This is a great time of year to settle in for a good read! But what to get for the runner in your life? There are so many great running books out there, but some just sit on the shelf untouched or after a vain attempt to get into them fails before the end of the first chapter. So which ones should you get? I’ve compiled a list of a few of my top favourites that I’ve either come back to again and again or recommended to friends.
Eat and Run – Scott Jurek
Scott Jurek is one of the greatest ultra runners of all time. He is 7 time winner of the Western States Endurance run along with many other incredible ultra running accolades. In 2015 he broke the record for running the Appalachian Trail on the eastern seaboard of the USA, a feat he completed in 46 days and which is documented in his most recent book “North”. I loved reading North and it is a great tale of one huge adventure. I followed the attempt at the time but really had no idea of the huge impact this run had on Scott, how close to the wire he came and just how arduous every day was.
If I had to recommend one of Scott’s books it would be “Eat and Run” where he sets out the earlier part of his career along with his journey towards a plant based diet which he attributes with having enabled him to recover so well in his multi day endurance runs. It is an inspiring book as well as a great ‘page turner’. Each chapter includes one of Scott’s favourite vegan recipes.
Feet in the clouds – Richard Askwith
In this seminal book of UK fell running Askwith sets out his challenge to complete the iconic and extremely challenging Bob Graham round – a challenge made all the more difficult as a ‘southerner’ located so far from challenging hills found in the Lake District.
Exploring the history and roots of the UK fell running scene, Askwith describes some of the key races in the calendar and references many of the great unsung legends of the sport. The incredible hard men and women who have trained and raced unheralded on up craggy peaks and on sodden moors.
Behind the scenes you get drawn into Askwith’s own challenge and the failed attempts that fuel the fire to finally nail one of most famous ’rounds’ or circular trails, in the world.
Running Formula – Jack Daniels
You may be one of the many runners who train without any kind of plan. Or maybe you are one of the many who do their easy runs too hard and their hard runs too easy! This is an excellent book for those wishing to target a particular time for a given race distance. I used it as my guide book to achieving a massive PB of 1:23.54 in the Headcorn Half marathon and 3:02 in the London marathon in 2017.
The book first gives you a table to calculate your “VDot” – a reference number based on a recent race time, from which you can then ascertain your correct training pace for different distances and intensities. There are then a plethora of training plans which you can either follow or use a resource to supplement your own plans and schedule.
I use this book all the time as an athlete and a coach. As well as being an excellent reference book with pace tables, conversion charts and weekly plans which you will return to again and again, it also has some solid background content on how to train for competitive running across track, road, cross country and trail running. With some diverse chapters on returning from injury, building for multiple races within a calendar year and so on, it is a great all round book for anyone who wants to take their training to the next level or for those involved in coaching.
Born to Run – Christopher McDougall
Born to Run is possibly the most iconic running book of the last 15 years. It spawned a massive interest in barefoot and minimalist running and thrust the Tarahumara indian tribe into the running world’s headlights. It details the amazing running feats of this secretive Mexican tribe from the hot and dusty canyons. It also shows what happens when the top ultra runners of the world went to the canyons to run and race with the top Tarahumara athletes. McDougal seeks to give the lie to the huge running shoe industry by showing how well these unknown athletes perform either barefoot or their special sandals fashioned from discarded bits of car tyres. It’s a compelling read and will reignite the passion for the simple pleasures of minimal running on scenic trails.
Beyond Impossible – Mimi Anderson
Mimi Anderson is a legend! Not just in our little corner of Kent where she was often seen running round the local forest dragging a huge tyre on a length of rope, but across the world especially in the field of extreme ultrarunning. Mimi is inspiring and this book will inspire you to lace up those trainers and go the “extra mile”. For her the extra mile was the last in her run from John O’Groats to Land’s end where she nearly decided that she was going to pull the plug. She had come so far and was so close to the finish but it looked like she was going to fall agonisingly short of breaking the world record she had come to crack.
The opening chapter sets the scene and leaves you hanging for a while to see what happens next (I won’t spoil the ending!). Suffice to say that the book details the highs and lows of this remarkable ultra woman who has not only conquered most of the iconic big races around the world, but in many cases, as is her speciality, she has gone on to do DOUBLE the distance. Double Badwater, Double Spartathlon and so on.
The book is so hard to put down, combining tales of epic battles to complete her huge athletic challenges as well as the heart rending story of psychological battles with childhood abuse by a nanny, the loss of her father in the middle of one multi day race in the arctic and her long term fight with an eating disorder. It will leave you embolded to think like so many if Mimi can do this so can I (easier said than done!).
I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have. Let me know what you think about my choices and any I may be missing!
What’s on my reading list for this Christmas holiday?
I’m looking forward to reading this one from the amazing Lizzie Hawker. She explores the spiritual side of running and I’m looking forward to seeing her take on the connection between the seemingly mundane act of running and how it can have a profound effect on us as whole people – body, mind and spirit.
Emelie is the ever-smiling, ultra running, gardener and chef who along with her partner Kilian Jornet has redefined the boundaries of what seems possible with mountaineering, running and ski-ing. I’m looking forward to hearing more about her recipes of locally sourced, grown or foraged food as well as some tales of her races across Europe on skis and foot.
I’ll let you know what I think!