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Best Books About Running in 2020


We all know that sometimes it’s harder to get excited about stepping into our running shoes and hitting the road. Maybe you’ve had a rough few weeks. Perhaps you’re recovering from the flu. Or maybe it’s just a slump.

If you need some extra inspiration, the best books about running will give you a boost and restore that passion for the sport!

We’ve chosen “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall as our number one must-read. It’s packed with fascinating real-life characters and you’ll come away from it feeling amazed and motivated.

There are many great running reads out there, though. See how many of them you can get through!

Top 3 Best and Favorites


Born to Run by Christopher McDougall


  • Questions core running beliefs
  • Examines runners of all skills and backgrounds
  • Fascinating analytical and educational book
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Runner’s World Train Smart, Run Forever by Bill Pierce


  • Teaches you how to become a great runner
  • Suitable for all types of runners
  • Treasure trove of information
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami


  • Autobiographical journal
  • The author is a runner and a writer
  • Relatable and enjoyable read
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Must Reads

1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

How would you feel if you had to run a marathon wearing nothing but old-school leather sandals? The mysterious Tarahumara tribe of Mexican Indians are the top distance runners in the world.

They don’t have the technology we do, yet they consistently run enormous distances with no rest, in nothing more than a toga and sandals.

How do they do it? What does it take to be an incredible endurance runner? McDougall asks these questions while examining runners of all skills and backgrounds in this fascinating analytical and educational book.

The book meanders through high-tech performance labs, various peaks and valleys of extreme temperatures, and the lives and training of runners who are considered to be extraordinary.

McDougall keeps a sharp wit and an open mind, and succeeds in reminding the reader that we’re all truly born to run.

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2. Runner’s World Complete Book of Running by Amby Burfoot

Any runner who’s been doing it for a while knows that Runner’s World has been one of the leading authorities on the sport for decades. This compendium offers just about everything you could possibly want to know about running.

Beginners will find super motivation to hook them on running for life. Intermediate runners would benefit from understanding how to prevent the most common running injuries. Even professionals would find the section on mental training tips useful.

There’s something for everyone in this book. Training to lose weight? There’s a running plan for that. Love triathlons? They offer tips to supercharge your training efficiency. Heading for your first half-marathon? They’ve got you covered.

You’d be hard-pressed to find something this book hasn’t covered. Well worth the buy and the read!

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3. Running & Being: The Total Experience by George Sheehan

If you enjoy philosophy, you may find this an interesting read. If you’ve been running for any length of time, you know that it can feel like a form of meditation. Like all exercise, it can be a mind, body, and soul experience – if you’re open to it.

Sheehan explores the connections between health and fitness, competition, sport, and spirituality. It may seem like a roundabout way of connecting things, but this book is well put together.

It contains some great practical information about running, competing, and preventing injury. But it’s all tied in with the oneness of physical, mental, and spiritual, and above all, fundamental truths of life.

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Top Science of Running Book

4. The Lore Of Running by Tim Noakes

Tim Noakes is renowned as a guy who knows what he’s talking about in the running world. This book is staggeringly comprehensive, and should be in every runner’s bookshelf.

It provides a scientific overview of what happens in the body while training and offers a wealth of information on preventing overtraining, treating injuries, getting nutrition right, and increasing strength and flexibility.

Noakes also analyzes and reviews a variety of supplements and running/training aids. You’ll also be able to read in-depth interviews with some of the running greats.

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Best for Beginners

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

For beginners, some of the more scientific books out there can be too much. This one, though, is all about teaching the reader to become a great runner, and it’s perfectly suitable for everybody from beginners to marathon runners.

You’ll get a combination of a well-laid-out training program and a treasure trove of information on the most important things to know – effective training, overtraining, healthy aging, and the stresses of competition.

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Most Entertaining

6. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Who says running can’t be fun? This autobiographical journal will have you thinking, marveling, and laughing, all the while considering the intermingling of passion and running in your own life.

The author is both a runner and a writer, so you can expect to read all about your (and his) favorite sport with a dash of humor, some unusual insights, and recollections of his own experiences.

It’s a relatable, enjoyable read that’s quite different from your average running book.

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Top Memoir

7. Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down by Ida Keeling

There’s nothing like an inspirational true story to give you back that oomph, and Ida Keeling’s story is an amazing one. Right now, she’s 105 years old and still running. Next time you feel like staying in bed or you have a twinge in your toe, this is the book to pick up.

Ida’s life hasn’t been easy. Hailing from the Bronx, she had every excuse to give up as her life took several bad turns. But her determination to survive and thrive saw her through the Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, being a single mom to four kids, and the deaths of two sons.

She began running at the age of 67 (!), and has since broken numerous records! Ida is the perfect example of what strength of will can do. The story is inspiring, touching, and something every runner would enjoy.

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Top Book For Recovering from Injury

8. Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger From Sports Injuries by Cindy Kuzma

Injury plagues every runner at one point or another. Physically, it can be tough to bounce back but the real challenge is coming back mentally stronger.

Mindset is everything. What if you could get a leg-up on your injury recovery time just by learning some psychological tools and tricks? That’s what this book is all about.

Written by a top mental skill coach, this book contains almost 50 skills and drills that high-performing athletes use to get in the right frame of mind.

You don’t need to be injured to gain valuable lessons from this read. It’s jam-packed with tools that you can begin to implement immediately to improve your mindset right now, injured or not.

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Top Trail Running Book

9. The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience by by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Trail runners, here’s a book specifically for you. Jennifer Pharr Davis is an adventurer who has the distinction of holding the record for FKT (fastest known time) on the Appalachian Trail.

Those who love endurance running will be hooked as Pharr Davis takes the reader on a journey chronicling her training, analysis and trail-testing, and lessons from her mentors.

It’s not just a story, though. She offers valuable practical tips and lays out complicated histories and processes in an easy-to-understand way. If you’re interested in finding out just what it takes to endure, this is a great read.

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Best for Losing Weight

10. Run Your Butt Off!: A Breakthrough Plan to Shed Pounds and Start Running by Sarah Lorge Butler

The beauty of running is that it’s something almost anyone can do – any time, most places, and without equipment. That’s one of the reasons it’s often the first step people take when they want to lose weight.

This book is a no-fluff, to-the-point, straightforward guide to how to use running to drop the pounds. Butler focuses on the simplest formula for weight loss: calories in, calories out.

It could be said that this is more of a nutrition book than a running book, but the author’s choice of exercise is important as it’s so accessible to most people.

You’ll also find that the book isn’t about a quick fix. Butler offers a blueprint for a healthy, active life that promotes weight loss, but it’s up to you to take the lessons and knowledge and run with it… Literally.

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Top Running Book for Vegans

11. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

The author of this book, Scott Jurek, is an ultrarunner and one of the elite athletes that were featured in our number one book, Born to Run.

He’s one of the few professionals who eats an exclusively plant-based diet, and the story he tells is one of defying stereotypes and being true to himself.

Every page offers something of value. You’ll find scientific research, details of competitive races, practical and helpful advice, and delicious recipes for those who wish to try veganism.

All in all, it’s a memoir that’s written to inspire not only vegans, but all runners who want a little boost in self esteem.

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Best Non-Fiction Novel

12. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by by Laura Hillenbrand

No list would be complete without a based-on-true-events story. Unbroken is for those runners who are more into novels than memoirs. If you’re unsure, this is written by the same author of the famed Seabiscuit!

Set during World War II, a young rebel discovers running as a way of blowing off steam. His talent is widely recognized, leading to a performance at the Berlin Olympics. But as the war breaks out, he’s forced to put aside his running shoes and don an airman’s uniform.

When his plane goes down in the ocean, the young man finds himself alone on a life raft, battling the elements, the wildlife, and the enemy planes flying ahead. The book follows his incredible journey of a different kind of endurance and offers hope and strength, splashed with a good bit of humor.

There’s a movie too, but we recommend reading the book first!

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Best Book For Training

13. The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater

Endurance is just one aspect of running. The other main element, and the one that many runners aim for, is speed.

As its name suggests, this book reminds us that there’s an art to running. Passion, love for your sport, and a good dose of determination are essential components of becoming a faster runner.

Goater encourages runners to rethink the same old methods and traditional ways of training, monitoring progress, and improving. This book is not your conventional workout program. Instead, the author gives readers the tools to customize their own training, while focussing on what’s necessary to improve speed and stamina.

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Best Book About Women and Running

14. Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong

Ladies, this one’s for you. Milestones are important markers along a race course, and Kristin Armstrong sees the parallel with meeting milestones along the road of life.

Armstrong shares experiences that many readers can relate to, sharing her thoughts on how sport and life overlap. Running with girlfriends builds unique bonds. Watching your children run for the first time instils a joy that you’ve passed on a passion of yours. Women who run will understand.

There are moments of humor and moments of vulnerability, but as we travel with the author through the book we understand how running isn’t just a sport. It’s a lifestyle.

While written with a definite slant towards women, many men would enjoy this witty read too.

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Beginner Marathon Training

15. Running Your First Marathon: The Complete 20-Week Marathon Training Plan by Andrew Kastor

You may have been running for years, but there’s nothing like running your first marathon.

Written by a marathon training coach, this is a comprehensive, well laid-out marathon training plan that contains tips and tricks from pros, as well as bits of advice from some of the greats to motivate you as you go through it.

It’s a mind and body trainer, perfect for runners who need to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenge ahead. If you want to train properly and effectively, this is the book for you.

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Top Ultra Running Book

16. Nowhere Near First: Ultramarathon Adventures From The Back Of The Pack by Cory Reese

Ultrarunning is a brutal sport and takes extreme will and physical fitness. Cory Reese has been built from strong stuff, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

He shares his incredibly personal story of heartache, loss, and a burning desire to live his life to the absolute fullest.

He writes humbly about his early life experiences that led him to the sport of ultrarunning, with a lens of joyful humor over every experience that brought him to where he is today.

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Is the Book Born to Run a True Story?

It is! The characters you read about in the book are real people. Every amazing feat of running is completely true, based on the Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe’s abilities to run incredibly long distances without tiring or injuring themselves.

Who Wrote the First Book About Running?

As long as running has been around, there have been records and writings about it. The book that’s credited with kickstarting the USA’s fitness revolution, though, is “The Complete Book of Running”, by James Fuller Fixx.

This book, which sold over a million copies, was released in 1977. It’s accepted in the running world that its release is what led to the sudden and extreme rise in interest with regards to running.

It covers both the physical and psychological benefits of running, and touches on various running-specific things such as:

  • Runner’s high
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Dealing with pressure
The Wired Runner