Best running books for increased training motivation

A collection of the best running books to help you stay motivated and on track with your training.

Woman reading a running book

Are you looking for a little extra motivation? Or maybe you need a helping hand with your training?

Whatever it is, there’s a book for that.

Chances are, you’ve read your fair share of running books. But there’s always more out there. However, how do you pick your next read?

In this blog post, we’ve gathered together the best running books, from the all-time classic born to run, Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, and books dedicated to training, such as Daniel’s running formula. Here are our top picks.

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1. Born to run

Author: Christopher McDougall

The New York Times Best Seller, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, sets out to answer one simple question: why does my foot hurt? 

In search of the answer, McDougall sets out on a great adventure meeting some of the greatest runners the world has ever seen. What will take you on a phenomenal adventure, Born to Run is a must-have for all runners out there – especially if you’re an avid believer of barefoot running. 

2. Running with the Kenyans: discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth

Author: Adharanand Finn

After years of watching Kenyan athletes win the world’s biggest long-distance races, Adharanand Finn packed his bags and set out on a journey to Kenya to start investigating.

On an exciting and informative adventure, Finn discovers the many secrets behind the fastest people on the earth, improving his running along the way in this thrilling journey.

3. Running up that hill

Author: Vassos Alexander

In a celebration of endurance running, Vassos Alexander recalls his own assaults of running through cities, across mountains, through countries, and even an ultra-run in Paris, backwards, despite missing the start.

Yep, you read that correctly.

This enthusiastic story shows what keeps ultra-runners ticking mile after mile, or in this case day after day, and week after week.

Related: New to trail running? Here’s 7 things you should know.

4. Running like a girl

Author: Alexandra Heminsley

In this very funny, honest, and emotional book, Alexandra Heminsley tells her story of beginning her running journey. With her first attempt not ending so well, six years later she has completed five marathons on two continents and ran thousands of miles.

While it’s certainly about running, you’re also in for some eager ambition (such as getting out of bed in the morning), relationships, your body, and most importantly, realising you can do a lot more than you initially thought possible!

5. Running home: A memoir

Author: Katie Arnold

Running home: A Memoir was named one of the best running books of the year in 2019.

Katie was in the darkest place she’s ever experienced. So, she turned to the one thing that made her feel the most alive: running.

Ultimately, running home is a memoir about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world, including those that hold us back and those that set us free.

A book for anyone who has been knocked down in life, this memoir will open your eyes to something much bigger than just running.

6. Run the mile you’re in

Author: Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall, a two-time Olympian and American world record holder in the half-marathon reflects on his successful twenty-year running career.

Now a coach, parent, public speaker, and all-around running fanatic, Hall shares his lessons learned on his road to achieving success.

7. The art of running faster

Author: Julian Goater & Don Melvin

The art of running faster provides a new approach to running.

This running book is for those chasing goals, running faster (duh), and setting a personal best. Whether you’ve just started running yesterday or have been running for twenty years, this guide will change how you run and will make you faster.

8. 401: The man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever

Author: Ben Smith

In this running book, Ben Smith tells the story of what was a lost and broken man to now inspiring runners and non-runners alike all-over the world.

Bullied as a child and unhappy with his life, Smith turned to running. Selling his possessions, escaping his old life and embarking on what seemed this impossible journey, Smith tells the touching story of running 401 marathons in 401 days.

9. Daniel’s running formula running book

Author: Jack Daniels

In one of the best running books about training, legendary running coach, Jack Daniels, provides you with his VDOT formula to tailor your training appropriately, guaranteed to help you see results.

With programs to get you in the best shape of your life, this completely updated version of the classic running book is a must-have bible for runners of all ages.

10. The rise of the ultra-runners: A journey to the end of human endurance

Author: Adharanand Finn

From the author of Running with the Kenyans, Adharanand Finn once again sets out on a running-related adventure. This time, Finn travels to the heart of the sport of ultra-running, travelling through the desert in Oman to the Rockies, Finn is in search of his ultimate goal: the 105-mile ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc.

Finn has written the definitive book on ultra-running today. I couldn’t put it down. – Dean Karnazes

11. 26 Marathons: what I learned about faith, identity, running, and life from my marathon career

Author: Meb Keflezighi

The first person ever to win both the Boston and New York City Marathon, Meb Keflezighi offers the wisdom gained over his career in his autobiography.

Touching on more than just running, Keflezighi takes you on the legendary journey through every race, turn, and hill to where he is today, making for a fascinating story.

An athlete whose wisdom and lessons aren’t just for runners.—The Washington Post

12. Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.

Author: Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky joined forces to create the New York Times best-selling cookbook for runners.

Full of healthy yet extremely tasty recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even that post-run snack, you’ll have all the energy you need and more for running!

13. Running life: mindset, fitness, and nutrition for positive well-being

Author: Dame Kelly Holmes

Keep your body strong and your mind in top shape with Dame Kelly Holmes’ inspirational and extremely practical guide on mindset, fitness, and nutrition.

In this hot topic running book, Holmes’ draws on her own experiences of depression and injury, how she overcomes these to achieve her Olympic dream, and how you too can change your mindset, improve your diet and fitness and take your running to the next level.

14. Good to go what the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery

Author: Christie Aschwanden

Christie Aschwanden, acclaimed science journalist, takes readers on the journey of the most recent scientific developments in sports and fitness recovery.

From sports drinks to chocolate milk, Aschwanden uncovers what we really should be doing to ensure optimal recovery from running. 

If you’re looking to gain that competitive advantage or you’re just a little curious, then this is the book for you.

15. The plant-based runner: A personal guide to running, healthy eating, and discovering a new you

Author: Jonathan Cairns

A few years ago Johnathon Cairns was 46, un-fit, and going through a painful separation. Not knowing what to do, Cairns decided to start running.

Seems like a common theme, right?

This epic running book tells the painfully real story of Cairns, from the struggle to see his children to his decision to start running and the inspiring impact this had, Cairns takes us on the journey of a lifetime, of course, with a few laughs along the way.

16. North: finding my way while running the Appalachian trail

Author: Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek, legendary ultra-runner, takes us on the journey on the most challenging adventure he’s ever experienced – breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail, the 2,200-mile-long path between Georgia and Maine.

This epic adventure of Jurek’s offers his insights into running, his toughest obstacle yet, and the inspiringly beautiful description of his adventure – a must-have for any ultra-runners out there.

17. There is no map in hell: the record-breaking run across the lake district fells

Author: Steve Birkinshaw

In 1986, legendary fell runner, Joss Naylor, completed a continuous circuit of the wainwright fells in the lake district, covering a total of 300 miles and thousands of metres of ascent – in an impressive seven days and one hour.

Now, Steve Birkinshaw makes his attempt at setting a new record. This inspiring book follows Birkinshaw’s preparation, training, and experience at his attempt to break the continuous circuit record that was once set by the legend himself – Joss Naylor.

18. Running with Sherman: the donkey who survived against all odds and raced like a champion

Author: Christopher McDougall

Author of born to run, Christopher McDougall, takes in a neglected donkey intending to get it back to good health. However, with the donkey not being the most cooperative companion, McDougall discovers a donkey needs a purpose. Duh? Right.

Learning the sport of Burro racing, else known as running with donkeys, McDougall gives Sherman a purpose and sets out on this remarkable journey.

19. Epic runs of the world

Author: Lonely Planet

In this perfect running companion, you’ll find fifty of the world’s greatest running routes. Whether you’re planning your next marathon, a trip, or just want to see pictures of some of the most stunning running routes, epic runs of the world promises to deliver.

Examples of running routes include the Lewa safari marathon in Kenya, the great wall of China marathon, and the Athens marathon in Greece.

20. Don’t stop me now: 26.2 tales of a runner’s obsession

Author: Vassos Alexander

Vassos Alexander, author of running up that hill, brings us this celebration of running!

Alexander shares insights on his highs and lows when falling in love with running, as well as dedicated chapters offering insight into the lives of popular athletes including Steve Cram and Paula Radcliffe. An excellent read for anyone who runs wants to run, or simply just after an honest and funny laugh!

21. Depression hates a moving target: how running with my dog brought me back from the brink

Author: Nita Sweeney

Nita Sweeney was almost fifty, depressed, manic, and unable to run for 60-seconds at a time. But, using exercise and running alongside her trusted, four-legged companion, Sweeney embarked on a journey of self-discovery, happiness, and even the completion of her first marathon.

An authentic and relatable story, this running book is a must-have for those tough times, a reminder that it’s not cloudy forever and that the end is much brighter and happier.

22. Finding Ultra: rejecting middle age, becoming one of the world’s fittest men, and discovering myself

Author: Rich Roll

Finding Ultra is the true story of one of the most unbelievable midlife physical and mental transformations. Once an ambitious and competitive swimmer at Stanford, alcohol and drugs soon got the better of Rich.

Years after fighting rehab, Rich found himself fifty pounds overweight and unable to climb the stairs without stopping. Deciding it was time to make a change, Rich indulged in a juice cleanse, the first step in what was to be the plant power way from there on out.

Since that day, and countless ups and downs, Rich has become one of the world’s fittest men, a plant-based lifestyle advocate, health and well-being podcast host, and has conquered unimaginable sporting feats.

Want to find out more? Read our full book review of Finding Ultra By Rich Roll.

23. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Author: Scott Jurek

Eat & Run is an insight into the ultra-running mind and world of Scott Jurek, one of the greatest ultra-runners to walk (or shall we say, run) the earth. In Eat & Run, Scott discusses his difficult childhood, trials of friendship, how he got started running, and numerous race re-caps, discussing both this highest and lowest moment of the sport.

For a book that is seemingly about running (and the odd bit of cooking and vegan recipes), in Eat & Run, Scott does a fantastic job of opening up about various non-running challenges and obstacles, some of which are no doubt relatable to the reader.

Want to find out more? Read our full book review of Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.

24. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of Nike

Author: Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is the story of Phil Knight and how he created the global sporting giant, Nike. Although this autobiography is not exclusively about running, it’s an excellent read and one all runners should add to their list. This memoir has it all, touching on humble beginnings, Knight’s own running career, and even the famous waffle shoe design invented by famous track coach and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman.

This humbling and transparent story is one we recommend to all readers and runners alike, a must-read book of this generation and many more to follow.

Want to find out more? Read our full running book review of Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

The best running books, reviewed

We compiled this list of the best running books through reading, individual reviews, and recommendations.

So, whether you’re a runner yourself, looking to get started, or know someone who doesn’t shut up about Strava, you’re sure to find a book that catches your attention on this list.

You can also listen to the audiobook version of all of these books on audible. Sign up to their free thirty-day for access to a choice of the world’s largest selection of books and any free book of your choice to listen to – including all the books listed in this blog post.

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