The Top 10 Best Motivational Running Books Reviewed

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The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.

-David Bailey

There’s plenty of great reads out there for runners that can inspire you and lend some motivation to help you get the most out of your run and out of life in general. Whether you’re looking for best sellers or something more off the beaten path, we’ve found a little something for everyone, even first time readers! From tales of ultrarunners who push the limits of what it means to run to personal accounts dealing with loss and spirituality, these top ten motivational page turners are sure to give you a boost.

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By Max Knapp:

Enjoy our regularly updated choice of best books for runners, here you will find books which offer inspiration and motivation to new and long-term runners. No changes to our current great selection of books, these really are top choices for you. Enjoy our section explaining our criteria for selecting books and get good answers from our FAQs 06/20/18 We've updated our list to include a few different options for readers as well as to add more relevant and useful links. FAQ and book criteria have been edited for accuracy and readability.

Born to Run
  • Born to Run
  • 5 out of 5
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The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons
  • The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons
  • 5 out of 5
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  • Price: See Here
What I Talk About
  • What I Talk About
  • 5 out of 5
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  • Price: See Here

Top 10 Best Motivational Running Books

 

Born to Run - A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race

Born to Run - A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race
Perhaps a predictable place to start is "Born to Run" a book which is simply too well known and frankly too good to leave off our list. Award winning feature writer and runner Christopher McDougall takes us on an experience to discover the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. A spellbinding society that has honed its ability to rush to the point where they can run a hundred miles successfully without rest or mischief. The story winds from labs at Harvard to remote apes, where a continually creating number of ultra-runners push their bodies past cutoff focuses. The pinnacle of the book pits a part of the best ultra-runners in the US against the Tarahumara. The results are energizing, the record is interfacing with all through, however paying little mind to whatever else this book makes you comprehend that individuals were most likely bound to run.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
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.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
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.

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run
Mile Markers is a collection of thoughtful and inspirational stories from Runner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong. She shares a series of clever and vulnerable running experiences, elaborating on how the the sport has touched her family and her relationships. This wonderful work of heart relates to readers the strength and beauty Armstrong uncovers in growing her connections with the people that she loves and in her time as a runner, marking the milestones of her life in unique and graceful ways.

Running On Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America

Running On Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America
Running on empty is the story of Marshall Ulrich, following him through his rise to recognition as an unmatched endurance runner. From a series of incredible ascents to seven different summits to his prolific run from California to New York, Ulrich shares the trials of not only completing some of the most difficult challenges a runner could ever face, but the trauma of running from the pain of grief. Runners and non-runners alike will connect with this exploration of rewards and punishments that all lifelong doers experience, the difficulties of vulnerability and of withdrawing in our search for fulfillment.

Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Scott Jurek is among 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 talks about his early years growing up in Minnesota, how he developed a liking in ultrarunning, family obstacles 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.

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

My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon
Bart Yasso brings plenty of thought and wit to My life on the Run, taking a step back from his fame as a runner and guiding readers through a journey of hardships and perserverence. A close encounter with a debilitating illness, rollercoasters of physical and emotional adversity, and more than 1,000 competitive races line this valuable guide for runners of every level. Packed with insight and intrigue, Yasso takes readers all over the world with tales of adventure, sharing techniques and practices that have helped him become the prolific runner he is today.

Finding Ultra, Revised and Updated Edition: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself

Finding Ultra, Revised and Updated Edition: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
Finding Ultra is the unique and impressive transformation tale of Rich Roll, a middle-aged man turned powerhouse ultrarunner nearly overnight. In the midst of a mid-life crisis about his health he dove into a plant-based lifestyle and strict daily exercise training. In just a few months he geared up to take on the extremes of the Ultraman competition, following up the the 320-mile stretch of running, biking, and swimming with the challenge of the EPIC5 triathlon series across Hawaii. A true account and an atypical success story, readers can learn about the tools and techniques he used to get to where he is today, one of the most recognized faces of plant-based living and performance.

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

Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind
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 lens this is a great place to start.

Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend

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

Our list is frequently updated to try to give you a good variety of motivational reads, but unfortunately it is limited for readability. If you’re looking for more fantastic books full of motivation, tips for healthy living and advice, or just fun material to keep you going you can hit up some of our other guides or maybe check out your local library for recommendations.


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

While we understand that not everyone has the same interests or taste (especially when it comes to books) we’ve tried to choose our list of top ten motivational running books based on objective standards that will help meet the needs of all our readers. Our deciding factors take a look at everything from readability to the authors themselves, and we’ve put it all together for you to check out and even use yourself in the future.

Authors

Looking at the author of a book may be a good way to predict what kind of style the book will be written in, what kind of content the book may have, and whether their reputation or popularity will affect what you’re reading. If you end up liking a particular book, it might be a good idea to read more books written by the same author because you can assume that their other books will be similar. In the same vein, if you don’t like a specific book’s style or a certain author’s recognition for things you don’t like you probably won’t like their similar works.

An author’s life experience can definitely help you decide whether or not their books will be for you. For example, if you pick up a book about running advice but you find out the author isn’t a runner and doesn’t have any experience running themselves then you probably won’t want to read their book. A little more research might lead you discover that although the author isn’t a runner they are a cardiologist that writes about running science, and you may be more inclined to read one of their books. The details matter, and it’s useful to be informed about who is writing what you’re reading.

Topic

In our search for the top ten motivational running books, we made sure that all our picks were relevant to runners and related to progress and motivation but we also made sure to consider multiple perspectives and a variety of content. Even though all of the books are generally about motivation and running, they are all unique and have plenty of different viewpoints and ideas.

Being aware of what topics you’re looking for while also being open-minded about content can help you find a larger variety of books as well as books you wouldn’t have necessarily read right off the bat.

Targeted Audience

Hand in hand with topic, we also took into consideration the targeted audience of each book. Some of the books on our list include content about the science of running, but they aren’t just for professional runners with a background in scientific study. They are easily readable by a variety of runners and even non-runners, and that’s clearly who they are intended for.
On the flipside, there are excellent books out there that target specific audiences, such as sprinters or joggers, as well as plenty of manuals and advice books on running that are motivational; they just aren’t suited for our list because they are so specific and intended for specific readers. We chose books that are open to most audiences and provide information that can be enjoyed by experts and newbies alike.


Other Important Factors To Consider

Here are some additional factors that we’ve taken into consideration while looking for the top ten motivational running books. Hopefully these factors will also help you while looking for great books in the future! 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.

Readability

Readability is a critical factor in any book and the books we’ve included on this list have all been thoroughly edited and vetted for comprehension and appearance. They are professionally formatted and written with ease of reading in mind, making sure that whoever happens to pick them up doesn’t have to worry about trying to decode what they’re looking at. Plenty of books are built on great concepts and good intent, but if they aren’t readable they simply won’t be able to share those concepts with readers.

Illustrations and Design

Part of readability, illustrations and design can sometimes really affect the way you read a book. Unique illustrations or photographs can bring a book to life while well-designed covers can draw you in and give you an idea of what the book is about. If the book is technical, like an exercise manual, illustrations can help get instructions across much easier. At the same time, too much flair can affect readability in a negative way and different copies of the same book aren’t always the same. Some digital formats may just include text and reprinted versions might have more pictures available. It’s important to keep this in mind when picking out something new to read or choosing between different formats of the same book.

 

Accuracy and Truthfulness

Most of the books on our list are non-fiction, often including content based on biology or psychology. Because of this, it’s crucial that the information in these books is based on fact and scientific accuracy. We looked for books that were able to backup any scientific claims they made and ignored any that had doubtful information or sources. Beware of books that make scientific or medical claims and that aren’t able to state their sources, name specific studies or investigations, or aren’t affiliated with any reliable researchers or institutions. Additionally, many of the books on our list are based on specific events and the lives of specific people, and it’s important that they aren’t written with biases or inaccuracies.


FAQ

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

Q: It’s my first time reading motivational running books, what should I look for?

A: If you’re looking to start a new book, I highly suggest checking out our criteria we used for selecting our top ten motivation running books above. These specific criteria can help you make a solid selection and keep in mind several important factors for picking out your next big read. The most important thing to look for when you’re looking for your first motivational book related to running is probably what other content the book has. If you pick up a motivational running book that is a biography about a middle-aged man who started running late in life and applies lessons from the sport to parenting you’ll have a much different read than if you were to pick up a biography about a young woman who grew up doing track and uses running as a coping outlet for her mental health. These are both biographical running books with motivational aspects, but they have very different content. Try to choose motivational running books that are relevant to your interests and passions.

Q: I just want to improve my fitness. How will motivational books help me?

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. Plenty of them also include useful information about improving your habits and methodology and may change your perspective about running in a positive way that helps you get the most out of it.

Q: Are there digital versions of these books?

A: Most of the books are available on Amazon in digital format.

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.

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!

Sources:

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

 

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