After 14 years of running, you could say I’m a bit of a running junkie. To add to it, I’m also a big motivation junkie if you couldn’t tell by the name of this website. I don’t care if it’s cheesy, I’m a bit of a cheese ball myself. In my spare time, I enjoy reading books on running that inspire me and motivate me. This list is my top 10 favorite motivational books. Feel free to comment with your own personal favorites as this is obviously not an exhaustive list.
There is no book out there that spoke to me the way that Once a Runner by John L. Parker did. The book is phenomenal. It is a fiction piece that focuses on the protagonist, Quenton Cassidy and his struggles with training, school, girls, and life. I first read this book in college and felt as if the story was about me (as I’m sure most guys my age did). Quenton puts himself through the “Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials” via grueling 400m repeats and a host of other tortuous workouts. Following Quenton is inspiring and exhilarating. Once a Runner will always have a special place in my heart as my favorite running novel.
To Be A Runner is a very close second to Once A Runner. Martin Dugard’s book is a personal account of his relationship with running over the years. Dugard is very honest about his experience and delves into personal details that every runner can relate to. He highlights the high highs and the low lows. He lets you know that it is okay to have those off days, but gives you the motivation to get back out there. When reading To Be A Runner, I could hardly set it down it was so good. I highly recommend that you pick it up.
No running book list would be complete without a book that looks at the beautiful life of Steve Prefontaine. As the title says it, “America’s greatest running legend” taken too early from us, before his full potential could be realized. Cross country and track runners grow up on the lore of Prefontaine and strive to emulate that powerful passion and drive. Even many years after his death, Pre continues to inspire us to see our sport as an art form.
In the steroid-era of sports, so many heroes have come and gone. They reach the pinnacle of the sport, only for us to find out it was a farce and that we have been duped. At this point, I only have one athlete I look up to: Kilian Jornet. In my opinion he is the most pure, amazing athlete that has walked the earth. Period. I love his spirit, enthusiasm, and passion. He simply loves trail running, mountaineering, exploring, and living life to the fullest. He has inspired me to embark on many of my own journeys because of what he has accomplished. Run or Die is a phenomenal read, especially the Skyrunner’s Motto which now hangs in my apartment. Pick this book up ASAP.
Ever hear of Kara Goucher? Well, she has a ridiculously fast husband by the name of Adam Goucher who ran for the University of Colorado at Boulder not too long ago. Running with the Buffaloes is the story of his team’s championship season and the trials they endured to emerge as champions. If you have ever run on a cross-country team before, this book is a must. The bond developed between teammates is hard to explain, but Lear does a pretty good job at capturing that magical season for the Buffaloes. Read Running with the Buffaloes before your XC season and you’ll be rearing and ready to go.
You can’t have a list with Pre in it and leave out legendary coach Bill Bowerman. Bowerman is arguably the greatest running coach of all time. He was a student of the sport, pioneer, and one hell of a manly man. Moore’s Bowerman and the Men of Oregon gives insight into Bowerman’s childhood and what molded him. He was a modern-day pioneer and just might be “the most interesting man in the world”. This book was gripping each and every page and I loved it. A fantastic account on the life of Bill Bowerman.
When I first picked up Running & Being in college, I will have to admit that I wasn’t a fan. To be honest, it was a little too “hippy-trippy” for my 20-year-old brain and I wasn’t quite ready to process the wisdom that Sheehan can give. Five years later, I absolutely loved Sheehan’s masterpiece of Running & Being. Sheehan is an amazing running philosopher and eloquently expresses the true meaning of running in ways many of us are incapable of. I now gift this book to friends and family, it is that good of a read.
I did not discover Bernd until a Salomon Running YouTube video called “Why We Run“. Salomon Running and their videos have changed my life in so many ways and this video was no different. It led me to Heinrich’s book of Why We Run which is the perfect blend of running stories, evolutionary biology, science, and passion. With all those things combined it is pretty easy to strike a chord with me. He’s a brilliant man with a huge heart, definitely give Why We Run a read.
This book takes the cake for the worst titled book on the list, but don’t let that fool you! Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a great read, dipping into the psychology of runners and what makes us tick. He chronicles the highs and lows of his own running, my favorite part being the chapters about his ultra marathon where he found strength he did not know he had. I love books like this because I can relate to them so well and it just makes me happy to read them.
Going Long is a running novel put out by Runner’s World that is a collection of running stories that all of us can relate to. These stories will move you and motivate you and some will even bring you near to tears. Running is such an emotional activity and this book does a good job at providing a variety of running stories to tug at our heart strings.
Remember, this is not meant to be an exhaustive, end-all list of running books. Please share your favorites so I have more reading material!
Always in Stride,