8 Under-the-Radar Running Books You Should Read
If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve read “Born to Run” and “Eat & Run.” They probably inspired you to run barefoot and cut cheese out of your diet for a few weeks. Undoubtedly you were taken with the main protagonists and their amazing gift for running.
Those are powerful books indeed, and worth room on the coffee table in any runner’s home. But while they are inspiring, they aren’t entirely relatable, unless you grew up running barefoot on the plains or have an insane gift for running long distances fueled by beans.
When you want a book that’s more relatable to your own running experience, you’ll have to look under the radar. And there you will find some pretty amazing books.
I have read eight over the past few years that really captured my attention and also provided inspiration to help me stay on track. Whether the book inspired me to train harder for a goal race or just made me feel better about those occasional late-night Ben & Jerry’s binges, it’s earned a place on my bookshelf. (Real bookshelf – Kindles are great but I’m still a cracked-spine kind of gal.)
If you could use a little running inspiration as your aim for a goal race or you need a book to pack in your beach bag, check out these eight awesome titles.
My Year of Running Dangerously
By Tom Foreman
Foreman, a CNN correspondent, had once been an avid runner but slowed down with age, kid commitments and work constantly intruding. So when his college-age daughter asks him to train for a marathon along with her, he’s uncertain of whether he’s up for it. Yet he soon surprises her, and himself, by becoming not just a marathoner again but an ultramarathoner. He presents his story with wit, grace and not a small amount of humor. It’s nice to see an everyman conquering the sort of races I myself would go to.
Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner
By Jennifer Graham
My very favorite thing about this book is the cover, which depicts a “woman,” actually a gingerbread cookie decorated to look like a runner. It just cracks me up every time and is the perfect illustration for a book that’s about a longtime runner who doesn’t look like what most people envision a longtime runner looking like. Graham has an impressive voice, and she celebrates the mid-pack runner in a way that few other books have. After all, that’s where most of us are, so why aren’t there more of them?
First Ladies of Running
By Amby Burfoot
The longtime Runner’s World editor and one-time Boston Marathon champ offers profiles of 22 of the most incredible women ever to wear running shoes. There’s the obligatory mention of Katherine Switzer’s Boston run, of course, and a first-person account from Burfoot of running a marathon with Oprah Winfrey (like you could ever forget). But it’s the lesser-known names that provide the most interesting stories, such as Francie Larrieu and Miki Gorman. Their stories resonate across generations and also combine for a social history of running that’s fascinating to take in.
Big Fit Girl
By Louise Green
I find the running world’s utter confusion over what to do with runners who weigh more than 110 pounds oddly endearing (I’m nicely above that limit, thank you). I have been to running stores where the tiny guys measuring my feet expressed surprise that someone who looks like me would be training for a half marathon. I watched with interest the outcry when Women’s Running put *gasp* a plus-size runner on its cover a couple years back, people reacting as though they had declared the sky was actually green.
Yes, people bigger than a toothpick do exercise, and in Big Fit Girl, Green gives a humorous but also insightful account of how she learned to embrace her body and make the fitness industry work for her, despite the fact that it’s always been geared to people of much smaller size. It’s not running-focused, but runners can learn a lot about overturning subconscious stereotypes through this book.
Tales From Another Mother Runner
By Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
OK, so I’m sort of an Another Mother Runner fangirl. I love their podcast, I follow them on Twitter, and I have all three of their books. This collection of essays is my favorite of the three. It includes perspectives from everywomen across the country, moms just like me trying to squeeze in a tempo run in between wrapping up a project at work and scooting my son to baseball practice. One of my favorite essays, by McDowell, is less about running and more about how to deal with depression. It makes a sobering case for keeping mental illness out in the open, and other essays deal with similarly serious topics. It’s a reminder that, for many of us, running provides a welcome escape from heavy issues.
Bridge to Terabithia
By Katharine Paterson
This heartbreaking children’s novel tells the story of Jess and Leslie, the fastest kid at school. Running becomes a cornerstone of their relationship, but they can’t outrun the horror of a terrible accident that leaves two families reeling.
Like so many, I read this book as a kid, but coming back to it as an adult I see it with new eyes. The way Paterson lays out the racing scenes really makes it feel as though you’re there with the kids. This is one of the saddest but also most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and it reminds me to live life to its fullest, cherishing every run.
Nowhere Near First: Ultramarathon Adventures From The Back Of The Pack
By Cory Reese
I adore the subtitle of this book, which is Ultramarathon Adventures From The Back Of The Pack. Reading about physically gifted runners is exciting, but I love seeing someone like me who can go out and accomplish the impossible. Reese’s story is at times sad, devastating and highly motivating.
Running for Women
By Joan Benoit Samuelson
The information in this 1995 guide is, yes, hopelessly outdated and quaint. But this was one of the first books I ever read about running, and it helped me conquer those first few slow, painful miles more than 20 years ago when I decided I wanted to become a runner.