Inspiration for the Long Run: Books on Running

shelved under Sports

Two years ago, before I’d even run a step, I picked up Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man. I was hooked from the first chapter and find that when my motivation is waning, these authors have a way of picking me up and making me want to lace up my runners again.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall

This is my favorite running book to date. It has opened my eyes to some of the myths about running. McDougall wanted an answer to the question, “Why does my foot hurt?” and disagreed with the doctor who told him that the human body isn’t made for running. Thinking that the problem might not be running itself, but rather how we run, he embarked on a crazy adventure that lead him to the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyons. What he found was a group of people whose running experience flew in the face of everything we’ve been led to believe. This tribe of running people wears simple sandals made from a piece of rubber tied on with leather straps, and then they run for hours and hours and sometimes even days. Without injury. They don’t have fancy shoes or practice yoga; they don’t eat protein bars and chug sports drink. They simply run, the way we were born to run.


Running for My Life

by Ray Zahab

This is a fascinating collection of stories from people who’ve attempted to run distances longer than a marathon. The most common ultramarathon distances are 50K, 50 miles, 100K, and 100 miles. The authors are not professional athletes. They are regular folk like you and me who have day jobs but somehow manage to train like crazy in their spare time, all in an effort to complete some incredibly difficult footraces. They range in age from 24 to 69 and have wildly different stories to tell. Some have completed multiple races with a comparatively moderate effort, while others have tried again and again to finish a race without success. Every story, though, contains some similar elements. At some point, you will want to give up. Guaranteed. And it’s in learning how to get through those moments that you develop strength and confidence. These are the stories of people who “voluntarily subject themselves to severe discomfort, sleep deprivation, and overall physical trauma.” You’ll come away from this book thinking either, “those people are nuts,” or “maybe… someday.” I find myself in the second category.


My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon

by Kathleen Parrish, Bart Yasso, foreword by Amby Burfoot

Bart Yasso is the Chief Running Officer at Runners World magazine. He has run over 1,000 races, from 5k races to ultramarathons, from running with a Burro to racing naked. He’s biked across the US, run on all seven continents and overcome an illness that nearly ended his running career. This is an entertaining book about all the places than running can take you. Yasso includes some training schedules at the back for 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon, as well as his picks for “must-do” races. He makes a point that just because you can run a marathon doesn’t mean you won’t have as much fun running a 5k.


Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon

by Neal Jamison

If Dean Karnazes is one of America’s most well-known endurance runners, than Ray Zahab is Canada’s equivalent. His transformation from a hard-drinking, smoking party man to ultra-distance runner is inspiring. He decided, on New Year’s Day of 2000, to give up the party lifestyle and throw himself wholeheartedly into eco-challenges, 24-hour mountain bike races, and other extreme athletic endeavors. In Dec 2003, he decided to run the 160km Yukon Arctic Ultra. Seriously. He decides to start long-distance running with a 160km jaunt through the snow. And that was only the beginning. He went on to run the Marathon des Sables (243 km), the Jungle Marathon in the Amazon (over 200 km), the Trans 333 (333 km) through the Sahara, and many more ultra-distance races. The book does not talk about one of his more well-known accomplishments – running across the entire Sahara Desert – but it’s an interesting look at where he came from and how he became one of Canada’s better-known distance runners.


Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

by Dean Karnazes

This was the book that got me hooked on (the idea of) ultra-running. Not so much the practice of it. From the first chapters where he tells the story of ordering pizza from his cell phone and having it delivered to him out on the highway, to running a 200 mile relay race all by himself, it’s an engaging book. Although he has completed more outrageous running endeavors since writing Ultramarathon Man, this is where it all began.

This book also appears on 11 Great Books for Unconventional Living