My 5 favorite running books

The market is flooded with running books. And you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get to the princes and princesses. Over the years, I devoured many books about running, some fantastic, some "meh," and some, not so great. My favorites so-far are listed below. These are my current top 5  – no press samples for review are included. Below them, I've also listed a few books that are on my "to-read" list.

1. The Competitive Runner's Handbook  

It's hard to believe that The Competitive Runner's Handbook by Bob Glover and Shelly-lynn Florence Glover is almost 20 years old. But this comprehensive tome is a classic; most of the information presented is timeless and all of it is well-researched and written. I actually own two copies, one softcover, which I bought first, and one e-book, because I like being able to take it wherever I go. I return to this book often. (This is the only book, about running or any other subject, that I own in duplicate.) If you want to become a competitive runner and your budget only allows you to purchase one running book, this is the one you want. It includes a bevy of helpful tips on subjects from motivation, training and injury, to sports psychology, racing, and how to run and race in various climates and temperatures. It also includes training plans for every distance, pace charts, and competitive running category charts. Lots of bang for your buck. 


2. Meb for Mortals

Three-time Olympian and 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi also happens to be a master's runner and one of the most popular marathoners in the world, known for his positive attitude and infectious energy. Earlier this year, he placed 2nd in the US men's Olympic Trials Marathon. Meb for Mortals outlines Meb's training philosophy, including his famous "pre-hab not rehab" lifestyle. His tips are relevant whether you're an elite runner or a total newbie, and run the gamut (yuk-yuk), from training, mental toughness, and nutrition, to race strategy and finding balance in life. One of my dearest friends went to high school with Meb and says he's genuinely the nicest guy. Just goes to show you that nice guys can finish first.


3. Building Your Running Body

Building Your Running Body by famous master's running champion Peter Magill is the penultimate anatomy and physiology book for runners. I won't lie: it's dense reading, but it's thorough. The science and running geek in me loves this. The central focus is the latest scientific research and how these findings impact specific parts of your body (muscles, connective tissue, joints, etc), this book also includes a wealth of other information and tools, including workouts to strengthen all of the above, plus recipes, nutrition and race tactics. I return to Building Your Running Body whenever I get bored with my strength routine and need to shake things up, for example, or when I am nursing a niggle like my recent gatrocnemius flare up. I love that it is soundly researched and does not wax poetic with junk science generalizations. This book is all about substance.


4. Eat and Run

Eat and run. It can't get much simpler. I zipped through Eat and Run by ultrarunning champion Scott Jurek in just one day. From his childhood in Minnesota, growing up hunting, fishing, and cooking for his family under the watchful eye of his hard-to-please father, to his transition to a plant-based diet and ultrarunning, Jurek's story shatters sterotypes and negates "black and white" thinking. He is as talented a storyteller as he is an ultrarunner. While I have zero interest (okay, maybe 10% interest) in trying ultrarunning, I enjoyed reading about how a plant-based diet allowed Jurek to run farther and recover faster. To this end, the book is also punctuated with tasty vegan recipes. (I've made his Tempeh with Red Curry Almond Sauce more times than I can count.) 


5. Kara Goucher's Running for Women

The time I met Kara Goucher.  I look like such a shrimp next to her.

The time I met Kara Goucher.  I look like such a shrimp next to her.

Who doesn't love former Olympian and elite marathoner Kara Goucher, America's running sweetheart? She's tough, yet she's vulnerable. She's real. In this book, she shares tips, personal stories from her races and her life, and insights on balancing running while being a wife, mom and friend. Whether you are new to running, or have been at it for years, you'll close this book with a renewed love for the sport. Kara is not just a tough runner, she's a tough person, period. She wrote Kara Goucher's Running for Women while being coached by Alberto Salazar. A few years later, she was brave enough to stand up to (still alleged) his encouraging her to take a questionable substance, inspired by watching the Lance Armstrong interview on "Oprah" in 2013. She took her complaints to USADA (USA Anti-Doping Association) after splitting with Salazar and Nike (Personally, I believe Kara). 


Next up on my running reading list

So many books, so little time. About a month ago, I attended a running storytelling night here in Philadelphia. Best-selling author and ultra-runner Chris MacDougall spoke, and he even sat at our table. Super nice guy – very outgoing and gregarious. We somehow avoided asking him for a photo/autograph, but I think we were all quietly fan-girling and fan-guying. Hearing him speak inspired me to finally put Born To Run and Natural Born Heroes on my "to-read" list. 

I never win anything, and somehow, at this storytelling soirée, I miraculously answered a trivia question about the men's marathon world record correctly and won a copy of Running: A Love Story by Jen Miller. I've been a longstanding fan of Jen's running articles in the New York Times and Runner's World, so I'm looking forward to reading to this book.

So much of running and race is mental. I've been hearing good buzz about a book that delves into this subject at length by respected author and coach, Matt Fitzgerald. I should prioritize reading How Bad Do You Want It? to see if it can give me some sort of an edge. 

What are your favorite running books?