In spite of running fairly consistently since I set my initial “become a runner” goal back in 2018, I haven’t read many books that center runners or running. I’m not entirely sure why that is, because there certainly are plenty of books out there about runners and running.
Perhaps it stems from the fact that I’m not a runner who easily calls herself an “athlete.” Growing up, I avoided books, movies, and any other media that centered sports. I was not an athletic kid, and the Presidential Fitness Tests were my actual nightmare — I was a straight A student who never failed annything, but I couldn’t study my way into a body that was shaped for the sit-and-reach.
My first experience with running, outside the springs between bases on the softball field, was the dreaded one-mile loop in gym class. Yet another test I “failed,” clocking in a 15 minute mile partly from not trying and a little bit from trying more than I wanted to admit.
So, even though I’ve fallen in love with running, I think it’s taken a while to love it enough to dive headfirst into reading about it, too. Over the last year or so, however, I’ve begun dipping my toes into the world of books about running. Today, I want to share three of my favorites from the one’s I’ve read thus far.
If you’re looking for training manuals or guides to improve the sport, this isn’t your list. What I’m interested in are stories about what running means to people, what the pursuit of running goals can do for your life and your relationship with yourself. Whether you’re a runner yourself or just like reading about people’s passions, these books have a ton to offer.
(Full disclosure: This post uses Bookshop.org affiliate links.)
1. Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas
Genre: Nonfiction (Memoir)
Alexi Pappas is an Olympic athlete and filmmaker. She’s also a phenomal writer, who digs into her life and experiences to offer guidance on how to get through the tough times.
Bravey is not just about running, like I expected the memoir of an Olympic runner to be. Running plays a huge part, but it’s also about life, mental health, and just being a human.
I originally listened on audio but ran out to grab a print copy for reference because there are just so many nuggets of wisdom. I reviewed this book after reading it about a year ago, so if you’re interested in my raw thoughts on the book, you can find them here:
2. A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio
A Beautiful Work in Progress may have been the first book about running that I ever read, and I was so pleased to encounter a struggle runner like me on the page.
Valerio doesn’t “look like” a runner (which is a whole other can of worms because there isn’t actually any one look for a runner, but I digress). She doesn’t finish every race she starts, but she keeps pushing and following her passion for the sport.
The writing is hilarious and relatable, and had me considering becoming an ultramarathoner myself. I highly recommend this for a dose of motivation and a reminder that it’s perfectly fine to dare to fail.
3. Running Outside the Comfort Zone by Susan Lacke
Genre: Nonfiction (Essays)
I picked up Running Outside the Comfort Zone when I finally got back into the swing of things after a running slump. It was exactly the extra inspiration I needed to recall why I love running and chasing impossible goals.
This book features a number of essays about unusual races that Lacke signed up for during a year of chasing new and unique experiences to rediscover her love for the sport. They are hilarious and inspiring and occasionally a bit ridiculous.
I wasn’t even halfway through when I decided to click “register” on a half-marathon this October. So, yeah, read with caution if you’re not ready to get out there and see what you’re capable of.
4. The Bright Side Running Club by Josie Lloyd
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
You may have noticied the other titles on this list are nonfiction. This is partly because I happen to be a nonfiction writer myself, and I love a good memoir when I’m interested to learn about people’s experiences with a particular subject. Nevertheless, fiction is also an amazing source of inspiration and can teach you plenty about life (and running).
Josie Lloyd’s The Bright Side Running Club is inspired by her real-life experience of getting cancer and joining a cancer running club, but the story itself is fictional. I loved seeing the protagonist discover running and the ways in which it can help us redefine our understanding of ourselves. Not to mention, forgive lifelong friendships. This is one of my favorite running-related books to date.
Whether you run or not, I hope you’ll pick up these inspiring books about how a love for chasing goals and falling headfirst into a hobby can change your life. They are not just great books about running, but excellent books, full stop.
Since I am training for a half marathon, I hope to pick up several more great books about running this year. Let me know if you’ve got a favorite that I missed here so I can add it to my TBR!
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