Reading About Running

"Running a marathon is just like reading a good book. After a while, you're just not conscious of the physical act of reading." -Frank Shorter

I often receive requests for book recommendations on running, whether for training or pure pleasure. Ideally books on training become pure pleasure! Reading about our sport gives us a better understanding of its history, science, and culture. It also helps you discover why you run and perhaps inspire new running goals. I am sharing my top 5 book recommendations below, though my full list is a lot longer. Let me know your favorites too.

1. Physiology - Why We Run: A Natural History
This favorite is a surprisingly easy-to-read, fascinating perspective on how humans have evolved because of running. Our ancestors were able to survive by outrunning animals who have fewer sweat glands, and as a result, less endurance capacity. Each of us has the innate potential to be an efficient runner, even ultra-marathoner, largely due to physiological traits we possess, such as our long Achilles tendons and the stretchy nuchal ligament in our necks.

2. Memoir - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
My post about What I Think About When I Run was inspired by Murakami's memoir on his training leading up to the 2005 NYC Marathon and the large influence running has had on his life and his writing. Murakami's insights are so raw and genuine that they will shed new light on your motivation for running. As he puts it, "I'll be happy if running and I can grow old together."

3. Fiction - Once a Runner
One of the most gripping running books about the quest to run a four-minute mile, this book will make you actually look forward to those brutal speed workouts. It beautifully describes the hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and rituals required of runners, regardless of ability. There is also a sequel and prequel if you are hungry for more miles.

4. Anthropology - The Way of the Runner: A Journey Into the Fabled World of Japanese Running
I mentioned this one last week, but it's worthy of more. It may be surprising that Japan is the most running-obsessed country on earth with relay races called ekidens that have Super Bowl-like viewing popularity. The author Adharanand Finn, who has also written about the Kenyans, immerses himself into the Japanese way of training and reveals incredible wisdom from their running form, teamwork, and competition.

5. Training - Daniels' Running Formula
Coach Daniels' book in many ways is the bible for training plans, using specific intensities to improve endurance, strength, and speed. There is a focus on how to incorporate six components - your cardio system or ability to transport oxygen, your muscles' ability to use oxygen, your ability to cope with and minimize lactic acid, your maximum oxygen uptake capacity, your leg turnover, and your form and efficiency.