As we know, running can be such a fitting metaphor for life, which can be reflected in literature. And whether it’s fiction, non-fiction or biography, running can take many forms in a book: the central theme, the protagonist, antagonist or diversion.
With summer and traveling seasons upon us, running is an ideal subject of books during your (hopeful) downtime. So, here are five books (in no particular order) about running to consider adding to your summer reading list.
Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
I put this at the top of my list. McDougall weaves multiple stories with an expansive backdrop (Mexico’s isolated Copper Canyons) into this instant classic. It could also be argued that Born to Run single-handedly paved the way for the minimalist running movement. This real-life tale is thoroughly researched, amazingly well written, and I’d recommend it for anyone who’s a runner, wants to become a runner, or knows a runner.
McDougall’s follow-up to Born to Run (titled Natural Born Heroes) was published last month.
Daniels’ Running Formula, Jack Daniels
This might not necessarily fit snug into everyone’s idea of “summer reading”, mostly because it’s not a mindless read. To the contrary, its depth is fascinating—and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Daniels conveys cutting-edge science in a way that’s accessible, readable and understandable. If you’re looking for a training program to get you to the next level (and the how and why behind it), this is the book for you. PRs all around the world were achieved as a result of Jack Daniels and his book, now in its third edition.
Racing the Sunset, Scott Tinley
Tinley was triathlon’s first international superstar, helping catapult the sport from a way for athletes to spend a weekend into a way for athletes to make a (very good) living. But, as Tinley aged, he wasn’t able to keep up with the new younger guns on the triathlon circuit. And, like most professional athletes, Tinley (a two-time winner and four-time runner-up of the Ironman World Championship) was forced to meet Father Time head-on, and find ways to deal with the transition. Racing the Sunset didn’t blow my socks off. Tinley is a good enough writer, but the book lacked a certain oomph and left me wanting more.
Duel in the Sun, John Brant
This book’s subtitle (The Story of Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and America’s Greatest Marathon) is just half of what this book is really about. The other half is the stunning contrast between these two competitors. Leading up to the race, Salazar and Beardsley couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds. And the directions they and their lives both took post-race were also incredibly dissimilar. But for fewer than two-and-a-half hours on a historically hot day in 1982 along the world’s most iconic marathon course, they shared an experience that’s widely regarded as one of our sport’s most memorable.
Once a Runner, John L. Parker, Jr.
For anyone who’s ever run to escape for just a moment (or longer), this notable book should resonate. Running is certainly secondary in the first part of the book, and Parker’s prose buoys the story along until we get to the nitty gritty. And if you’ve ever been a track rat (as yours truly was) and loved your interval training, the chapter where the protagonist does 400-meter repeats is certainly one for the ages.
Parker’s newest book, Racing the Rain, comes out July 14.
And there you have it kids, five books I recommend hauling around (or downloading) for your summer travels. And of course, there are many, many more worthy books on running that I didn’t mention, so I’d like to know: What’s your go-to running book?