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The Best Books for Runners

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

books for runners

If you’re a sponge for all things professional running—the training, the philosophies, the lifestyle—you’re in for a satisfying 2022. Several current and former pros, some of whom are also coaches, are publishing books that will take you behind the scenes in a way that no Strava update or Instagram story possibly can.

Female runners (as well as their coaches and supporters) have additional reason to be excited for this year’s lineup, with more than half the titles below coming from women authors.

(And if you’re wanting to kick back and be entertained, inspired, motivated, or provoked by the words of a great writer, keep reading for classic books to add to your reading list this year.)

New Books for 2022

Run Like a Pro (Even If You're Slow): Elite Tools and Tips for Runners at Every Level

Even if you don’t get paid to run, you can still approach your craft like a professional. Learn how through Run Like a Pro (Even If You’re Slow) by Ben Rosario, coach of Northern Arizona Elite and Olympic marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk, and Matt Fitzgerald, prolific fitness writer and 2:39 marathoner.

Fitzgerald says the book was fueled by a shared belief that “this journey is most rewarding when runners take the sport seriously, investing themselves deeply in the pursuit of improvement.” Their goal is to help runners of every level apply “elite best practices in a way that fits their lifestyles and goals.” (March 1 publication)

How She Did It: Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from Fifty Legendary Distance Runners
$16.99 (11% off)

Molly Huddle, a two-time Olympian and one of the most decorated distance runners in U.S. history, and Sara Slattery, a former pro and current Grand Canyon University coach, have been busy off the track the last couple of years. How She Did It is the culmination of their work, and their gift to future generations of female distance runners.

Drawing on their own stories as well as those of 50 other notable women runners, the aim of the book, Huddle says, is “to connect with young athletes and their coaches and parents to provide a guide for a healthy and productive approach to distance running.” (March 8 publication)

Breakthrough Women's Running: Dream Big and Train Smart
$23.49 (13% off)

If you’re a female runner looking to reach the next level, you’ll want to add Breakthrough Women’s Running to your list. Combining Neely Spence Gracey’s roles as an elite marathoner and coach with Cindy Kuzma’s background as a running author and podcaster, the book features personal stories, interviews with elites, a variety of training plans, science-backed advice, and a handful of recipes, all in a fun and approachable package.

Written by women for women, Breakthrough Women’s Running is what Gracey calls “a road map for women runners who are chasing excellence.” (April 30 publication)

Training Essentials for Ultrarunning- Second Edition
$21.67 (46% off)

Though published a month premature for this 2022 roundup, Jason Koop’s updated Training Essentials for Ultrarunning is too rich of a resource to leave out. Combining more than 20 years of coaching experience with the latest research, Koop offers ultrarunners a reference manual that he believes will be relevant for decades to come.

At 522 pages and with more than 400 scientific references, he says that “the science and philosophy contained is an amalgamation of expertise far beyond what I could have comprehended when initially starting this project in 2015.” Whether you’re a dabbler or a vet, leave no stones unturned with the revised Training Essentials for Ultrarunning. (December 2021 publication)

→ Good for a Girl: My Life Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman

From former U.S. track champion Lauren Fleshman, who is currently on sabbatical from coaching the pros of Team Littlewing, comes the highly anticipated Good for a Girl. Building on her 2019 New York Times opinion piece, “I Changed My Body for My Sport. No Girl Should,” Fleshman details her journey through running as a female in a system she says was largely built by and for males.

Her book is her way of helping fellow female athletes and their support systems understand the unique roadblocks they face—from eating disorders to underpayment—so that they can reimagine the female athletic experience. (September 1 publication)

→ Running While Black by Alison Mariella Désir

Perhaps best recognized as the activist behind Harlem Run, Run 4 All Women, and Running Industry Diversity Coalition, come fall, Alison Mariella Désir will also be known as the author of Running While Black. She examines her experiences as an endurance athlete from a historical and Black perspective, seeking to understand the gulf between running’s reputation as an egalitarian sport and its reality as an unwelcome environment for many non-white individuals.

“I’m excited to reveal essential running history that should be well known to every runner but has been forgotten and/or erased,” Désir says. (October publication)

→ Personal Best Running: Your Guide to Balanced Training and Racing by Mark Coogan and Scott Douglas

Many runners believe that they can’t reach their potential without a combination of tunnel vision and a win-at-all-costs attitude. Olympic athlete and coach Mark Coogan and Runner’s World contributing writer Scott Douglas are turning that assumption on its head in their forthcoming book, Personal Best Running.

Coogan says it’s informed by his 30 years of experience in the sport and his belief that “you can run well and be successful, do great training, and still be happy and take care of yourself.” The book is intended for committed runners who want to have it both ways. (November publication)

→ Becoming a Sustainable Runner by Tina Muir and Zoë Rom

While you may not have considered running from a sustainability point of view, Tina Muir and Zoë Rom suggest it’s time you do. In Becoming a Sustainable Runner, out late this year, the elite runner and podcaster (Muir) and editor-in-chief of Trail Runner Magazine (Rom) team up to illuminate the power every runner has to impact her community and environment for good.

“While we as runners might like to think our sport treads lightly on our planet,” Muir says, “there’s a lot of room for improvement in how we waste, shop, eat and run.” (Late 2022 publication)

Classic Books for Runners

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 (Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow) some motivation (A Beautiful Piece of Work), and laughs (How to Make Yourself Poop). 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 favorite runner if you’re in a pinch.

The Runner’s Kitchen: 100 Stamina-Building, Energy-Boosting Recipes, with Meal Plans to Maximize Your
$9.99 (50% off)

By all indicators, if steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn isn’t on the track or in the gym, there’s a good chance she’s in the kitchen, whipping up elaborate meals for her Team Boss teammates and impressive cakes for friends and family. Her goal for The Runner’s Kitchen, released at the end of 2020 and featuring 100 of her favorite recipes, is “to open people’s eyes to the joy, and health, of having a diet with a variety of carbs, protein, fats, fruits and veggies, and sugar.” Coburn also hopes to debunk the myth, especially prevalent among young female runners, that a restrictive diet is the way to go. “Every body is different,” Coburn says, “and I’m so excited that I got to show what food works for my body.” (published December 2020)

The Comeback Quotient: A Get-Real Guide to Building Mental Fitness in Sport and Life

In classic Matt Fitzgerald style, his recently published The Comeback Quotient combines real-world experiences with cutting-edge science, this time to demystify the beloved sports comeback story. “I wrote the book for athletes of all stripes who want to become mentally fitter,” Fitzgerald says. Using ultrarunners, triathletes, and road runners like cover model (and Olympic Marathon qualifier) Molly Siedel as inspiration, he breaks down the three-step process that great athletes use to bounce back from adversity. Readers will be left with the belief, toolset, and readiness to stage such epic comebacks of their own. (published December 2020)

The Genius of Athletes: What World-Class Competitors Know That Can Change Your Life

From psychology of endurance expert Noel Brick, Ph.D., and Runner’s World contributing writer Scott Douglas comes The Genius of Athletes. The aim, Douglas says, is “to help everyday athletes learn and hone the thinking skills that top athletes use”—for application within and outside the confines of sport. Readers will learn the five key types of cognitive tools for navigating challenges and how to employ them at different stages (whether in a race or a challenging non-running project). They’ll also glean inspiration from individuals who have translated athletic success to different realms, such as former top miler Steve Holman becoming a senior executive at Vanguard, and Olympic Nordic ski champion Kikkan Randall overcoming breast cancer.

Survive & Advance
$20.77 (13% off)

While working towards her third Olympic berth, three-time Olympic gold medalist (twice in the 4 x 100-meter relay and once in the long jump) Tianna Bartoletta wrote a memoir called Survive and Advance. According to Bartoletta, whose insightful commentary and succinct and honest writing style have made her blog a favorite in the track and field community, the book is “equal parts an origin story and a tale of radical resilience. Proof that greatness is the result of powerful intention and a refusal to quit on yourself.”

Running on Veggies: Plant-Powered Recipes for Fueling and Feeling Your Best
$17.79 (32% off)

Lottie Bildirici, the nutrition coach, recipe developer, and athlete behind the Running on Veggies blog, is taking her plant-based, performance-driven food philosophy to print this year. Her cookbook, also called Running on Veggies, draws on her experience helping athletes from around the world fuel properly and features more than 100 new recipes, along with meal plans, grocery lists, and pantry staples. Through it all, Bildirici seeks to simply the eating process, factor in the “why” behind food choices, and share accessible recipes that will help athletes “feel better and enjoy every bite.”

Rise and Run: Recipes, Rituals and Runs to Fuel Your Day: A Cookbook
$16.77 (35% off)

When Rise and Run hit bookstores last fall, Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky can officially claim a cookbook trifecta. With Rise and Run being three-quarters recipes, one-quarter training manual, Kopecky calls it “much more than a cookbook.” Alongside first and second breakfast ideas, it offers tips for sunrise stretches, daily intentions, and early-morning miles. Lovers of the duo’s first two cookbooks (Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.) are in for a treat: Kopecky calls Rise and Run “by far our most gorgeous and inspiring book to date.”

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery
$18.74 (33% off)

As buzzy as recovery is among athletes right now, the question of how to best adapt to and benefit from training is still fraught with confusion. FiveThirtyEight science writer Christie Aschwanden offers much-needed clarity on the subject in Good to Go. From Gatorade to cryotherapy, Tom Brady’s infrared pajamas to Simone Biles’s pneumatic compression boots, Aschwanden investigates the latest trends in recovery, often playing the guinea pig herself. Good to Go ultimately aims to resolve which recovery products and practices are worth our time and money.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

From the bestselling author of The Sports Gene comes Range, a surprising challenge to the assumption that specialization is a prerequisite for success. Backed by scientific research as well as anecdotal evidence from some of the world’s top performers—from artists and inventors to athletes and forecasters—David Epstein makes the case for a generalized approach, and the failure, exploration, and creativity that go with it. Among the running community, Range may be especially interesting to parents wondering how to set up their children for success down the road.

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 miles from her home. She lined up on a dusty road to complete five laps of a roughly 5-mile course with 28 men and one other woman—Kathrine Switzer, who joined the race two weeks after her own iconic Boston Marathon finish. (Read an excerpt here.)

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

Our 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.

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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
$21.94 (12% off)

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. (And check out the 10 things you can learn from this book.)

Can't Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race against Time
$15.65 (32% off)

Age is just a number, and nobody embodies that more than Ida Keeling. The 103-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 miles 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
$8.49 (43% off)

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 200-plus pound 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.

Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games
HarperCollins Christian Pub.
$10.99 (42% off)

Lopez Lomong chronicles his rise from being a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War to a U.S. Olympian. “Lopez Lomong’s story is one of true inspiration,” wrote four-time gold medalist Michael Johnson in his review of the book. “His life is a story of courage, hard work, never giving up, and having hope where there is hopelessness all around. Lopez is a true role model.”

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes
$15.99 (36% off)

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. (See some sample recipes that fuel Shalane.)

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
$12.79 (29% off)

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.

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.

Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger From Sports Injuries
$13.79 (23% off)

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
$14.99 (12% off)

Chris Lear presents a fascinating account of collegiate cross country. Set in the fall 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.

[These 9 Children’s Books About Running Will Get Your Kids to the Starting Line]

Runner's World Train Smart, Run Forever: How to Become a Fit and Healthy Lifelong Runner by Following The Innovative 7-Hour Workout Week

In their newest book, the authors of the notable Run Less, Run Faster shifted their focus slightly away from the die-hard, numbers obsessed runner, to the runner who wants to stay healthy and strong enough to keep doing the sport he or she loves through the decades. The book details what Bill Pierce and Scott Murr call the 7-hour-workout week, where runners still run just three days a week, but they also do three days of cross-training and incorporate regular strength-training, flexibility work, and stretching sessions.

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