Books for Runners, Part 2

by Holly Martin

Note: If you missed Books for Runners, Part 1 – Click Here

Initially when I set out to write about my favorite running books, I thought it would be incredibly easy – 4 or 5 books, write a description, and done. Unfortunately… it’s not that easy. There are SO MANY wonderful books about running and runners, from beautifully written fiction to the most gut-wrenching stories of overcoming hardship and adversity that it’s nearly impossible to pick only 4 or 5 favorites. So with that being said, here is installment number 2 of my favorite books about running.

Born to RunBorn to Run (Christopher McDougall)

If the subject of books about running (or barefoot running, or ultrarunning, or vegan runners, or Oprah’s Book Club) is broached, someone inevitably brings up Born to Run, and for good reason—Christopher McDougall contributed to the barefoot running movement, helped to bring ultrarunning to the spotlight, and even inspired a few schlubs to get off the couch and get moving (including yours truly). Born to Run was my first glimpse into what running is all about—the feeling of freedom, of the ground beneath your feet, the (sometimes elusive) Runner’s High, and the magnitude of the friendships forged through running. He explores the link between human evolution and running, and reminds us that running really is fun. I like to re-read Born to Run whenever I’ve been taking running for granted, and need a reminder to get out there and enjoy it.

Pick it up if: You haven’t read it yet (really? You haven’t read this book yet?). Seriously. Just read it. Even Oprah has read (and loved) this book.

My favorite part: “Just move your legs. Because if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.”

Marathon Guide for Women The Non-Runner’s Marathon Guide for Women (Dawn Dais)

I think the original demographic for this book was for female, first-time marathoners and half-marathoners, and there is a lot of solid training advice along with some first-time training plans, but I love this book for the absolutely ridiculously funny writing. The author is a first-time marathoner who kept a hilarious journal throughout her training, from her decision to run a marathon through every step of her race. It’s refreshingly real (I especially love her description of the fuel belt as the “water holder butt thingy”) and echoes many of my feelings about running a marathon (mostly along the lines of “why am I doing this?!?”).

Pick it up if: You like to laugh. I don’t care if you have ever run a marathon before or not, I’m pretty sure you’ll laugh your way through. How could you not? The woman wrote a marathon-centered parody of “Milkshake,” for crying out loud!

My favorite part: I don’t know if I can choose one. I’ve found that whenever I pick up this book, I skip ahead to the journal entries to be reminded that I’m not alone in my fondness for naps and tacos.

women who run Women Who Run (Shanti Sosienski)

This book was given to me by a good friend who obviously knows me very well (I’m a woman who runs), and of course, she knows me well enough to know that I would love it. I did. Women Who Run is a compilation of stories of all kinds of women who have changed their lives through running. Some women are elite athletes, others are who simply run for the fun of it, for freedom, and even from chaos. I think what sets this book apart from other compilations is that it really focuses on the everyday female athlete, balancing running, work, family, school, and sometimes even hardship, and I like to be reminded that I’m not the only one who struggles with those things sometimes.

Pick it up if: You enjoy stories about people who overcome challenges, and people who use running to keep their lives in check. There’s a lot of great inspiration in this book!

My favorite part: “With running, you are free to go wherever you want in your head, in your town. Sometimes I feel like I can run forever.”

terrible and wonderful reasons why i run long distances The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman)

If you frequent some of the running groups on Facebook, or follow any running pages or blogs at all, I’m sure you’ve heard of The Oatmeal. His comics come up all of the time, especially the one for which the book is named. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances tells the story of how the author got started running, and details many of his experiences, including a run-in with giant killer hornets in Japan. Really though, this book is all about the highs and lows of running, with incredibly funny cartoons mixed in all the right places. He illustrates that little voice in the back of your head that tells you that it’s okay to stop running and just eat cupcakes (The Blerch), and I’m pretty sure every runner can relate to that. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t love something like this. Seriously. If you don’t love this book, I’m a little worried that you may not have a sense of humor.

Pick it up if: you like to laugh, you love funny cartoons, and you love to run. It’s that simple. And! It also has one of those “0.0” stickers in the end (which my husband has already claimed, darn it).

My favorite part: I tried really hard to pick a favorite part. I can’t. It’s all too good, and it has to be seen in context. When you’re reading, look for the part about the hungry legs, you’ll know what I’m talking about. “My legs are so hungry… FFFFFEEEED…. THEMMMM!!!!” Story of my life.

r is for running R is for Running (Ray Charbonneau)

This is the quickest read of the list. It’s really more like a kid’s book, for adults, about running. It even has pictures! There’s really no excuse to not read it. Basically, R is for Running is an alphabet book about running. Some of the descriptions for each letter are incredibly funny, others are poignant and meaningful, and all together they sum up running quite nicely.

Pick it up if: you’re strapped for time, if you want to pretend you’re a kid again, or if you’ve forgotten the alphabet.

My favorite part: “M is for marathon/a test of your heart/the first 20 miles/is only the start.”


I know that at this point, there’s probably some runners out there who can’t believe that I left out works by George Sheehan, Haruki Murakami, and especially the book Once a Runner (and probably others). Don’t worry! It’s not the end! Give a few of these books a try, and I promise you’ll be rewarded for your efforts, at least with a few laughs. In the meantime, I’ll keep running and reading and finding new favorites to share!

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