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New books are great, but classics are classics for a reason—and these five endurance books ranked highest on our readers’ faves. Grab one (or all) of these reads to curl up and enjoy as the weather gets colder. Find out why they are so beloved among runners or revisit one of your favorites to uncover a new pearl of wisdom you missed the first time around.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall cracks the ultrarunning phenomenon right open by way of Mexico’s Tarahumara people. Why do runners love it? It’s a tale of epic adventure. McDougall is also the author of Running with Sherman, which came out in the summer of 2020. According to the book jacket, it is the true story about McDougall’s pursuit to train a rescue donkey to run in one of the most challenging races in America. Intrigued would be an understatement. Even if it was only half as compelling as Born to Run, it would still be worth checking out.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami’s running memoir, comes up time and again in the running community. His meandering prose can almost be interpreted as a declaration of love from his very first mile. “It’s poetic and introspective,” says Jessica Quillin. Kim Foster Yardley says that it “inspires me and reminds me why I love running so much.” This is a book that any runner can find themselves in. The audiobook, read by Ray Porter, is a fantastic companion on a recovery day or easy run, but it can be a bit slow to push you in a workout. Nevertheless, you’ll come to the end of the book with a renewed sense of purpose for your miles.
It was no surprise that Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton made it onto the list. As one of the greatest female runners in recent history, Kastor plainly and patiently takes readers through her winning mindset in a way that is both inspiring and humbling. Give the audiobook a go and you can have the American marathon record holder motivating you while you run, offering a calming perspective when you’re suffering through the hard part of a workout.
If there’s something we could always use more of, it’s remarkable women sharing their wisdom. That’s what you get with Kara Goucher’s Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You. If you’ve been paying attention to the world championship silver medal finisher’s NBC broadcasting for the Olympics, the Chicago Marathon, or the Boston Marathon, you’re just getting a taste for the wealth of knowledge she has on the sport. Young women everywhere, consider this required reading and your field guide to developing confidence and focus as a runner.
Many ultrarunners subscribe to the notion that running mega mileage races hits a threshold where it is more of a mental challenge than physical. That could be why there are so many good books about and by ultrarunners, sharing their wisdom of conquering insane feats. Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself is a wealth of both wisdom and inspiration that we can start anywhere and accomplish amazing things. Want to read more Rich Roll? He’s also the co-author of three plant-based guides: The Plantpower Way, The Plantpower Way: Italia, and This Cheese is Nuts!. If you’re a fan of Roll’s podcast, you’ll enjoy the audiobook, read by him.