The Best Books for Runners

From memoir to fiction, health to hope, here are some great reads about running.

You’re probably taking at least some form of a break after your autumn racing season, whether it’s cutting back the mileage or some relaxation during the holidays. If so, it’s always nice to kick back and be entertained, inspired, motivated, or provoked by the words of a great writer.

The following books do a fantastic job at stoking your enthusiasm for the sport and your overall running goals. Some are focused on your overall training and the ways you can become a better runner. Others explore the epic journeys from some of the top names in the sport, like Scott Jurek on his amazing Appalachian Trail journey or Meb Keflezighi detailing all of the big marathons in his illustrious career.

But you’ll also need fuel, some motivation, and laughs. Whatever you’re aiming for, we have a recommendation for you. If we don’t, leave us a note in the comments section.

Plus, these books make great gifts for your favourite runner if you’re in a pinch

Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Women’s Running Revolutionary



On May 6, 1967, Maureen Wilton, a 13-year-old girl from a suburb of Toronto, Canada, attempted to break the women’s marathon world record of 3:19 at a small race a few kilometres from her home. She lined up on a dusty road to complete five laps of a roughly 8km course with 28 men and one other woman—Kathrine Switzer, who joined the race two weeks after her own iconic Boston Marathon finish

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail



Plant-based ultrarunner Scott Jurek chronicles his attempt to break the speed record for the 3500 km Appalachian Trail. The journey nearly shattered him.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance



The former Runner’s World “Sweat Science” columnist takes a close look at how we can train our brains to push past physical limitations

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory



Olympic medalist and American record holder in the marathon, Deena Kastor, credits her success to a shift toward optimistic thinking. In her book, she shares how the power of positive psychology worked for her.

Run the Mile You’re In: Finding God in Every Step



Ryan Hall was one of the most celebrated American runners until his retirement in 2016. This book details his running career—from his very first long run as a teenager to the race where he set the American record in the half marathon. Hall also shares how his faith helped him push past the barriers in front of him.

Running Your First Marathon: The Complete 20-Week Marathon Training Plan



Famed coached Andrew Kastor (and husband of Deena Kastor) gives runners an easy-to-follow training plan for their first marathon, with tips and motivation from world-renowned runners.

Once a Runner: A Novel



You know you have good running friends when they recommend you read through this one. In Once a Runner, Quenton Cassidy, the novel’s protagonist, is a senior in college on the brink of greatness in the mile. Cassidy returns to racing after a brief retirement in Again to Carthage to tackle the marathon.

26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career



The legendary career of Meb Keflezighi brought American distance running back to its former glory with wins in the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and other races all over the world. In total, Keflezighi ran 26 marathons as a pro, and in his memoir, he shares his lessons learned and experiences from every single one of his amazing races.

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race against Time



Age is just a number, and nobody embodies that more than Ida Keeling. The 104-year-old is still racing, often winning as the lone participant in her age group. In her memoir, she shares tales from her thrilling running career like when she broke the world record in the 100-meter dash and celebrated with pushups, to her struggles: growing up poor in Harlem, working in factories during the Great Depression to raise four kids as a single mother, and losing two adult sons to unsolved cases of drug-related violence.

Born to Run



The book has been one of the most popular about running since its debut. While the writer is the first to admit that many shoe companies were working on minimalist shoes before he started researching the book, Born to Run and Christopher McDougall’s promotion of barefoot and minimalist running are considered by many to be major catalysts to the current running shoe revolution and the movement toward running with more efficient form.

Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier



Running puts everyone in a better mood. But for some of us, our kilometres are key to managing depression and anxiety. Runner’s World contributing editor Scott Douglas explores the idea behind the growing body of scientific research that shows how running really can make us happier.

A Beautiful Work In Progress



You may know Mirna Valerio from her profile in the August 2015 issue of Runner’s World. Or from her blog and Facebook page Fatgirlrunning, where her posts display an indomitable will to conquer goals and an unstoppable love of running despite the challenges of being a 90-plus kilograms ultrarunner. Her book displays that same spirit, but with more detail—you’ll learn how a wakeup call in the form of chest pains got Mirna, at 300 pounds, into running. She has not stopped, working her way from 5Ks to ultramarathons to becoming a sponsored athlete with a vital message: running is for every body.

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes



In 2017, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon. Her secret? Food that’s more than just fuel. In their new cookbook, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow, nutrition coach Elyse Kopecky and Flanagan share the nourishing and delicious meals that helped her break the tape in Central Park. 

Runner’s World How to Make Yourself Poop: And 999 Other Tips All Runners Should Know



The title sounds cheeky, but we know how important the something like making yourself poop before a race really is. Former Runner’s World editor Meghan Kita curated hundreds of the very best tips when it comes to running, all so you can hit the roads with confidence.

My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon



One our favorite running icons and Runner’s World’s most recent chief running officer takes you on some of his adventures around the world to races big and small, everywhere from Antarctica and Africa to Chitwan National Park in Nepal where he was chased by an angry rhino.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption



The author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, tells the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, a talented young track star who competed in the Berlin Olympics whose life took a turn after World War II broke out. Follow Zamperini as he tests his endurance for running and survival in this must-read. Read a Q&A with the author here.

Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength, and Recovery After Boston’s Worst Day



It was the moment that changed her life forever. Sdoia was waiting for a friend at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when the world around her exploded. As she lay gravely injured on the sidewalk, a trio of strangers stepped in to save her life. We first featured Sdoia’s story in our May 2014 issue; her memoir goes much further, filling in the stories of her saviours, documenting her struggle to recover, and uncovering the value of forgiveness, acceptance, and moving on.

Summits of My Life: Daring Adventures on the World’s Greatest Peaks



Kilian Jornet is arguably one of the best ultrarunners in the world, winning some of the best races all over the world from Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Western States 100. In addition to competitive racing, the Spanish runner challenged himself to get Fastest-Known Times on some of the world’s tallest peaks for both ascents and descents. Here, he details these journeys on Matterhorn, Denali, and many more through photos, words, and illustrations that take you deep into his expeditions.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance



Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans and The Way of the Runner, takes you deep into the world of the fastest-growing niches within the running world: ultraunning.

Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero



After a lifetime of abuse and neglect, the future for a donkey named Sherman looked bleak—until author Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run) found him a purpose. The book is full of heart, characters, and enough adventure to keep you hooked. 

Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger From Sports Injuries



If recovery after an injury has ever been confusing to you, you’re not alone. This book combines personal narratives from athletes, scientific research, and experts in the field to provide dozens of tips and tricks that will help runners in any phase of the recovery process.

What Made Maddy Run : The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen – (Hardcover)



To everyone who knew her, it seemed like Maddy Holleran had it all. But then the successful runner—in her first year at her Ivy League dream school, The University of Pennsylvania—leapt from the roof of a parking garage and ended her life. That tragic act betrayed a façade of determination and a carefully curated social media presence. Journalist Kate Fagan uses Maddy’s story to illustrate the plight of young people waging lonely battles with mental illness against the pressure of presenting a “perfect” life.

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside With Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, And The University Of Colorado Men’s Cross Country Team



Chris Lear presents a fascinating account of collegiate cross country. Set in the autumn of 1998, the book chronicles the University of Colorado Buffaloes’ cross-country campaign, taking the reader on a ride from the anticipation of preseason camp, through the midseason shock of losing a teammate, and to the elation of competing at the NCAA championships.

Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human



There’s something about the repetition of running—and if you’re a distance runner, the time alone—that brings out the philosophical side of many people. And if you’re among the meditative ones, this book will act like an energy drink to your intellectual side. Using works from philosophy, literature, and his own running experiences, Cregan-Reid looks at the human side of the sport, showing that while running makes our bodies healthy, it also improves our minds.

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