Running has always been one of the most popular and accessible ways to work out and stay in shape. Even before the ancient Games of Olympia, running was a normal part of everyday life.
Since then, lots of people have been fascinated by all the aspects of running. This fascination led many to put pen to paper and write numerous books for runners.
Are you searching for training tips, inspiration, or just some non-fiction entertainment? We’ve got you covered!
We asked both seasoned and beginner runners about their favorite running books. We went through their picks and chose 20 of the best running books on the market.
Let’s dive in.
The 20 Best Books for Runners
Yet, as a sport, running is hard. In fact, it’s considered by many sports experts as one of the most arduous and demanding sports out there.
It’s also a culprit of many of our health problems, such as cramps, joint injuries, and blisters. To help reduce the risk of running injuries, we turn to books.
The best running books are those that inspire you and push you to keep hitting the pavement day after day. Read the list of books we compiled to give you some insights on how to enjoy this rigorous sport.
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger
Pfitzinger manages to cram in all the science-based training in one handy book. He tells you how to train smarter, not harder.
You’ll read about how to reduce your risk of injuries no matter what kind of sport you’re training for. Pfitzinger also offers various training techniques that supplement your running and boost your stamina.
The boost doesn’t stop there. It shows you the best way to structure your nutrition and recovery for optimal performance. It’s a comprehensive and efficient guide for all types of runners and athletes.
One avid runner says, “This is the book that I’ll always use for training and I’ve recommended it countless times to runners…The way things are timed is perfect to have you peaking on race day.”
Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
As an ultrarunner and famed author, Karnazes has done it all! The idea for this book came about when Karnazes decided to raise awareness of the dangers of obesity.
So, he decided to challenge himself by doing something no one’s done before. He ran 50 consecutive marathons in 50 different states. Talk about commitment and determination, right?
It’s a story of how to keep at it even when the weariness and pain kick in. At its heart, it’s a story about one man’s transformation and how we can learn from his personal journey.
The Los Angeles Times is quoted as saying, “There’s clearly something Nietzschean in Karnazes’s makeup…that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald
In this book, Fitzgerald does an amazing job of preparing athletes’ minds and spirits. Being a running coach himself, he takes us through the psychological process of running.
Whether you’re running for fun or you’re competing, there are certain mental blocks that runners occasionally struggle with. How Bad Do You Want It? helps you deal with them and boost mental health.
The best part is that the tips in this book apply to all types of training. There’s plenty of useful advice to make the ultimate guidebook for everyday runners, as well as anyone who wants a better understanding of sports psychology.
According to one reviewer, “[This book] is about how you could achieve absolute greatness through sheer willpower…it explains how willpower will outshine the effects of performance-enhancing drugs…and even outperform people using the most advanced gear and training.”
Running the Rift: A Novel by Naomi Benaron
At the center of this moving novel is Jean Patrick; a young runner from Rwanda who dreams of making it to the Olympics. Yet, his dreams are shattered by the country’s violence, especially against runners.
Running serves a major role in how he’s able to cope with the horrors happening around him. It becomes his gateway and a way for him to escape into a world where there’s peace and happiness.
Through running, that young runner finds joy and an outlet from his harsh reality. Runners or not, readers will find this award-winning book enjoyable and eye-opening.
The O: The Oprah Magazine gave it a raving review, saying, “A novel full of unspeakable strife, but also joy, humor, and love.”
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek
Jurek has spent the past two decades reveling in the grueling sport known as ultrarunning. His endurance and resilience have made him one of the fastest and strongest runners in the world.
He aims to inspire runners and athletes of all types to eat better and live better. Through this book, we get a glimpse of his iron willpower. We also get a clearer understanding of how he not only became an elite runner but a master vegan chef as well!
We like that it’s full of practical advice for any newbie or professional athlete. You’ll also find a few of Jurek’s stories of his super exciting, but highly demanding, competition days.
“Jurek’s story and ideas should easily manage to speak to and cheer on anyone seeking to live life as fully as possible,” as stated in a review by the Denver Post.
Once a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker, Jr.
Published back in 1978, Once a Runner takes us into the world of competitive university and high-school runners. The author focuses on one college student, Quenton Cassidy, who’s made it his life mission to run the mile in under four minutes.
Yet, he’s kicked off the team when he protests the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, he remains dedicated to his goals and pushes himself to achieve them.
Even though the characters are fictional, the situations they’re put in are very much real. Many student runners experience that intense focus and dedication. Sadly, it often results in stress fractures both physically and psychologically.
One reviewer stated that “This is a great book for any athlete, whether you’re competitive or just an amateur keeping fit. [It] captures the…obsession of those athletes who are determined to give their best and train hard.”
What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami
Even if you’ve never tried running before, you’ll fall in love with it after reading this book. It’s a heartfelt memoir that delves deep into why people love to run.
Murakami describes running as a way to unlock creativity and channel your individuality. When you run, you connect more with who you are and recognize your true potential.
This book is so much more than just about running. It’s about living life to the fullest.
Sports Illustrated had this to say, “A brilliant meditation on how his running and writing nurture and sustain each other…With spare, engaging prose…Murakami shares his runner’s high.”
Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear
A favorite of all the runners we spoke to, this book revolves around the 1998 season of the University of Colorado cross-country team. Their journey is inspirational and moving. It serves as an important reminder of the hard work and dedication that goes into running.
Taking things a step further, cross-country running requires even more diligence and perseverance. It relies on team effort and cohesiveness. Meanwhile, each runner is still encouraged to build up their ambition and talent.
As you’re reading, you’ll go through the highs and lows of the team. It’s told through various journal entries. So, you have a front-row seat to the team’s hopes and dreams, successes, and failures.
One reader says, “I’d recommend this book to any and all distance athletes (not just runners).”
Born to Ride: A Hidden Tribe by Christopher McDougall
Running barefoot and eating chia seeds is what got McDougall started on this book. In it, he tracks down Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe to find an explanation for his perpetual running injuries,
Why this tribe in particular? They’re known for their ability to run barefoot or in thin sandals. What’s even more amazing is that they don’t suffer from joint or bone injuries, blisters, or cramps. Their secret? It turns out they add chia seeds to everything they eat, as McDougall tells us!
The book is filled with laughable situations and characters. It still manages to create the perfect mix of inspiration and entertainment to get your running mojo back.
Bill Rodgers of the San Francisco Chronicle says, “McDougall’s book reminded me of why I love to run.”
Run Forever: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Lifetime Running by Amby Burfoot
Burfoot is a life-long runner and a Boston Marathon winner. In his how-to guide, he illustrates a variety of techniques and tips you can incorporate into your everyday life.
He shows us the importance of developing a healthy relationship with your training and with yourself. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to enjoy running a whole lot more.
Not only that, but you’ll also gain more health benefits. Reading the book will allow you to become a stronger, more resilient runner.
“Amby’s book is full of wisdom and practical tips to keep you running healthy,” says Walter Bortz, M.D. and author of Dare to Be 100.
North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek
Again Jurek spellbinds us with his mastery of both the written word and his running skills. In this book, he opens up about his career as a runner and his personal life.
In this book, he chronicles how he made record-breaking time while running from Georgia to Maine. Taking us through the breathtaking Appalachian Trail, North is a fan-favorite.
Even if ultrarunning isn’t your thing, you’ll enjoy reading about Jurek’s adventures and mishaps. Best of all, his motivation is contagious. Before you know it, you’ll be starting your journey of self-discovery and blazing your trail in the world.
One giddy reader raved about the book, saying, “If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration, this book is some serious medicine. So many great takeaways and lessons…”
Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack
Mack pours all his knowledge and experience as a sports psychologist into this well-written book. His main aim is for athletes to recognize how mental health is just as important as physical health.
In Mind Gym, he shares tips and advice on how to train your mind. Alongside your physical training, staying mentally fit has a large impact on your performance as a runner.
This is a book that encourages you to believe in yourself. Even if you aren’t into sports, this is a must-read.
Jason Kidd, NBA All-Star Olympic gold-medal winner had this to say, “Gary has important lessons to teach, and you’ll find the exercises fun and beneficial.”
Strong by Kara Goucher
Looking for ways to conquer self-doubt? Need some motivation to boost your performance and get inspired? This book can help you do all that, and more!
Two-time Olympian champion, Goucher opens up about her journey, failures, and victories. She opens up and shares her secret to success in this well-written memoir.
It doesn’t matter if you’re training for an upcoming marathon or have your heart set on a promotion at work. This book has all the motivation and incentives you need to define your goals and go after them.
Emelie Forsberg, a professional ultramarathoner, said, “Kara’s book has inspired me to work with my mind more often…This is truly an amazing book that will make you stronger, not only as a runner but also as a person.”
Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor
We often forget that training goes hand-in-hand with gratitude and a positive mindset. Those are the main ingredients for cultivating success.
Kastor went from a star running to almost burning out and quitting for good. Then, through hard work and dedication, she was able to change her way of thinking.
As a result, after years of discipline and effort, she’d become an Olympic gold medalist. Her memoir talks about her journey of self-discovery, and she managed to achieve her hopes and dreams.
A review by Sporting Kid Live stated “Let Your Mind Run is a fascinating read that has applications for all athletes in all sports…It’s about cultivating positivity as the launching pad for achieving great performances.”
The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
Are you a runner and a history buff? Then, this book is for you!
Based on the true story of three exceptional athletes who broke the four-minute mile. Set in the 1950s, this novel follows the lives of an English medical student, a privileged Australian young man, and a Kansas farm boy.
Each one captivated the world by daring to go against all odds. Their attempt at breaking this barrier was unheard of at the time. In fact, it was considered to be beyond the limits of human ability.
One happy reader said, “This book is well-written…and flawlessly executed. I completely enjoyed it and highly recommend it to anyone interested in running, sport, history, or some combination of the three.”
The Genius of Athletes by Noel Brick
This book is a powerful how-to guide. No matter what your goals are in life, you’ll definitely learn how to boost your motivation and get inspired.
In The Genius of Athletes, Brick defines five main types of cognitive tools for going through challenges. He shows us how and when each one can be executed and managed.
We also enjoy all the personal stories and anecdotes from renowned world athletes. Some of them include top runner Steve Holman and Olympian champion Kikkan Randall.
Best-selling author, Alex Hutchinson, says, “The biggest limits are the ones in your head—which is why this road map to the tools of modern sports psychology is so powerful and widely applicable.”
Run Fast. Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan
For this book, 4-time Olympian and world-class marathoner, Shalane Flanagan, teams up with renowned chef, Elyse Kopecky. Together, they’ve created a concoction of delicious, nutritious recipes for runners.
Run Fast Eat Slow covers all the dietary basics. Don’t worry, though, this book is far from bland. You’ll still find an assortment of tasty snacks, treats, drinks, and more!
It’s packed with over a hundred appetizing recipes to keep you looking lean and mean. This book was written by a runner. Yet, it still manages to cater to everyone who wants to live a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first-ever woman Olympic marathon champion says, “Feeding my cravings with healthy food has long been my recipe for running longevity. Run Fast Eat Slow contains sound advice and delicious and nutritious recipes—finally a true runner’s kitchen companion.”
Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry
An endurance sports physical therapist and coach, Dicharry shows us the perfect way to train. He’s managed to come up with a no-fail plan to renew balance and boost performance in runners of all levels.
Dicharry has years of experience working with athletes. Through his work, he realized that strength training isn’t enough to develop a dynamic runner.
The solution? His four signature moves. Designed to help build strength and increase mobility they also ensure a safer and more efficient run.
One excited reader said, “[This is] the first [book] I’ve read that focuses on technique and not just strength. The author explains exactly why you should do the provided exercises, which personally makes me much more likely to do them.”
26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi
Gearing up for a marathon? Then, why not take advice from one of the best?
In his memoir, Keflezighi shares with us how he started his dream of becoming a marathoner. Then, he walks us through his development of his faith, character, and personal life.
All of it is weaved with his love of running, eating right, and staying fit. His journey includes four Olympic medals, 26 marathons, and many more in between.
The Washington Post gave this book a raving review, saying, “An athlete whose wisdom and lessons aren’t just for runners.”
The Comeback Quotient by Matt Fitzgerald
Yet another prominent book by Fitzgerald. The Comeback Quotient is an inspirational tool for competitors of all types. In it, you’ll read about top athletes who were met with challenges and found ways to preserve.
Overcoming hurdles in your professional and personal lives takes dedication and discipline. That’s exactly what this book teaches us and inspires us to do.
Fitzgerald identifies and highlights what makes these comebacks so noteworthy. The best part is, he shows us how we can all do the same.
Runner’s World had this to say about the book, “Fitzgerald…is one of the pioneers in terms of trying to take this body of research out of the laboratory and into the field for everyone to try.”
The Final Verdict
Have you been running for years, but feel you’ve lost your groove? Or are you just starting as a runner? Maybe you’re not even an athlete and just looking for some ah-ha moments.
Whatever your life mission may be, you’re sure to find the inspiration and insight you’re looking for in these books. Each one is packed with motivational stories, hilarious blunders, and valuable lessons.
Out of all the fabulous picks out there, it was hard choosing just 20. Yet, somehow, we found a way to pick the best books for runners. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy!