Making an Olympic team is not a formulaic accomplishment. It requires some recipe of hard work, talent, luck, timing, and support. A lot of writers would say that’s true of publishing a book, too.
Renowned novelist Haruki Murakami famously compared the athletic feats of writing and running in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. His thoughts can be best summarized in this passage: “Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.”
Is it any surprise that many Olympians turn around from their accomplishments on the world stage and decide to write a book about it? And is it any surprise that so many people devour the stories in turn?
10 Books Written By Olympic Runners
These books about and by Olympians (more specifically, Olympic runners) will get you in the Olympic spirit in time for track and field to take over Tokyo starting July 29.
1. Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
Deena Kastor is known for her mental fortitude. She is also known for medaling in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Learn how training her mind for resiliency and encouragement helped propel her stellar running career. This is a must-read for runners at every level.
2. Over It by Lolo Jones
Hot off the presses, the three-time Olympian and world champion hurdler and bobsledder released her book less than a week ago. Jones, now an author herself, knows the power that books and storytelling can have on athletes. “I love reading books for encouragement and motivation. I spent many times over the weekend trying to get ready for the Olympic Games by reading and filling my gas tank up with other people’s motivational stories,” she said in a live book signing event.
3. Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher
The two-time Olympian and World Championships silver medalist is making her way to Tokyo, but not to compete. After adding her expertise and insight as a commentator for the U.S. Track and Field Team Trials in June, Goucher will be reprising her role at the Games. Get into the mind of Goucher herself in her guide to mastering confidence and the strength that comes with it.
4. Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story by Wyomia Tyus and Elizabeth Terzakis
As discussions around athlete demonstrations and the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 50 are debated, Wyomia Tyus’ story gives added context to the space Black women hold in the history of sport. Tyus was the first athlete to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the 100-meters in 1964 and 1968. At her second Games in Mexico City, she wore black shorts to show her support for an organization that opposed racial segregation: the Olympic Project for Human Rights. This book tells the rest of her story.
5. Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life by Sanya Richards-Ross
“For as long as I can remember, life has been measured in seconds. The fewer, the better.” This book is about how the three-time Olympian stepped away from a way of living that was dictated by numbers. Find out what it took for her to become a world-class runner, how she sustained her career, and how she managed the loss when injury forced her to retire.
6. Wilma by Wilma Rudolph
Not in print anymore, check your local library for this treasure. Rudolph was a triple gold medalist–the first woman to ever win three gold medals in track and field–who, like Tyus, fought for integration and equal pay for female athletes. This autobiography is the sprinter’s incredible story from her point of view.
7. Survive and Advance by Tianna Bartoletta
Our most recent Women’s Running book club pick, Bartoletta released her memoir earlier this summer. The book digs into Bartoletta’s early life and getting into the sport, but also depicts the at times scary life challenges that she was handling behind-the-scenes while she was in the spotlight winning medals at two Olympic Games. The sprinter and long-jumper shares her story of struggle and glory in the hopes that it will help literally anyone who is going through something hard.
8. Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas
Another book to come out of the pandemic, Alexi Pappas’ memoir quickly became a stand-out favorite among runners. Her background as a poet stands out in her eloquent writing style, but it’s the wisdom and honesty she brings on the topic of mental health that make it a must-read. In this book, Pappas joins the ranks among athletes owning how the pressure to compete at the top level can affect their mental state.
9. Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream by Meb Keflezighi
While we patiently wait for the Olympic marathon to take place in Sapporo on August 7 (August 6 for us watching in the U.S.), this book reflects on the background of one of the greatest marathoners of all-time. Learn the incredible life story of Keflezighi, from coming to America as a refugee to his Olympic silver medal and wins in both the New York and Boston Marathon.
10. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap
During this year’s delayed 2020 Olympic Games, it’s abundantly clear that every moment being shared and celebrated is a historic one. We’ll never forget the COVID-19 Olympics. Another historic Games, the 1936 Berlin Olympics, dubbed by some as the Nazi Olympics. This historic narrative dives into the story of Black sprinter Jesse Owens and the four medals he won with Adolph Hitler watching.