People have often asked me, “What do you think about when you run?” Oddly, the answer is that I think about everything but running while I am doing it. I think about what I am going to have for dinner, what I need to buy at the grocery store, and sometimes I think about nothing at all. The opposite is true when I am not running. If I’m driving to work and I see someone running, I wish that was me running. If I hear a marathon is being held that I am not at, I am jealous that I’m not there. So what do I do to pass the time when I cannot be running? I read about it. Here are my top picks I feel every runner should read.
Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports by Katherine Switzer
I’m amazed by Katherine’s courage and passion, she paved the way for women in the sport of running. The journey through her training and racing at a time when women weren’t even allowed to participate in some running events is mind boggling. She proved to the world that running will not make your uterus fall out.
Flanagan’s Run by Tom McNab
This is the lost classic of running books. It is fictional, based on an actual footrace across america that took place in 1929. The tale involves two thousand hopeful participants that will race through incredible terrain and weather to try to win a large cash prize. They come from all around the world to accept this challenge, each one with a different dream and hopes for a brighter future if they win. The author was an olympic coach and he did an amazing job capturing the mental and physical pain of the runners.
I read this book while training for my first ultramarathon. I’ll admit these stories scared the pants off me. I could only read one chapter at a time as my butterflies would get the best of me and I’d break out in a sweat just thinking about my upcoming event. If you want to learn more about why someone would run fifty or one hundred miles, run all day, night and then part of the next day, then this book is for you.
This story is running rivalry at it’s best. Somehow I missed out on this book until a few years ago. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. It chronicles the two men training and competing in the 1982 Boston Marathon. They each have their own personal struggles prior to the event, but the aftermath of drug addiction, accidents, and depression was shocking. The author did an amazing job describing the race, it almost felt as if I was there watching it unfold.
To the Edge: A Man, Death Valley and the Mystery of Endurance by Kirk Johnson
Badwater is commonly known as the World’s Toughest Footrace. It is 135 miles across Death Valley. The race takes place in July and the course starts at the Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level and ends at the Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet in elevation. It’s so hot that the participants have to run on the white painted line on the road to keep the soles of their shoes from melting. The author’s brother, a runner, committed suicide.
Johnson then started running to try to cope with his brother’s death. He had not even run a marathon prior to Badwater. This is basically his couch to Badwater account.
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes
This book is the single reason I got into running ultramarathons. I absolutely devoured this book. Who knew a mortal man could run these crazy distances? Who thought you could have a pizza delivered to you while on your run and you could roll it up like a burrito and eat it while running? Dean is an inspiration. His book helped push myself out of my comfort zone and complete distances that I had before thought would have been impossible.
Each of these stories embrace the physical and mental toughness involved with running and completing challenges. Through sheer determination and grit you can accomplish whatever you set your mind too. There should be no limits on where your running can take you.
Create your own story.