The Runner’s Library – 17 Running and Training Book Gift Ideas

by Jason Fitzgerald

As other running nerds can attest, the feeling of opening a new running book is only surpassed by running a PR or lacing up a new pair of racing flats.

For me, the best stocking stuffer is a running book I don’t own. It’s one of the few books that I will always refer to when I have a question or want to read a particularly inspiring chapter.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of every running book out there.  But it is a pretty damn good list if I do say so. I don’t usually buy every running book out there, only the good ones.

Technical Running Books

Explosive Running by Michael Yessis. This book was my first introduction to dynamic warm-ups, body weight exercises, and barefoot running. Chock full of photos of each exercise, this book is a how-to of improving your running form and using science to get faster. Buy this book if you are a more serious runner and want detailed examples of strength exercises, drills, and running form photos.

Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels. This book is for the running nerds out there. If you’re interested in determining your VO2 Max or lactate threshold and want to design a training program based on science – buy this book. It’s been one of the best training resources I’ve had for the last 7 years. If you are a beginner, I’d first read Run Faster by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald.

Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Resultsby Matt Fitzgerald. I haven’t read this book yet; it’s a very thick book so I’m sure it will be plenty dense. It looks at running from a mental perspective and offers strategies to get faster based on new research into the brain. I’ll talk about it more in depth once I finish it, but check it out.

The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer, and Faster (Runners World)by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas. This book is sure to provide the science, biology, and anatomy behind running performance. Another book that’s on my nightstand, I can’t wait to read it. I normally stay away from general Runner’s World books but this looks to be an exception.

Training Guides & Complete How-To’s

Run Faster by Brad Hudson & Matt Fitzgerald. My favorite training book of all-time, Run Faster outlines Brad Hudson’s complete training system that he used with Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein. There are plans for the 5k-Marathon and a great opportunity to see into the mind of an elite coach. Perfect for everyone – a great book to understand why certain training works.

Runner’s World Complete Book of Running – Edited by Amby Burfoot. This book was published in 1997 so it offers a more old school look at training. There are 37 chapters that dive into injury prevention, circuit workouts, marathon training, and nutrition. I recommend this for a new runner who also has the ability to spot old ideas. In other words, take certain chapters with a grain of salt. Also, if you are a nerd and like collecting running books, this one is a classic.

Competitive Triathlon in 10 Hours a Week by Patrick McCrann. This is the only digital book on this list and I included it because it’s a valuable resource to help runners get more from their running. This training guide will help you plan your perfect season, increase your endurance, and build full body athleticism to reduce your chance of injuries.

[Also Daniels' Running Formula]

Inspiration and Tales of Incredible Performances

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. If you’re a runner and you haven’t read this book, you are living under a rock. This book combines an inspiring story with cutting-edge science and a how-to manual of injury-proofing your body and running further than you ever have.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. If you enjoy the history of track & field, this book is a great account of the events leading up to the first sub-four minute mile. It chronicles the running careers of Roger Bannister, Wes Santee, and John Landy as they attempted what was previously considered impossible: a 3:59 mile.

The Four-Minute Mile by Sir Roger Bannister. Similar to The Perfect Mile, this book is about the first sub-4 mile attempt. Since it’s written by Bannister, you learn a great deal about his life and training. This book is a classic and is sure to inspire you to attempt “impossible” goals.

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes. One of the latest books I read, it chronicles Karnazes’ most epic ultarendurance races from his marathon to the South Pole, his first Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, and his first attempt at running 200 miles. It’s very motivating and can be funny at times. If you’re a serious runner, you may roll your eyes at how Karnazes portrays the sport, but if you can get over that it’s an interesting read.

The Running Life by Donald Buraglio and Michael Dove. Donald Buraglio is the writer at Running & Rambling and this book is on my “to-read” list. It’s a collection of articles that range from instructional articles on training, public health issues, human interest stories, light-hearted observations (humor!), and occasional nonsense (more humor!). There are plenty of training books out there, but this book provides the human element that seems to be missing from many others.

Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich. This book is fascinating and so hard to describe. The author describes how he started to run as a child (part biography) with his perspectives on human evolution, ultraendurance, and man’s primal drive to win. I’ve reread this book three times and highly recommend it for everyone.

Running History & Elites

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder by Kenny Moore. This is another book for the running history enthusiast. Bill Bowerman was the legendary University of Oregon head track coach, cofounder of Nike, and inventor of the modern running shoe. Learn how Nike was started and about the career of American icon Steve Prefontaine.

Run with the Champions: Training Programs and Secrets of America’s 50 Greatest Runners by Marc Bloom. From Steve Prefontaine who captured a nation to Gerry Lindgren who ran more than 200 miles a week, the training secrets of America’s top runners are profiled here. Read about Alberto Salazar’s 40 mile long runs and Jim Ryun’s 40×440 yard workout. This book is a must-have for anybody interested in the training of elite athletes (and for motivation).

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men’s Cross-Country Team by Chris Lear. If you know somebody on a college cross country team, this book is for you (or them). Running with the Buffaloes showed me what hard training looks like and the value of being on a team. It’s so well written that it reads like a fiction novel.

The Last Pick: The Boston Marathon Race Director’s Road to Success by David J. McGillivray. This book was a recent gift and not one that I’ve read yet. I think it will be an interesting read for people with an interest in how marathons work. The book has a clear message of hope, commitment, and ambitious drive – it should be quite inspirational.

These running books are only the ones that I own myself. Which ones do you have that should be on the list? Let me know in the comments and I may do another giveaway!

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