Top 10 Running Books

I'm a huge exercise physiology fan.  We have rows of bookshelves at home that contain tomes of running and endurance related books.

I've come up with my top 10 favorite list in no particular order.  I'll be updating this list as I find new or undiscovered material. I'm always on the search for gems I may have missed, so if you have something that you think is worthy let me know as I'd love to check it out.  I've put a few comments next to each to give you as sense of my thoughts and you can click each title if you want the Amazon link.

Top 10 Running Books

1) The Art of Running Faster

If there is one book that I feel has synced up with my training thoughts lately then this is it.  Every page seems to have something where I mentally say to myself  "exactly".  This is quickly going to be a classic for those looking to really get moving with their running. The writing style is nice and easy to read and he pulls no punches on his opinions around how to get better.  A great reference piece and one that I will be pulling out for years to come to remind myself of the tips in here.

2) Better Training for Distance Runners

If there is a true classic on the list then this might just be it.  Peter Coe wasn't just Seb Coe's Father but an excellent and bright coach that really transformed how many runners (particularly British ones have developed).  Word has it that Salazar was also a big fan and has incorporated many of the teachings into his work with Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.  I've had this tome for years and was one of the first books I bought.  Only last year did I check out the pictures of Seb hefting Olympic barbells and trying to count up the weight he was squatting.  The strength training section of this book is one of it's true nuggets.  If you ever thought stick thin elite runners were weak - think again.

"The Coach".  Jack Daniels has brought so much to the sport it's hard to know even where to start.  This book is a good place to start and contains so much know how in it you will be re-reading chapters for years to come.  His world famous VDOT running time prediction calculator is worth it's weight in gold and his explanations on why you should be running certain intervals and what response you are looking for from your body are clearly explained.  Go read it!

4) The Lore of Running

The running bible?  It could just be.  This was my first real running book and I devoured all 944 pages as a teenager.  Constantly marking up pages and highlighting sections all the way through. You'll find a wealth of knowledge in here about everything you can think of that's running related.  Don't expect training plans or a script though, it's more of a text book on how your body responds to training.  You won't be disappointed if you add this to your collection.

5) Run or Die

This book means a lot to me.  I remember when I was younger being in awe of Bruno Brunod's 1999 Matterhorn record and how legendary it seemed at the time.  Fast forward to 2013 and Felix is born on the same day that Kilian Jornet sets an unbelievable new record.  I've been a fan of Kilian's for a while now (co-incidentally Felix was almost named Kilian) and his achievements are truly staggering.  After you extract out all the doping nonsense in cycling and whittle down a short list of possible greatest ever endurance athletes, Kilian is already on it and still so young.  I'll be amazed if the Matterhorn record falls to anyone else in my lifetime and excited to track his future progress.  To top it off, I was able to meet him a few weeks after Felix was born and have him sign a copy as a keepsake for Felix to treasure.

6) The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing

A triathlon book, but with enough resources for the runner to be well worth a look.  As a former coach to legendary Ironman champion Mark Allen, who still maintains one of the fastest Ironman marathons in Kona there is a lot to be learned from Maffetone's more holistic approach to training and racing. It's a mix of sound science and 'Zen' thinking and is an altogether different approach to the standard training manuals out there.  The big reinforcement for me out of this book was the 'run easy' mentality that so many ignore and how most athletes still train too fast in there day to day sessions.  If  you suffer from this affliction you might really benefit from giving this a read.

7) Waterlogged

The second installment on this list from Tim Noakes (just wait until he writes his book on nutrition - due out in a couple of years as I bet that makes the list too).  I was drawn to this book at the start of my foray into ultra running and as a way to learn more about hydration needs late in marathon racing.  It's a fascinating read, particularly about the history of Gatorade, the trend of hyponatremia and how the media really got behind it.  It's slow going in places but there's much to learn and some very simple takeaways.  If you have ever had hydration or GI issues then it's well worth a look.

8) Hansons Marathon Method

You've seen the RW article.  The one about running your best marathon with only a 16 mile long run.  Well, this book puts more meat on the bones of that concept and outlines the strategy behind the Hanson's plan.  I was a COMPLETE skeptic when I read this like many of you probably are.  It sounded like a get rich quick scheme and too good to be true.  The thing is - it works!  I didn't go a single mile longer than 16mi before Napa Marathon, ran a 2:56 with almost no soreness after. Quickest recovery post marathon, most fun I have ever had during a marathon and I pretty much had a smile on my face the whole way round.  Don't make the mistake of thinking the training is easy.  To be able to pull off a quick time you are going to have to work for it in the sessions they outline, but if you are brave enough to give it a go there is much here to learn from your body.  It's forever changed how I will train for the marathon and how I think about training and what folks will say as 'the right way to train'.  Take a chance and give it a go.  What's there to lose?

9) Anatomy for Runners

Talk about a hidden gem.  I think I ran across this on Jay Johnson's blog and after taking a renewed focus on stretching and bodywork wanted to check it out.  This spoke volumes to me and articulated a lot of what I had been formulating in my mind about the small details I needed to change to become a better runner.  He walks you through the basics in a very readable style and outlines a number of tests you can perform to assess your mobility and weaknesses.  This is followed up by a series of exercises that you can use to address any problems.

10) You (Only Faster)

Ok, so including this one is a little cheeky.  I haven't read it yet.  It's on this list as a nod to the man himself, Greg McMillan (no relation and weird that my middle name is Gregg too).  If you haven't used the McMillan running calculator prediction tool on his website you can find it here.  It's fantastic, and for me accurate to within a couple of seconds across most race distances.  Greg has a ton of resources on his website that are 'must reads' for anyone serious about their running.  Wendy and I also ran Boston on a plan from Greg so can recommend it to those looking for some extra structure. One of my favorite quotes about training comes from Greg - 'Train optimally, not maximally' and very wise words if you want to stay injury free.

Honorable Mention

Fats that Heal.  Fats that Kill

While not a running or training book, if you have an interest in improving your nutrition and how it might affect your running this is well worth a look.  I came across this after experimenting with Udo's Oil and noticing some pretty impressive benefits from taking it.  This led me down the path of further research and getting a hand on a copy of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill.  Be warned, science ahead!  This can seem like a bit of a text book at times with it's formulas and long chemical names.

For me, I wanted to learn more about fat metabolism, the benefits of good fats and how it might help my performance late in marathons or through ultras.  If you have a similar goal or just want to know more about the facts fats play in our life, and how important they are it's well worth checking out.

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