Five of the Most Inspiring Long Distance Running Books

rbEvery runner’s moti­va­tion wanes some­times. Luck­i­ly, tak­ing a few days off and los­ing your­self in an excel­lent run­ning book can rein­vig­o­rate your moti­va­tion to hit the road or trails like no oth­er. If you’re mus­ter­ing up the gump­tion to step up the dis­tance and look­ing for a lit­tle addi­tion­al moti­va­tion, check out any of the fol­low­ing books and be pre­pared for a new feel­ing — the desire to run all day long.

Born to Run: A Hid­den Tribe, Superath­letes, and The Great­est Race the World Has Nev­er Seen
by Christo­pher McDougall
This book prob­a­bly needs no intro­duc­tion, as it is the most recent run­ning-relat­ed pub­li­ca­tion to hit megas­tar sta­tus, even inspir­ing non-run­ners to give the sport a try. Many peo­ple cred­it the book for start­ing a few recent nation­wide trends in run­ning, name­ly bare­foot run­ning, eat­ing chia seeds as a long run ener­gy source, and the grow­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of ultra­run­ning. Christo­pher McDougall demon­strates exact­ly why he’s an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist by entan­gling his per­son­al expe­ri­ences with his­tor­i­cal and fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion on run­ning, ultra­run­ning, human anato­my, and the Tarahu­ma tribe of Mexico’s Cop­per Canyons into a book that reads like fic­tion. The indi­vid­u­als McDougall describes in his book are such unique and enter­tain­ing char­ac­ters that their real life pop­u­lar­i­ty soared after Born to Run was pub­lished. At worst, you will be high­ly enter­tained and learn a few things about the his­to­ry of run­ning. At best, you’ll find a new lev­el of love and sat­is­fac­tion with run­ning, nev­er think­ing about run­ning the same again.

Pre: The Sto­ry of America’s Great­est Run­ning Leg­end Steve Pro­fontaine
by Tom Jor­dan
In all hon­esty, the spir­it, con­fi­dence, and accom­plish­ments of Steve Pre­fontaine are so impres­sion­able, impres­sive, and inspi­ra­tional all on their own, that it would take a remark­ably poor writer to ruin his sto­ry. This man had none of the tra­di­tion­al phys­i­cal qual­i­ties of a world-class run­ner (he was short, stalky, and unco­or­di­nat­ed), yet his spir­it, dri­ve, and moti­va­tion to excel at run­ning even­tu­al­ly made him an Amer­i­can run­ning leg­end. Although Pre’s sto­ry has a trag­ic end­ing, his actions and words are still inspir­ing new gen­er­a­tions of runners.

Run­ning With the Buf­faloes; A Sea­son Inside with Mark Wet­more, Adam Gouch­er, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado Men’s Cross-Coun­try Team
by Chris Lear
Being a part of a team often encour­ages peo­ple to push a lit­tle hard­er and go a lit­tle fur­ther than they might on their own. Run­ning With the Buf­faloes intro­duces the mem­bers of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colorado’s cross-coun­try team with such detail and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that read­ers feel as though they know them per­son­al­ly and are part of the team. Read­ing this book may just make you pull out your high school or col­lege work­out sched­ule (c’mon, we know you saved them) and risk pulling a ham­string to see if you’ve ‘still got it’. Good luck, and remem­ber to stretch!

Once A Run­ner: A Nov­el
by John L. Park­er Jr.
Cap­tur­ing the inten­si­ty and mind­set of a pro­fes­sion­al or world-class run­ner is a chal­lenge for any writer, but Park­er Jr. man­ages to por­tray it per­fect­ly by draw­ing on his own expe­ri­ence as a col­le­giate run­ner. Once A Run­ner focus­es on a fic­tion­al col­lege stu­dent, Quen­ton Cas­sidy, with a seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble goal – run­ning a four-minute mile. At the time Once A Run­ner was first pub­lished, an extreme­ly short list of pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes had ever accom­plished this feat. Even today, more than 50 years after the first sub-four-minute mile was clocked (accom­plished in 1954 by Roger Ban­nis­ter in a time of 3:59.4), break­ing the four-minute mile bar­ri­er is a stan­dard mark­ing excep­tion­al world-class mid­dle dis­tance run­ners. Read­ing about Cassidy’s work­outs is bound to inspire a few extra loops around the track from readers.

Run­ning Through the Wall: Per­son­al Encoun­ters with the Ultra­ma­rathon
by Neal Jami­son
Although many books about ultra­ma­rathon­ing or spe­cif­ic ultra­ma­rathon­ers now exist, and all are inspir­ing in their own way, Run­ning Through the Wall offers sto­ries from 35 dif­fer­ent ultra­run­ners – most of whom are not pro­fes­sion­als. Sto­ries of peo­ple of all ages, phys­i­cal con­di­tions, and expe­ri­ence lev­els, run­ning races that are 50, 100, and some­times more miles long leaves read­ers with no excus­es as to why they couldn’t do it do too.

Hap­py read­ing and hap­py running!