The best books on why people run when not being chased

Who am I?

I'm a best-selling author featured in the Wall Street Journal, mental health advocate, certified meditation-leader, wife, and dog-mom. And I run. Every runner has heard, "I never run unless I'm being chased." Right. But runners don't run because we have to. We run because we can or, more often, because we must. It's a powerful mental health tool. I also write books: the award-winning running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving TargetYou Should Be Writing, and, available for preorder, Make Every Move a Meditation. I live in central Ohio with my husband and biggest fan, Ed, and our yellow Labrador Retriever, Scarlet.


I wrote...

Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink (Running Can Be the Best Therapy for Depression)

By Nita Sweeney,

Book cover of Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink (Running Can Be the Best Therapy for Depression)

What is my book about?

Can running save your life? This memoir explains how running saved mine.

Nearing my 49th birthday, I was chronically depressed, overweight, grief-stricken, and couch-bound. Then, I saw a high school friend’s social media post: “Call me crazy, but this running is getting to be fun.” Running? Fun? I watched for months until desperation caused me to leash up our yellow Labrador retriever, walk to a secluded area of our neighborhood, and jog for sixty seconds. Two years later, at 51, I ran my first marathon. But the emotional transformation outshines any physical progress. I went from a woman contemplating suicide to one who wanted to thrive. In running, I found the piece missing from my wellness toolkit. It’s never too late to chase your dreams!

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Live Happier

By Scott Douglas,

Book cover of Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Live Happier

Why this book?

I love Running Is My Therapy because in it, best-selling author Scott Douglas gives us the science behind what I and most of the runners I’ve met have found: running boosts your mood. While I’m not the geeky research nerd he is, I love statistics and citations. Scott shares real world examples and backs them with studies showing why people feel better when they move. While I have my own experience of running, knowing the “good vibes” I felt during and after a run wasn’t just “in my head” (it’s in my brain), helped ground my experience in reality. Plus, Scott’s an excellent writer and a friend to the running community which makes his book even more of a joy to read.

Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Live Happier

By Scott Douglas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Longtime runner Scott Douglas marshals expert advice and a growing body of research to show how a consistent running routine can make us happier - and enhance the benefits of talk therapy, antidepressants, and cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapeutic power of running lies in its lasting physiological effects: It induces changes in brain structure and chemistry that other forms of exercise don't. Douglas presents methods we can all use to live happier - in and out of running shoes.


The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (Volume 5) (The Oatmeal)

By The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman,

Book cover of The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (Volume 5) (The Oatmeal)

Why this book?

Much of my struggle with any form of exercise stems from lack of self-confidence and poor self-image. In his humorous collection of comics, best-selling author “The Oatmeal” lays out what goes in inside most runners’ (and many non-runners’) minds. Food! Weight! Getting lost! Oh my! By poking fun at this somewhat insane sport that I’ve come to love (which many nonrunners call punishment) and his naming of that inner critic as “The Blerch” made me feel seen and heard. It’s truly a classic and one of his best works.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (Volume 5) (The Oatmeal)

By The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (Volume 5) (The Oatmeal) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is not just a book about running. It's a book about cupcakes. It's a book about suffering.

It's a book about gluttony, vanity, bliss, electrical storms, ranch dressing, and Godzilla. It's a book about all the terrible and wonderful reasons we wake up each day and propel our bodies through rain, shine, heaven, and hell.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author, Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, comes this hilarious, beautiful, poignant collection of comics and stories about running, eating, and one cartoonist's reasons for jogging across mountains until his toenails fall off.

Containing over 70 pages of never-before-seen…


Once a Runner

By John L. Parker,

Book cover of Once a Runner

Why this book?

This exquisitely written novel allowed me to imagine that I too could be an Olympian. The author and the main character understand. Long, slow, miles. No. I don’t run as far as Quentin, the main character, but especially while I was training for that first ultramarathon (31 plus miles), the main character’s voice was in my head. And, while reading those passages, I felt as if he was in mine.

Once a Runner

By John L. Parker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once a Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally self-published in 1978, Once a Runner captures the essence of competitive running-and of athletic competition in general-and has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever published.

Inspired by the author's experience as a collegiate champion, the story focuses on Quenton Cassidy, a competitive runner at fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the staid recesses of his school's athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes' protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team.…


Still Running: The Art of Meditation in Motion

By Vanessa Zuisei Goddard,

Book cover of Still Running: The Art of Meditation in Motion

Why this book?

As a long-time meditator, any book which combines running with meditation speaks to my heart. In this gorgeous book about her passion for running, her long-time Zen practice, and the workshops she teaches on Zen and running, Goddard has created a tight, lovely, primer for how to infuse movement with meditation. In these pages, she shows how running can be about so much more than exercise. It can help end suffering.

Still Running: The Art of Meditation in Motion

By Vanessa Zuisei Goddard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Still Running as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn how to bring the power of stillness into your running practice with meditations, guidance, and inspiration from a long-time runner and Zen practitioner.

Running is more than just exercise. Running is a practice, a moving meditation, that brings the power of stillness to all the activities in our lives. Vanessa Zuisei Goddard combines her experience leading running retreats with her two-decade practice of Zen to offer insight, humor, and practical guidance for grounding our running, or any physical practice, in meditation.

When we see running solely as exercise and focus on improving our times, covering a certain number of…


The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life

By John The Penguin Bingham,

Book cover of The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life

Why this book?

John “The Penguin” Bingham’s words of inspiration were exactly what I needed when I began to run as an “adult-onset athlete” (his words.) His books are funny and inspirational, informative, and well-written. This is by far my favorite of his many books. Those early months were tough but some days, courage is what it still takes to keep myself out there on the trails and roads.

The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life

By John The Penguin Bingham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Take your first step toward fitness and a happier, healthier life.

Has the idea of running crossed your mind, but you haven't acted on it because you don't think you have the body of a runner? Have you thought about running but quit before you started because you knew that you would be breathless at the end of your driveway? Well, put aside those fears because you can do it. John Bingham, author of the popular Runner's World column “The Penguin Chronicles,” transformed himself…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

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

Long-Distance Running Explore 19 books about long-distance running
Runners Explore 21 books about runners
Meditation Explore 103 books about meditation

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Mindfulness in Plain English, The Practice of Groundedness, and Wherever You Go, There You Are if you like this list.