Running can be as simple as pulling on a pair of shoes and putting one foot in front of the other as fast as you can until you can no more, or as complicated as weighing the merits of leaving off those shoes, pondering why we run or where to run or how to run — or whether to run at all.
Google “books on running” and more than 1.14 billion results come back in 0.38 seconds.
They are written by runners and non-runners alike: new runners, reluctant runners, ultra runners, weekend runners, injured runners — and as someone who has been some of those things at one point or at least obsessed with the idea (that would be ultra), I find that reading about running is just as fascinating, and leaves me a lot less sore.
Here are four released this year:
The premise: “Born to Run” by runner Christopher McDougall is one of those books that even nonrunners love, mostly for its awe-inspiring glimpse into the running culture of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s remote Copper Canyon. Eric Orton is McDougall’s coach, and “Cool Impossible” is part trainer and part inspirational guide, with uplifting passages that tap into basic desires to be stronger, faster and better, interspersed with practical exercises, a running program and nutrition advice. The focus is on barefoot running, and even though I don’t run barefoot, I found plenty of great stretches and strength work in here.
Favorite quote: “Not to sound like a drill sergeant, but too many people say they want to be fit, healthy, thin, toned, and low in body fat, but they’re unwilling to do what’s necessary to make that happen.”
Give it to: The buddy sidelined with plantar fasciitis and barefoot-running skeptics.
“The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women: Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training,” by Dawn Dais (Seal)
The premise: You can go from couch potato to running your first full marathon (or half), and you can do it as a woman who never really intended to do such a crazy thing. It’s straightforward, offers a five-month training schedule for a half marathon and a full as well as a six-month modification.
Favorite quote: “Things we perceive as personal limits usually just mark the limit of our comfort level, not the limit of any actual ability.”
Give it to: Female first-timers, for sure.
“Running With the Pack: Thoughts from the Road on Meaning and Mortality,” by Mark Rowlands (Pegasus Books)
The premise: Mark Rowlands is a philosophy professor from Wales (now at the University of Miami), and so it’s no surprise that this book is a heavy exploration of why we run and reflections on life and happiness. Rowlands also has several big dogs that he frequently takes on his runs, and his ruminations on their wolf-like qualities and the parallels to human nature are interesting and well presented without being pretentious.
Favorite quote: “The heartbeat is the essence of the run, what the run really is; and the heart beats outside me, not within.”
Give it to: Deep-thoughts types.
“The Longest Race: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance,” by Ed Ayres (The Experiment)
The premise: The founder of Running Times magazine, Ed Ayres ran the JFK 50 Mile, the nation’s oldest and most iconic ultramarathon, in 2001 (this year’s race, on Nov. 23, marked the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination), and this book is about that experience. Through his insights during the “longest race,” Ayres weaves his reflections on what he’s learned about life and running with thoughts on the state of the country and his fellow man.
Favorite quote: “The impulse to get anxious or frustrated or angry, or to quit, is a thing that happens when you feel you should be very close to the end of something…and not being there yet can lead to panicky or reckless decisions.”
Give it to: Veteran runners, those making the transition from short to longer races
- 25 Things Non-Runners Don’t Get About Runners (buzzfeed.com)
- Yo, Adrian! Runners Re-Create Rocky’s 50K Route (online.wsj.com)
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running…the Richmond Marathon (jsrcclibrary.wordpress.com)
- Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (paperbreathers.wordpress.com)