The best books about the inner life of running

Scott F. Parker Author Of The Joy of Running qua Running
By Scott F. Parker

Who am I?

I’ve been running for a quarter of a century now, ever since I got the irresistible urge in high school to quit the soccer team and make my way over to cross-country practice junior year. In that time, running has been a source of mental clarity and physical expression for me, a source of joy and even of meaning. Naturally, it has become one of the focuses of my writing life, too. I’ve written three books about running and now write the On the Run column for Sport Literate. It is gratifying to write about a sport that has such a rich literature.


I wrote...

The Joy of Running qua Running

By Scott F. Parker,

Book cover of The Joy of Running qua Running

What is my book about?

The subtitle tells you much of what you need to know. The Joy of Running qua Running is an “ode in twenty poems, thirty-six short essays, and one logical proof dubious in both soundness and validity.” It is a playful yet spirited celebration. 

Scott F. Parker approaches running as a phenomenologist, fully attentive to the mental as well as the physical experience of the sport. This method allows running to become a prism through which Parker refracts the question of what it means to be human as he finds one way after another to extol the virtues of play as a way of living. Whether you run every day or haven’t been around a track since junior high, The Joy of Running qua Running will delight and inspire.

The books I picked & why

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Poverty Creek Journal

By Thomas Gardner,

Book cover of Poverty Creek Journal

Why this book?

Drawing from a year of entries in his running journal and writing beautiful, compressed prose, Gardner explores the relationship between the inner and the outer world of a runner. A veteran of the sport—he’s been at it for decades—and something like a disciple of its spiritual esoterica, he captures those running moments that so many of us struggle to articulate: “One of the reasons you slog through the summer is to be in shape when a day like this appears. A day when you step away from your body and take the body in, this gliding presence no longer yours, though once, you think, it might have been.” Poverty Creek Journal is a meditation on the profundities of a body in motion.

Poverty Creek Journal

By Thomas Gardner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Poverty Creek Journal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"That rush in between when it all comes undone. Knowing its edge like your own pulse and breathing. As I knew them this morning, racing a 10K in late-spring heat, the taste of panic in the last two miles as everything slipped away, losing time and barely finishing. A tingling in my limbs as if I were driving on ice, the road beneath me suddenly gone, the feeling of that in my hands. Deeper than words, being lost for a moment and then being done. Left with a pounding, stiff-legged stagger."

Spiritual improvisations, radiant acts of attention: echoing Thoreau's Walden,…


Inner Running: The Ultimate Natural High

By Donald Porter,

Book cover of Inner Running: The Ultimate Natural High

Why this book?

I might call Donald Porter’s Inner Running a forgotten classic if I could tell that it had ever been known. Running’s answer to Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis, it emerges from the human-potential movement of the nineteen sixties and seventies, with the tube socks and tracksuits to prove it. Porter’s promotion of slow, meditative, and inward-focused style of running offers an antidote to the hyper-competitive, results-obsessed attitudes that tend to rule running. You’ll feel grounded just by reading it and especially if you put it into practice.

Inner Running: The Ultimate Natural High

By Donald Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inner Running as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All runners can attest to the well known fact that running is beneficial to the heart, weight control, and general fitness. But many runners ignore a benefit that can not only add enjoyment to a run, but can actually change a runner's attitude about life itself. In Inner Running, author Donald Porter examines the psychological and spirtual aspects of running. He explains how the sport can server as a soothing mini-vacation from the pressures of modern life. Using Porter's inner methods the runner needn't push to complete a set time or distance. The inner runner glides easily and runs solely…


The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion

By Catriona Menzies-Pike,

Book cover of The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion

Why this book?

“Running,” Catriona Menzies-Pike tells us, “has a way of dragging you into the present moment of exertion.” Yes, it sure does. As a group, runners exhibit an uncommon tendency toward rumination for which running often serves as a form of treatment, its mental benefits following directly from its physical nature. In writing so beautifully about such rewards, Menzies-Pike captures the feeling of running for any runner, fast or slow, in a disarmingly real and unromantic voice that rings with truth.

The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion

By Catriona Menzies-Pike,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Long Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No one ever expected Catriona Menzies- Pike to run a marathon. She hated running, and was a hopeless athlete. When she was twenty her parents died suddenly - and for a decade she was stuck. She started running on a whim, and finally her grief started to move too. Until very recently, it was frowned upon for women to run long distances. Running was deemed unladylike - and probably dangerous. How did women's running go from being suspect to wildly popular? How does a high school klutz become a marathon runner? This fascinating book combines memoir and cultural history to…


Running & Being: The Total Experience

By George Sheehan,

Book cover of Running & Being: The Total Experience

Why this book?

Sheehan’s classic lives up to its billing as a “philosophical bible for runners.” Running & Being uses running as a means by which to explore the deepest questions about what it means to be human. But running is not only a means of questioning, for Sheehan, it is also a means of answering. There is a wisdom in recognizing the truth that our thinking is always embodied and a liberation in celebrating this fact. What runner does not know what Sheehan means when he writes, “On the road... I am occupied with my own inner life. I am constructing a system that will justify my own way of being in the world. And discovering, as Emerson said, that there are thoughts in my brain that have no other watchman or lover or defender than me?"

Running & Being: The Total Experience

By George Sheehan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Running & Being as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller for 14 weeks in 1978, Running and Being became known as the philosophical bible for runners around the world. More than thirty years after its initial publication, it remains every bit as relevant today. Written by the late, beloved Dr. George Sheehan, Running and Being tells of the author's midlife return to the world of exercise, play and competition, in which he found "a world beyond sweat" that proved to be a source of great revelation and personal growth. But Running and Being focuses more on life than it does, specifically, on running. It provides…


Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species

By Mark Remy,

Book cover of Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species

Why this book?

For a bit of levity, Mark Remy’s Runners of North America presents a mock classification of twenty-three subspecies of runners, including the Fashion Mag Runner (Lopus lulemonus) and the Dramatic Weight Loss Runner (Lopus saladus). Have fun identifying yourself and your running friends and gaining insight into what makes you all tick differently. A treat from running’s premiere humorist.

Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species

By Mark Remy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Runners of North America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If there's one thing that Mark Remy knows, it's running. After 25 marathons and a career of writing for and about runners in Runner's World, he is well equipped to dissect the running world and the odd creatures that make up its population.

The North American Runner has evolved greatly over the years, adapting to changes in environment, including new threats, technologies, food sources, and fashion. These mysterious, brightly clad creatures live side by side with humans, but how many of us truly understand them?

In Runners of North America, a comprehensive guide to the 23 subspecies of runners (ranging…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in runners, long-distance running, and marathons?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about runners, long-distance running, and marathons.

Runners Explore 21 books about runners
Long-Distance Running Explore 19 books about long-distance running
Marathons Explore 19 books about marathons

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Once a Runner, Wilma Unlimited, and Run Fast. Eat Slow. if you like this list.