowing story of mental illness and how we as a society decide to hide it, Fagan explores the tragedy of Maddy’s life and what led her to the breaking point. A deep look at teenage athletes, Fagan writes about how social media has toxic connectivity issues and how young people are coping with depression while having to keep up appearances. This is a great book for anyone who has struggled with depression and finds solace in running.