The Top 10 Best Motivational Running Books Reviewed

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A rundown of our top ten picks for motivational running books of all time. Listed from one to ten all the greats are here for your perusal.

Reading is a great way to wind down after a long day or workout, it can also pump you up and inspire you. Reading is an invaluable activity that all too often takes the backseat to a smartphones these days. When it comes to books, running is not much different than almost any other topic out there — there are thousands of options to choose from.

Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for Distance Runners
  • Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for Distance Runners
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Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend
  • Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
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The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.

-David Bailey

If you’re looking for some good food for thought, look no further. We’ve created an exhaustive review of the the top 10 best books about running. Many of these are available in Kindle as well as book format, and if you really aren’t a reader there is an app called Blinkist which offers up condensed versions of books in 15 min or less. We have mixed feeling about this app, but it’s better than nothing! Some of these books are filled with scientific details on how to take your training to the next level, others are simple stories. We hope you get out them as much as we have. Enjoy!

10. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race

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Perhaps a predictable place to start, Born to Run is simply too well known and frankly too good to leave off our list. Award-winning journalist and runner Christopher McDougall takes us on a journey to discover the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. A fascinating culture that has honed its ability to run to the point where they can run a hundred miles easily without rest or injury. The story meanders from labs at Harvard to remote peaks, where an ever growing number of ultra-runners push their bodies beyond limits. The climax of the book pits some of the best ultra-runners in the US against the Tarahumara. The results are thrilling, the narrative is engaging throughout, but above all else this book makes you realize that humans were indeed born to run.

9. Swoosh: Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There

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There are a lot of books written about Nike, in our opinion this is one of the best. “Swoosh” details the alleged steroid use by some Nike-sponsored athletes, back door payments to amateur runners, and how Phil Knight, Steve Prefontaine, Geoff Hollister (to name a few) turned Nike the biggest athletic apparel outfitter the world had (and has) ever seen. Chock full of amazing anecdotes and insider perspectives, this book sheds light on the genesis of Nike. Part history, part corporate success story, part personal story– engaging through and through.

8. Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

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Ever seen Marathon highlights on ESPN and wondered why there were so many Kenyans at the front of the pack? This book delves into the nitty gritty of why this is. British journalist Adharanand Finn takes a deep dive into the culture that creates these supreme athletes. Finn participated in an elite running camp in Kenya. He trained day-in-day-out with Olympic legends and the up-and-comers, he ate their food, followed their traditions, picked the brains of their coaches and came away with one of the most insightful pieces of writing about Kenyan running to date.

7.Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

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Scott Jurek is one of the best known runners in America. He is an ultrarunning champion and is recognized and one of the greatest distance runners in his generation. For fans of Jurek this is a must read. His autobiography tells about his early years growing up in Minnesota, how he developed an interest in ultrarunning, family challenges and the trajectory of his career. Most notable of all however is the fact that Jurek famously does not eat meat. So there is a lot of vindication for vegetarians/vegans in these pages. One additional perk is that he outlines much of his nutritional approach in the book, allowing you to emulate him if you so choose.

6. How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle

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So much of athletic performance is mental, we know this intuitively and science is slowly starting to substantiate this. In How Bad Do You Want It? Matt Fitzgerald examines dozens of pivotal races to discover the surprising ways elite athletes build mental toughness. Each chapter breaks down a different athletes approach, and scattered throughout are gems of insight into how to build mental strength. This is great for runners, but has applications that extends far beyond the track or the trail.

5. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

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Written by Matthew Inman, a Seattle-based cartoonist known from “The Oatmeal” fame this is a personal, funny and touching story of one guy’s relationship with running. This book is honest and unapologetic, and because of this it feels more authentic and ultimately more relatable. A memoir involving an activity such as running is territory that has pretty well been covered ad infinitum, but Inman manages to keep things fresh and faces some of the hard questions in an extremely entertaining way.

4. Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind

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Running can be whatever you want it to be, and for some people it’s a meditative practice that has spiritual importance to them. This book explores the relationship between spirituality and running with great clarity and depth. Written by Sakyong Mipham, a Tibetan lama, leader of Shambhala International, accomplished runner and highly trained martial artist — there is an incredible amount of value packed into a relatively short 208 pages. If you’re looking to come at running through a bit more of a mind-body lense this is a great place to start.


3. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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With a title like a zen koan you know this book is going to have some intrigue to it, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running does not disappoint. This is a memoir that explorers the author’s twin obsessions, writing and running. The story meanders through training for the New York City marathon going from funny to heart wrenching to philosophical and back. This books excels at making the mundane details of running (and life) seem compelling. A highly introspective and relatable book for any runner.


2. Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend

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Steve Prefontaine is the greatest running legend is US history, and the truth is there probably isn’t even a close second. There are many books, movies, documentaries about Prefontaine but Pre is the original and definitive work. Take a look inside the story of a man who lived with incredible energy and had an insatiable desire to succeed. From humble roots in small town Oregon to the pinnacle of the sporting world, to being touched by tragedy — it’s all here. This is the story of a true American hero.


1. Build Your Running Body: A Total-Body Fitness Plan for All Distance Runners

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According to Bob Anderson, the founder of Runner’s World, this is the best running book that has ever been written. Whether running is your religion or a simple pastime for you this book well help you build up your body and prevent injury. Throughout its page are easy-to-use workout manuals which draw on the latest research to target all the components that go into every step—including (but not limited to): muscles, connective tissue, cardiovascular fitness, energy production, the nervous system, hormones, and the brain. This can be considered a bible of sorts for runners. Study this book and odds are your times will get faster, your endurance will go up and the number of injuries will go down. Sound appealing? It should!

We struggled to limit our list to ten for the simple fact that there are so many good books out there. We recognize that there is a good deal of subjectivity in play here, and with this in mind did we forget any obvious ones? Have a book that you absolutely love? Let us know in the comments!


The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation of The Best Running Books

Personal preferences are very varied when it comes to books. While it’s hard to establish research parameters that would fit every individual’s preferences, we were able to conduct a proper research of the best motivational running books based on the most fair parameters to qualify them.

We aimed for books that are suitable for any audiences in general. The research parameters go from basic features every book should have, to advanced running-specific subjects that should be included in every running book. Here are the criteria behind our selection of the best motivational running books:

 

Author

During our research we included authors as an important parameter. We took in consideration the popularity, reputation and previous books of each author before selecting their book. This doesn’t mean that new authors didn’t stand a chance, as the content of the book is what really matters; it means that those books written by well-known authors had the upper hand in our selection.

We looked for the latest running motivation books written by known writers, ones that have an impeccable style for motivational writing. While researching through running motivational books, we considered the author to be an important factor in the selection of the best books; not only because of reputation–but because the certain styles they follow when writing. However, a known author doesn’t guarantee that the book has a free spot on our list; we still take in consideration all of the other parameters regardless of who the author is.

Lastly, in this parameter we only took in consideration the original author of the book. All other factors such as the editors or publishers were excluded; we centered specifically on the person who wrote the book, we didn’t evaluate publication or distribution of the books in this parameter.

 

Topic

When it comes to running, variations and styles of topics are almost endless. For this research, we looked for the books that cover the most unique and creative running topics out there; from running motivation, to books that target running topics from a scientific approach.

We researched multiple running related topics that are relevant to progress and motivation, or other relevant topics. Throughout the search for the best running motivation books, we made sure to analyze multiple motivational perspectives in order to decide which ones would fit the audience better. There were no specific topics to look for during our research; as we previously mentioned, every topic was considered as long as it was relevant to running activities, motivation or progress.

The topics were rated based on the motivational background of the books. We asked ourselves: “Would this topic motivate the audience to start/keep running?”, “Is the topic powerful enough?”, and “What changes could this book help the audience apply on their running life?”.

 

Targeted Audience

While looking for the best running books, we took in consideration the audiences the books are meant for. We kept in mind that not everyone is a professional runner, and that some people may have limited knowledge when it comes to complex or scientific terms related to running.  The books that must attract our attention consist of those books that can be enjoyed by anyone; a proper running book should not only target experts, but also beginners, and even non-runners.

We consider the targeted audience was an important factor during our research. The running books we chose are open to almost any audience and provide information that can be enjoyed by both experts and newbies.  While there are some excellent books that target specific audiences, such as sprinters or joggers, we decided to limit this list to those books that reach out to the most readers.


Other Important Factors To Consider When Selecting The Best Motivational Running Books

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, which is why we’ve compiled a list of additional factors that we take in consideration while looking for the best motivational running books. These factors will assist you in finding good motivational running books in the future, just like it assisted us in finding the top books for this guide.

When looking for motivational running books, keep in mind each of these parameters in order to determine the quality of a book. We selected these parameters based on the impact they have on the audience, as well as their perception and acceptance towards the book.

Like we’ve previously said, it’s a matter of taste when it comes to book. You might have the same favorite book or genre as somebody else, but each individual’s tastes are different. Feel free to add your own parameters of research when looking for your favorite books; make sure to look for features that you’re really into or that suit you the best.

Below, we’ll present you the list of additional important factors that we used while selecting the best motivational running books, and that you should consider when looking on your own:

 

Readability

Readability is a critical factor in any book, not just running ones. We made sure to pick only books that feature clean readability in order to make the selection more enjoyable. Readability is composed by other factors which make the text easier to read, and that enhances the ability of the audience to enjoy the text. These other factors consist of both visual and psychological effects caused by the way these factors are organized.

One would normally think that simple things such as headers, length of the sentences, and length of the paragraphs and the order of the text wouldn’t have major impact in a book. Well, it does; in fact, readability is one of the main factors that people take in consideration when looking for books. A book which contains varied headers throughout all the text, with proper spacing and text arrangements, has a decisive impact on the visual attractiveness of the book.

Just like it can improve books, readability can also make a book uncomfortable to read. Repeated strings of text that consist of the same length will eventually generate psychological and visual effects that have a negative impact on the audience’s perception of the book.

 

Illustrations

The illustrations of a book are a delicate matter. While some people prefer plain text over images, some other people prefer books with unique illustrations that bring life to the text. We added illustration as a research factor seeing as they help express the ideas of the writer, helping transmit the message that the author wants to get to the readers.

In other cases, such as exercise books for example, illustrations are a must. In order to explain things such as a physical exercise, a book must guide its audience with proper illustration (images, drawn instructions, etc.) in order to help them complete the exercise in the correct way. When talking about specific movements that must be performed in a particular way, bland text will not do. Miss-guidance due to the lack of illustrations can lead audiences to misunderstand the exercises, leading to improper form of practice as well as opening them to a list of potential injuries.

We selected books that not only use images to guide the audience through specific processes, but also those who apply relevant illustrations that facilitate the process of transmitting an idea, as well as giving color and visual attractiveness to the book in general.

 

Technicism

This parameter covers the technic complexity of each book. In our investigation, we kept in mind that not all readers are expert runners; while it’s perfectly find to include running or scientific terms (such as muscle names, certain practices, parts of the body, etc.), we didn’t take in consideration books that take a completely technical approach, unless the book specifies so.

For example, for a book called “The Science Behind Running” one could expect a technical approach as well as multiple scientific terms. This is totally fine, as the book title clearly specifies its technical approach; hence the audience it will obtain is most likely familiar with the technical terms applied in it. However, a running motivation book shouldn’t be full of science, as most of the audience won’t be familiar with the terms.

We selected those books that include just the right amount of technicism; enough to point out specific terms, yet not enough to make the audience uncomfortable or confused with the text.

 

Scientific Background

During our investigation, we looked for those books which have scientific backup for any medic or technical claims. This helps us unsure that the audiences receive truthful and reliable information; a false claim will not only miss-inform the audiences, but it may also open them to injuries because of wrong practice if they’re following an exercising routine.

Additionally, scientific backgrounds give the books credibility. Instead of making empty claims with no background, a book should name the specific study, date of investigation, and the scientists, researchers or institutions which conducted the research in which the claim relies on. Not only does it give more credibility to the statements, but it also helps the audience know where the information they’re presented is coming from. We looked for books which provided accurate and solid backgrounds to their claims, and we instantly discarded and ignored any book that presented information of doubtful sources.


FAQ

Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions that could guide you or assist you in choosing the best motivational running books out there:

Q: It’s my first time reading motivational running books, what should I look for?
A: There’s a wide variety of motivational books out there for every preference. Look for something that suits you personally; for example, a motivational book on a real life story.

Q: Will this kind of books help my fitness?
A: Motivation goes hand in hand with fitness, and these books are full of it. These books will not only guide you to the process of running, but it will also motivate you to go for it.

Q: Are there digital versions of these books?
A: Indeed. Most of the books are available at Kindle and Blinkist; the latter provides a shorter 20-minute version of the books.

Q: How long should my first book be?
A: Don’t pick your first book based on length. Go for something that really calls your attention; if you like it, you won’t mind about length.

Q: Do these books contain information about running, or just motivation?
A: Well, both of them! Most of these books are written by notorious runners and authors. While the main goal is motivation, you’ll get to read some very interesting runner information.


Sources

Here are some of the sources that we used to find or verify the information displayed in this guide. Feel free to visit the sites for additional information on motivation and other relevant topics!

Chron, Importance of Motivation, Life & Health Publication
FitnessHealth101, Fitness Motivation Benefits, Health & Fitness Website
Reference, Different Kinds of Motivation, Web Answers
Boundless, Motivation Insight, Educational Source & Content

We hope this guide was useful and that it assists you in selecting the motivational running book that suits you the most. If you have any questions, refer to our FAQ or feel free to contact us in the comment sections; we’ll get back to you ASAP.

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