The most recommended long-distance running books

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to long-distance running, and here are their favorite long-distance running books.
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Book cover of Marathon Mouse

Marsha Diane Arnold Author Of The Pumpkin Runner

From my list on children's stories about running.

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning picture book author of many types of books, from The Pumpkin Runner to Badger’s Perfect Garden. I’ve always been a reader more than an athlete, but throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed running - running down a dusty Kansas backroad, running to the pasture to call in the cows, running to the stream to climb a cottonwood. When I reached my sixties, I finally decided it was time to run a half-marathon. Partway through the race, I broke my foot! But I persevered. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a little like Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner.

Marsha's book list on children's stories about running

Marsha Diane Arnold Why did Marsha love this book?

Marathon Mouse is a fun story for our littlest runners. Most of the mice living under the bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island didn’t like the commotion of Marathon Day. But Preston did. Preston braved the crowds and big shoes to run the Marathon himself. And near the finish line, his family, who had told him races weren’t for mice, were there cheering him on.

Marathon Mouse is the only one of my book recommendations about an animal marathon runner. But, as with the books here about people, Preston, the Marathon Mouse, has perseverance and determination and feels joy when he’s running.

By Amy Dixon, Sam Denlinger (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marathon Mouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

The mice of New York City dread the day of the New York City Marathon more than any other-the crowds, the large shoes, the noise. All of them, that is, except for Preston. He and his family live underneath the starting line on the Verrazano Bridge and every year Preston has dreamed of joining all the other runners in the marathon. This year, Preston is determined to make his dream come true, even though his family tells him that mice are not fit to run marathons. He trains hard leading up to the big day and when the race starts,…


Book cover of Why We Run: A Natural History

Sam Murphy Author Of Run Your Best Marathon: Your trusted guide to training and racing better

From my list on challenge the status quo about how to run.

Who am I?

When I was a journalist, writing about health and fitness for women’s magazines and national newspapers, I had a strong sense that much of the advice being doled out by personal trainers and other ‘experts’ was dubious, to say the least. I decided to see for myself, embarking on an Exercise and Sport Science degree and training as a running coach. Two decades on, with a handful of running books and a 13-year-strong column in Runner’s World to my name, I still like to delve into the science underpinning physical activity to see if it really stands up, and if so, for who, and under what circumstances?  

Sam's book list on challenge the status quo about how to run

Sam Murphy Why did Sam love this book?

American marathon legend Bill Rodgers is quoted on the back cover of Why We Run saying, “This is not a how-to book, it’s a why book.”

He’s right, and Heinrich answers the question of why through a fascinating blend of biology, anthropology, philosophy, and psychology. It’s both a universal inquiry and a personal one: the book gets its narrative thread from Heinrich’s build-up towards competing in a 100km race, through which we are introduced to his experimental training methods and the thinking behind them.

I’ll leave you to find out how the race pans out…

By Bernd Heinrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Each new page [is] more spellbinding than the one before—this is surely one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.”—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

When Bernd Heinrich decided to write a memoir of his ultramarathon running experience he realized that the preparation for the race was as important, if not more so, than the race itself. Considering the physiology and motivation of running from a scientific point of view, he wondered what he could learn from other animals.

In Why We Run, Heinrich considers the flight endurance of birds, the antelope’s running prowess and…


Book cover of Once a Runner

Nita Sweeney Author 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)

From my list 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.

Nita's book list on why people run when not being chased

Nita Sweeney Why did Nita love 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.

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.…


Book cover of Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon

Marsha Diane Arnold Author Of The Pumpkin Runner

From my list on children's stories about running.

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning picture book author of many types of books, from The Pumpkin Runner to Badger’s Perfect Garden. I’ve always been a reader more than an athlete, but throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed running - running down a dusty Kansas backroad, running to the pasture to call in the cows, running to the stream to climb a cottonwood. When I reached my sixties, I finally decided it was time to run a half-marathon. Partway through the race, I broke my foot! But I persevered. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a little like Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner.

Marsha's book list on children's stories about running

Marsha Diane Arnold Why did Marsha love this book?

One of the things I love most about this book is the foreword, which was written by Fauja himself – Fauja, the oldest person ever to run a marathon. Fauja was unable to walk until he was five years old and after he walked, he was still very weak. People were always teasing him and telling him he couldn’t do things. There’s a wonderful refrain that runs through the book: “But Fauja did not listen and Fauja did not stop.” At 89, he completed his first marathon. He ran marathons from London to New York to Toronto. The book ends with the Toronto Marathon, in which Fauja set a new world record as the oldest person to run a marathon.

By Simran Jeet Singh, Baljinder Kaur (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fauja Singh Keeps Going as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Every step forward is a victory.

Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn't allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn't stop him. Working on his family's farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential.

He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over…


Book cover of Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind

Bruce Grierson Author Of What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Happier Lives

From my list on actually living before you die.

Who am I?

Writing the Olga book was a privilege in several senses. I got to hang out for five years with a remarkable human who kicked my butt (in the nicest possible way) and pulled me out of a midlife funk with the example of her indomitable spirit. Just as significantly, I got to delve deeply into the question of What makes some people almost … bulletproof? To what degree is healthy aging, well … a choice? This is really all a writer can ask for: to stumble on a subject that will never exhaust itself, that will just continue to open new angles. One way or another, I keep writing about Olga, and I suspect I always will.

Bruce's book list on actually living before you die

Bruce Grierson Why did Bruce love this book?

Because the 21st century belongs to friendships. And camaraderie is the number 1 ingredient in the longevity recipe. We need each other. We need mutual assistance if we want to live not just longer but better. (What’s the saying? “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”) It’s easy to forget that in the tech age, which promotes ferocious independence (which ultimately isn’t much fun). Think of Durkheim’s notion of “collective effervescence”—which we missed big-time during Covid lockdown – and you’ll appreciate what Michael Austin, a philosopher from the University of Eastern Kentucky, is offering here. This is a philosophy with a healthy heart in every sense.

By Michael W. Austin (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A unique anthology of essays exploring the philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run. It features writings from some of America's leading philosophers, including Martha Nussbaum, Charles Taliaferro, and J.P. Moreland.* A first-of-its-kind collection of essays exploring those gems of philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run* Topics considered include running and the philosophy of friendship; the freedom of the long distance runner; running as aesthetic experience, and "Could a Zombie Run a Marathon?"* Contributing essayists include philosophers with athletic experience at the collegiate level, philosophers whose pasttime is running, and one philosopher who began running…


Book cover of Broken: 2020: the year running records were rewritten

Andy Mouncey Author Of So You Want to Run an Ultra: How to Prepare for Ultimate Endurance

From my list on runners, records, and the remarkable human spirit.

Who am I?

I think that we’re all a Work In Progress whatever our relative levels of success so I’m drawn to people who share that belief, are way out there and are still working on their own stuff. Especially if they’ve managed to do so without becoming a righteous arse in the process. ‘Cos I want reasons to be reminded how incredible it can be to use as much of what we’ve been given and be ALIVE in every sense of the word. I want to keep learning and growing and getting stronger and faster and more bombproof and compassionate and connected as I moved through my fifth decade and beyond. These books really resonate with me – I hope they will for you too.

Andy's book list on runners, records, and the remarkable human spirit

Andy Mouncey Why did Andy love this book?

Ally Beavan had a ringside seat during the lockdown year of 2020 as a few special ultrarunners lined up to take a shot at many of the long-standing records in the sport. As support crew, pacer, or simply cheerleader on many of these attempts, Beavan puts us right where the action is for a rare and often entertaining insight into what a very special time if you could run a long way very fast. I was compelled, informed, and entertained in equal measure.

By Ally Beavan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The emotional pain of failing just felt like it was going to be a bit worse than the physical pain of carrying on ... '

Attempting to break long-distance running records used to be an underground endeavour, until the virus-stricken summer of 2020 came along. Only a few, such as the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District, had ever broken into mainstream consciousness. But an absence of running races thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented rise in the popularity of attempts at breaking these records.

In Broken, Ally Beaven takes an entertaining look at just why…


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

Sam Murphy Author Of Run Your Best Marathon: Your trusted guide to training and racing better

From my list on challenge the status quo about how to run.

Who am I?

When I was a journalist, writing about health and fitness for women’s magazines and national newspapers, I had a strong sense that much of the advice being doled out by personal trainers and other ‘experts’ was dubious, to say the least. I decided to see for myself, embarking on an Exercise and Sport Science degree and training as a running coach. Two decades on, with a handful of running books and a 13-year-strong column in Runner’s World to my name, I still like to delve into the science underpinning physical activity to see if it really stands up, and if so, for who, and under what circumstances?  

Sam's book list on challenge the status quo about how to run

Sam Murphy Why did Sam love this book?

This must be one of the most widely read running books. For good reason – it’s a great read – exciting story, quirky characters – by an excellent journalist.

But at the heart of it lies one question: ‘Why does my foot hurt?’ McDougall’s quest to find out, his deep dive into the evidence underpinning many accepted aspects of the ‘science’ of running, is what influenced me as a runner, and as a coach.

Why do runners wear built-up shoes? Why do runners only move their bodies in one plane of motion and expect to have all-round fitness? Why do so many people lose the joy in running? Why don’t we eat salad for breakfast? If you read this book, and change nothing about your running, I’ll be surprised.

By Christopher McDougall,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Born to Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world's top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe's secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long.

With incredible energy and smart observation, McDougall tells this story while…


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

Nita Sweeney Author 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)

From my list 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.

Nita's book list on why people run when not being chased

Nita Sweeney Why did Nita love 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.

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…


Book cover of Janine and the Field Day Finish

Claire Annette Noland Author Of Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win

From my list on help children develop good sportsmanship.

Who am I?

As a children’s librarian, teacher, and parent, I know that children have big feelings. I write heart-filled books that speak to the issues that they deal with while navigating new experiences. I was inspired to write Evie’s Field Day because of the frustrations most children deal with when they lose. I hope that my book will encourage children to enjoy the process of playing sports and games with others and the rewards of being a friend and a good sport.

Claire's book list on help children develop good sportsmanship

Claire Annette Noland Why did Claire love this book?

Janine is good at lots of things like singing, spelling, and cheering.  But she’s not good at sports and is bullied and teased by her competitive classmate, Abbie. Janine runs the race and doesn’t mind being in last place. She’s just glad to participate.  When Abbie falls, Janine is the one who stops, helps her up, and together they cross the finish line.

Janine is the best kind of competitor – kind and encouraging as she urges everyone to do their best. Children with different abilities are included in all the activities making this book an inclusive celebration of sportsmanship.

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Janine and the Field Day Finish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Janine is back!

Today is field day and even though Janine is not good at sports, she is ready to compete. Her body just doesn't work like the other kids'. But no matter what, Janine cheers for everyone and tries her best. During the big race, her classmate Abby trips and falls. Janine is right there to help. But Abby is crushed that she won't win the race. Can Janine teach Abby and her classmates that being a winner is not always about being number one?


Book cover of The End of the World Running Club

Christopher Francis Author Of Screaming Ridge

From my list on middle-grade stories with paranormal activity.

Who am I?

Somehow, I’ve always been drawn to stories with elements of the paranormal. From children’s picture books, chapter books, middle-grade, to young adult, I feel compelled to include hints of a supernatural world mixed in with everyday life. I’ve always connected with stories with realistic content—content I can relate to—content that, in my mind, could really happen. However, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there, beyond what we can see, hear, feel, taste, and touch. This ‘wonderment’ excites me, and I want to find ways to share this curious buzz with my readers. 

Christopher's book list on middle-grade stories with paranormal activity

Christopher Francis Why did Christopher love this book?

Adrian J. Walker takes you on a scenic adventure across England as his characters struggle to survive a world-ending meteor strike. I love this story as it hits all the elements of a great story: love, struggle, adventure, survival, humor, horror, and drama!

Why would I recommend this book? Because you can’t help but wonder if you’d do the same thing as the protagonist. You can’t help but empathize with him. I mean, what would you do if a meteor was about to destroy everything? How would you save your family? What would you do to keep alive? What if you and your family got separated? Would you run across the country to find them?

By Adrian J. Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End of the World Running Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 International Bestseller!

A Science Fiction & Fantasy Book to Keep on Your Radar by io9 and Gizmodo

A fast-paced, literary, dystopian thriller for fans of fiction like Andy Weir's The Martian, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Asteroids are striking Earth, the end of the world is near, and Edgar Hill is on the wrong side of the country.

Over five hundred miles of devastated wastelands stretch between him and his family, and every second counts. His only option is to run—or risk losing everything he loves. He'll have to be ingenious and…