23 Best Running Books to Read this Year

best running books

Finding the best running books to read can be a gruelling process, especially since the market is saturated. It can be difficult to single out the best picks as there is such a mixture of both new and old books on running, and your preference may differ drastically to that of the next person. 

That’s why OriGym have created a well-rounded shortlist of the 23 best running books to read in 2020. From classics to those that were published during the previous calendar year, we have kept our readers in mind every step of the way so that everyone is able to find the right product for them. 

Here’s a quick insight into the research that we conducted: 

  • We searched through 1,957 books (Waterstones), 1,407 books (WHSmith), and 50,000+ books (Amazon) 
  • Only 23 books from this search made it onto our final list
  • There is one book that we consider the overall winner, since it consistently outranked competing books across each of the platforms (and had so many fantastic reviews!). We have listed this at the bottom of our article. 

Armed with this knowledge, we hope that you can read our list with confidence, knowing that a lot of thought has gone into the selection process! 

But first, if you’re interested in turning your passion for fitness into a role within the industry, you should know that OriGym provide a full range of PT qualifications, and you can find out more on these by downloading our course prospectus before you carry on reading. 

Also, feel free to download our FREE 16 Week Home Strength Training Programme before jumping in.

#1 - Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas

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To put it simply, this is hands down the best book for marathon runners. It’s without doubt one of the most detailed running books for men and women of any level looking to take their first steps towards running a marathon, and those who already compete but want to push themselves to a new level and achieve a personal best. Even if you’ve never run before or don’t even own a pair of running shoes, we strongly recommend that you check this book out.

It contains a staggering amount of information, but what’s really impressive is how easy it is to implement the book’s strategies. Short of hiring a personal trainer, this book is the closest you can get to having someone by your side every step of the way, managing your training and bringing you safely to a level where you can not only run a marathon, but push hard and compete.

The daily training schedules are unbelievably detailed, offering you either 12 or 18 week preparation periods covering weekly distances of 55-85 miles plus. Nutrition, hydration and recovery information come with each plan, and there’s advice on how to use new technology like GPS and online logs to track your progress. It easily one of the best books on running training, and also one of the most modern, having been re-released just last year with lots of new information.

This is one of the best running books if you’re looking for attention to detail. No stone is left unturned, and there’s even detailed information on strength, core and flexibility. Unless you want to go through the cost of hiring a personal trainer, we can’t think of a better way to prepare for a marathon than reading this book.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Human Kinetics (2019) 

Price: £21.99 (Waterstones), £17.59 (Amazon)

#2 - Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

fell running books

This is another book on the list based around a simple concept: Kenyan runners are usually incredibly successful in big races, including marathons and Olympic sprints, and Finn wants to find out why.

The premise is immediately compelling, not least because Finn immerses himself completely in the world of the Kenyans. His whole family moves to a small Kenyan town and surrounds themselves with hundreds of the country's best runners. From there, the project permeates every aspect of his life. He lives, eats, trains, and sleeps with the athletes.

Running with the Kenyans is incredibly detailed. It contains interviews with their trainers, insight into their nutritional programmes and the processes, both psychological and physical, which they undergo to perfect the art of running. It's packed from cover to cover with useful information and is without a doubt one of the best running training books.

It’s also highly evocative, especially as Finn’s aim is to join the runners on a marathon through lion country. Readers will get a real taste of Kenya, its people, its landscape and its culture. Everything has an epic feel, a quest which is both personal and professional. Finn is an incredibly engaging narrator, and the accounts of his runs are exhilarating to the point that you’ll feel like you’re running by his side.

It’s no surprise, then, that this book has picked up some prestigious awards. It was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, Finn won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards, and it was shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

This is one of the best books about running you’ll find, because Finn lives every moment of the experience. He throws himself so totally into the life of the Kenyan runners that the reader is immersed too, making this one of the all time great running books.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Faber & Faber (2013) 

Price: £9.99 (Waterstones), £8.19 (WHSmith), £7.72 (Amazon)

#3 - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is certainly the most unique addition to this list. Less about training, diet and preparation, and more about the actual experience of what it’s like to run, Murakami’s spellbinding work comes as close as anything can to letting you actually hear another person’s stream of consciousness as they run.

Anybody searching for good running books to read will love the writing style. Murakami is one of the most successful and acclaimed authors on the planet, and his style is mesmerising. From the first word we are pulled into his mind as he prepares for the 2005 New York Marathon.

Part travelogue and part training diary, the book traverses a number of settings from Tokyo to New York, but the emphasis always remains on the philosophical side of running. It’s light-hearted, comical and even a little tragic as Murakami muses on the nature of life and ageing. We also get some insights into why he started running, and the positive effects it's had on his life and writing - surely an inspiration for anyone thinking of taking up the hobby.

Murakami’s love of running really comes across, and his prose is never less than mesmerising. Not only is this one of the best books on running, but it’s a magical read in its own right, and is an easy recommend even to someone with no interest in running. 

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Vintage (2009) 

Price: £8.99 (Waterstones), £7.37 (WHSmith), £6.89 (Amazon)

#4 - Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Diigs Keeling

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This is a book all about overcoming adversity. It comes from perhaps the most inspiring person on the list. Ida Keeling is a 104 year old runner who holds world records for the fastest 60 meter dash in the 95-99 age bracket, and the 100 meter distance in the 100+ age bracket. She only took up running at the age of 67!

Her life story alone is enough to inspire a novel. She’s lived through the Great Depression and the Civil Rights movement, but her life has been interspersed with tragedy. Both her sons were murdered, and it seemed as though she wouldn’t be able to go on. Instead, she began to run, found a new purpose and strength, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

As you might imagine, this is one of the most inspirational running books available, and it explores the power of running to give a person hope and purpose in their life, regardless of tragedy. It’s truly inspiring to read about the struggles Ida overcame, and how she went about finding inner strength, which in turn led to peace.

This book differs from other books on running because it also doubles as a fascinating memoir. Ida has experienced so much history at first hand, and we particularly enjoyed reading her accounts of the Civil Rights Movement.

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down often finds itself on the running books best sellers list, a testament to how many people have been inspired by Ida's propensity to overcome adversity. As Ida herself says, she’s running from old age!

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: Zondervan (2018) 

Price: £16.99 (Waterstones), £16.99 (Amazon)

#5 - Lore of Running by Tim Noakes

best running books for beginners

Lore of Running is certainly the most technical running book on this list, and it's also one of the best books on running training available. Tim Noakes is a physician and research scientists with a passion for running, and his wildly popular book serves as an encyclopaedia for any runners who want to understand the physical nuances behind a successful athlete.

Whatever level you’re at, and whatever aspect of running you’re interested in developing, this book covers it. Topics include but aren’t limited to:

  • Physiology 
  • Training
  • Racing
  • Injury identification and prevention
  • The bodies response to training
  • Genetic vs trainable potential 

If you’re looking for running nutrition books, that’s covered too, along with a series of detailed programmes from Noakes and other leading experts from around the world. There’s an analysis of supplements, and a discussion of how to control your weight and increase your flexibility.

On top of all that, the book also features 10 in depth interviews with top level runners, who offer their own tips and advice, making this by far the most detailed of all the running training books you can lay hands on. 

Every runner will benefit from reading Lore of Running, and the programmes on offer will help you train for anything from a 10k race to a fully fledged ultra marathon. If the training methods and principles behind a successful runner can sometimes seem obscure or confusing, Noakes lifts the lid completely. By the time you finish this book, you’ll feel like an expert. 

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: Human Kinetics (2002) 

Price: £19.99 (Waterstones), £19.99 (Amazon)

#6 - Running With The Buffaloes by Chris Lear

books on running for beginners

Running With The Buffaloes is perennially popular, and never far away  from the running books best sellers list. It’s simple premise, Lear follows the University of Colorado cross-country team through a season, hides a book of incredible depth, emotion and power. The group undergoes struggle on an unprecedented level, as they’re beset by injuries, setbacks and even the death of a team mate. 

How they meet this level of adversity forms the crux of the book. It’s one of the most inspirational running books we’ve ever read, and is as much about life lessons as it is about actual running. The season begins with tremendous promise for the team, and they seem on the brink of achieving their dreams, only for disaster to strike.

We found the insights into the minds and routines of top class athletes to be fascinating, especially since the team contained Olympic hopeful Adam Goucher. Mark Wetmore is a world renowned coach, and any runner will benefit from reading about his training programmes and philosophy. Roughly half the book equates to an especially detailed training log, which is brilliant if you’re trying to shakeup your own programme.

That isn’t what makes this book so special, though. The more you read, the deeper you are dragged into the story and the more you come to identify with the team, their hopes, fears and ambitions. What they eventually achieve, despite the mountains of obstacles put in their path, can serve as an inspiration to us all. If you’re after good running books to read that teach life lessons, you can’t go wrong here.

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: The Lyons Press (2011) 

Price: £9.95 (Waterstones), £11.11 (Amazon)

#7 - Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

inspirational running books

Shalane Flanagan is a big name in the world of running. She’s been a top level athlete for over 14 years, and has achieved some amazing feats. She ran the fastest time ever at the 2014 Boston Marathon, won the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon and finished second in the 2010 New York Marathon. She’s also a four-time Olympian, holds a silver medal, and runs over 100 miles every single week.

For this book she teamed up with chef, nutrition coach and New York Times best selling author Elye Kopecky to put together one of the best running training books for people who aren’t sure how to structure their diet around their training. The book contains recipes that are loaded with nutrition, but also tasty and fun to make. 

There are recipes for everything, from pre-run snacks to recovery meals and lunches for when you’re on the move. We really appreciated the simplicity of these recipes, and most can be ready in under 30 minutes. The book goes to great lengths to prove that you can still enjoy tasty food while watching your fitness, and many of the recipes are healthy twists on classics. Expect homemade pizza, nutrition stuffed Bolognese and even super muffins. 

This is certainly one of the best running books for beginners who might be unsure about diet and nutrition, and it also joins the list of great running books geared towards lifestyle changes. It shows that healthy food doesn’t have to be dull, and that you don’t have to compromise gastronomic delights to be a successful runner.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Rodale Press (2018) 

Price: £18.99 (Waterstones), £15.19 (WHSmith), £14.26 (Amazon)

#8 - Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women's Sports by Katherine Switzer

good books about running

Equal parts running book, social commentary and account of one woman’s struggle to breakthrough in a male-dominated sport, Marathon Woman is bound to leave you feeling inspired. When Katherine Switzer ran the 1967 Boston marathon, she was attacked by one of the race directors, who wanted to remove her from what was then an all-male event. 

Instead of backing down she completed the race, and in doing so instantly cemented her position as one of the most influential women ever to grace the race track. If you’re searching for inspirational running books, you can’t do much better than Marathon Woman, and you’re bound to come away feeling awestruck by Katherine’s determination to shake up the world of running, which at the time didn’t allow women to run 26.2 miles.

Despite its seemingly heavy subject matter, the book is laugh out loud funny, and full of humorous anecdotes about the racing world. Katherine went on to win the New York marathon in 1974, having already changed running forever, and the insights into her training programme, mindset and motivations are especially interesting.

It also offers rare behind the curtain glimpses of how big races are organised, comes with some fantastic full-page photographs, and offers a lot of life lessons in how to face, and subsequently overcome, any obstacle put in your way. It’s available on Audible, and it’s one of the best running audio books to plug into and listen along with as you run.

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: Da Capo Press (2017) 

Price: £13.99 (Waterstones), £13.16 (Amazon)

#9 - Epic Runs of the World by Lonely Planet

top running books

Epic Runs of the World is a little different to the other running books on the list. Rather than helping you with the running itself, this Lonely Planet travel guide is all about identifying the best, most beautiful and most exciting running routes in the world. 

The book lists 200 runs in total, 50 of the absolute greatest routes on earth, and then a further 150 for runners of all levels. What we really liked about this book is its inclusivity. There really is a run here for everybody. Some are very short, city runs, but there are also long marathons and even more punishing ultra runs for seasoned veterans. 

You’ll find runs in every corner of the world, from ultra marathons in South Africa to The Kepler Track in New Zealand and Havana’s El Malecon. Even the most experienced runner is sure to find something new here, and it’s a brilliant way to get inspired and combine your running with some travel.

Every run comes with a map, photographs and all the required information to get you started, including travel and accommodation advice. If you enjoy a particular run, you’ll also find a list of similar recommendations. 

There really is no comparable running route guide of this depth available anywhere else, and Lonely Planet has done a fantastic job of gathering the best routes while ensuring that there’s something suitable for everyone, regardless of their level. If you’re looking for good books about running in exotic locations, then this is definitely for you. It gave us a serious case of wanderlust, and we’re sure it will make you want to grab your passport and running shoes!

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Lonely Planet (2019) 

Price: £24.99 (Waterstones), £19.99 (WHSmith), £17.99 (Amazon)

#10 - Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels

good books about running

Runners World Magazine voted this the greatest of all running training books, and with the frankly staggering amount of detail on offer, it’s not difficult to see why. Jack Daniels is a legendary name in the world of running, and his VDOT formula is world-renowned. The book gives you unprecedented access to this formula, which balances your training to increase strength, endurance and speed.

The level of customisation on offer here is incredible. The book contains so many programmes that you’ll be spoiled for choice, with help for: 

  • Cross country races
  • 800 meters
  • 1500 meters to 2 miles
  • 5k to 10k
  • 15k to 30k
  • Marathons

Better still, the third edition has been updated with even more content, so you’ll also find chapters on altitude training, seasonal training and treadmill training. You’ll even get help on injury prevention, and information on lay off times. The book claims to be the most comprehensive running guide to date, and with this number of customisable programmes, we find it difficult to argue.

Everything is kept as accessible as possible, and Daniels never forgets about the basic principles of running: speed and endurance. His methods are applicable to runners of any level, whatever their aim. Jack Daniels might be the most influential running coach of all time, and we felt privileged to get an insight into his methods

If you’re looking for good running books to read with a lot of customisation and detail, you can’t go far wrong with this offering from perhaps the greatest running coach of all time.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Human Kinetics (2013) 

Price: £18.99 (Waterstones), £17.09 (WHSmith), £14.99 (Amazon)

#11 - Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll

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Rich Roll is living proof that it's never too late to take up running. Approaching his 40th birthday he suffered what we might call a midlife crisis, and in response he altered his diet, took up running and began to train. 

The journey culminated with him taking his place on the starting line for the Ultraman World Championship competition, a torturous 320 mile race involving swimming, biking and running. From there he went on to face an even greater challenge: the punishing Epic5, which consists of five ironman distance triathlons.

In essence, the book charts this journey from overweight middle-aged man to one of the fittest humans on the planet. It distinguishes itself from other running books because, before turning 40, Rich had no interest in the sport. If he, in a matter of months, can turn his life around and compete in such an arduous event, anybody can.

The book contains all the training and nutritional advice that you might expect, as well as instructional content on how to stay motivated during tougher moments. What really stands out, though, is the story of resilience and commitment. Rich was determined to change his life, and he never gave up, despite the numerous obstacles that were put in his way. It’s inspiring, and proves that anybody can achieve anything if they set their mind to it.

This also happens to be one of the best running audiobooks available, and we heartily recommend listening to it as your strap on your running shoes.

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: Three Rivers Press (2013) 

Price: £13.99 (Waterstones), £9.85 (Amazon)

#12 - Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession by Richard Askwith

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You might not have heard much about fell running, and it certainly isn’t as famous as its more popular counterparts like marathons or track events. The concept is simple but punishing. Rather than each other, runners take on nature, running over mountains, across difficult terrain and contending with often tempestuous weather conditions. It’s not for the faint hearted, but the man vs nature element of fell running is seen by many as the ultimate challenge.

This book represents a rare and detailed look into the world of the fell runner. It features interviews with some of the greatest runners of all time, including Joss Naylor who ran all 214 Lakeland fells in a week, and Billy Bland, whose records remain unbeaten even today.

The insights into how these runners think and what motivates them will be helpful for any runner, and there are lessons to be learned about endurance and mental strength. Askwith leaps in at the deep end, and embarks on a quest to run as many fell races as humanly possible. The result is an evocative exploration and ode not only to running, but the splendour of the natural world.

There aren’t a great many fell running books on the market, but if you want to learn more about this most esoteric of running disciplines, Feet in the Clouds is certainly the best place to start. It’s one of the top running books, and often finds its way onto best seller lists.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Aurum Press (2013) 

Price: £8.99 (Waterstones), £8.19 (WHSmith), £8.19 (Amazon)

#13 - Strong: A Runner's Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher

best books on running

Kara Goucher is a two time Olympic runner, so it might come as a surprise to learn that she was plagued by self-doubt and often struggled with the self-belief required of a professional athlete. How she overcame those feelings, and what it takes to become mentally tough, form the crux of this book. 

This isn’t a guide to physical training or nutrition plans, rather it focusses solely on the psychological side of running, and what it takes to push yourself to your limits and then beyond. Kara maintains throughout that running is essentially a mental journey, and all the physical conditioning in the world won’t help if you aren’t in the right headspace.

With all of this in mind, you get access to her confidence journal, and get advice from two of the top sports psychologists in the world, including Kara’s own coach. The book teaches a number of techniques for boosting mental strength:

  • Positive self talk
  • Mantra
  • Goal setting
  • Visualisation techniques 
  • Power poses
  • Enclothed cognition

There are also 25 confidence prompts to get you started, and this is absolutely one of the best books on running for anyone who is struggling with their belief or feels daunted by the challenges ahead of them. Interviews and insights from a variety of successful female runners are also immensely useful, and the book represents a step by step guide to build self-confidence.

This is one of the more inspirational running books, and its lessons in focus, resolve and mental strength are applicable off the track as well as on it.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Random House Inc. (2018) 

Price: £18.99 (Waterstones), £15.19 (WHSmith), £12.37 (Amazon)

#14 - The Run-Walk-Run Method by Jeff Galloway 

fell running books

A marathon can sometimes seem like the most daunting prospect in the world. There’s the intense training programme, the drills, the diet, and that’s before the marathon itself. Fortunately, Jeff Galloway has formulated a complete training programme that anybody in the world can follow, and in doing so he’s written one the best running books for beginners ever produced.

Jeff is motivated by making running accessible to everyone, and this all-inclusive, down to earth attitude permeates every page of his book. His method has changed the lives of so many people, and he boasts a success rate of over 98%, making this one of the best running training books currently available. 

The Run-Walk-Method is a low mileage, injury free training programme that structures your training over three day increments. Jeff gives you an array of drills, techniques and his special Magic Mile method. He also helps you set up a long term running strategy that builds proper form and helps you work towards a full marathon.

The exercises are designed to build mental as well as physical strength, and will help you develop the toughness required of a marathon runner. It’s entirely possible for someone who has never run before to pick up this book, follow its methods and work their way up to running a full marathon. 

We can’t think of another running book that offers such a detailed training programme, and since this is all low impact you’re never in danger of injury. If you’re a total novice looking for books on running for beginners, look no further than Run-Walk-Run.

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: Meyer & Meyer (2016) 

Price: £12.95 (Waterstones), £7.38 (Amazon)

#15 - Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe by Becky Wade

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If you’re curious about running culture around the world, and interested in how different countries approach training, then this book is for you. It encompasses a huge, globe trotting adventure across 9 countries, 72 host families and a staggering 3,500 running miles, all with the aim of finding out the secrets of success from runners around the world.

Becky Wade is an engaging narrator, and she guides us through her adventure with knowledge and expertise. She already had an impressive running career to her name when she set out across the world, and her knowledge really comes across as she collects and analyses the various training methods of the places she visits. 

This is one of the most diverse books about running that you’ll find, and anyone with even a passing interest in athletics training will find plenty to interest them. Becky gains enormous insight from everyone she encounters, learning about recovery in Japan, endurance in Switzerland the free running in Kenya.

When she returned home she incorporated everything she learned into her own training programme and saw incredible results, becoming the third fastest female marathon runner in history. Running books usually specialise in a few training methods, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see a runner try and broaden their horizons through travel.

There’s something for everybody in this book, and we think that any runner will benefit from a deeper understanding of how other countries train. Best of all, Becky really stresses the global community which has formed around running, and you’re bound to feel more connected with your fellow athletes by the end of the book. 

Available at: Waterstones, Amazon 

Published: William Morrow Paperbacks (2016) 

Price: £10.99 (Waterstones), £8.95 (Amazon)

#16 - Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie

books on running

While many books about running focus on the training and physical demands, Bella Mackie takes a deeper look at how running benefited her mental health, and how it can help anybody deal with anxiety and depression. This is a really uplifting book that quickly became a Sunday Times best seller, and with good reason: it’s one of the most inspirational running books ever written.

When she first strapped on her running shoes, Bella was struggling with a divorce and mental health issues. Bit by bit, and by setting herself achievable goals, she began to feel better, and now credits running with saving her from an incredibly dark place.

There’s a lot to love about this book. Despite its somewhat dark subject matter, Bella approaches the issue of mental health with compassion and a brilliant sense of humour. She brings in an array of doctors and psychologists who explain the many psychological benefits of exercise.

We especially enjoyed Bella’s down to earth approach to running. Unlike some of the other authors on this list, she isn’t an ultra runner of seasoned marathon professional. She began by setting herself small goals like walking to work, managing 10 press ups in a row or running 5k in under 30 minutes.

If you’re searching for good running books to read as an absolute beginner, then this is a fantastic place to start. The focus on mental health is truly uplifting, and it’s great to hear about the many benefits running can bring. The step by step, incremental approach will suit anybody.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: William Collins (2018) 

Price: £7.49 (Waterstones), £7.37 (WHSmith), £6.95 (Amazon)

#17 - How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald

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Matt Fitzgerald acknowledges a very simple fact. Running hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot, and therefore one of your biggest challenges won’t be a physical one. There will come a point when you feel as though you’ve hit your limit. How you push beyond that point will define you as a runner, and determine the level of success you’ll be able to achieve. 

And that’s what this book is all about. It’s one of the best books on running with mental fortitude, and it draws together knowledge from other disciplines including triathlon, cycling and rowing to establish what really gives an athlete the power to push through barriers. 

It does this through a mixture of case studies and cutting edge science. Examples of amazing feats of endurance are inspiring, but what’s really interesting is the science behind them. Fitzgerald combines everything into what he calls a “psychobiological” model that connects mind, body and brain.

It might not be one of the best books on running for beginners, but if you’ve been running for a while and want to push yourself to the next level, then this is certainly worth a look. We enjoyed the focus on how to prepare, and programme your mind to keep going even before the race.

The emphasis on how to push yourself beyond what you might consider your “biological limit” is intriguing, and suggests that anyone is capable of amazing feats. That's a bold claim, and one that can motivate us all.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Aurum Press (2016) 

Price: £14.99 (Waterstones), £11.99 (WHSmith), £11.39 (Amazon)

#18 - 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career by Meb Keflezighi

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Meb Keflezighi was the first person in history to win the New York City and Boston marathons as well as an Olympic Gold medal. He’s also a New York Times Bestseller, so it’s safe to say that you're getting some expert running and life advice from this book.

Meb takes readers on a journey through his 26 marathons, but this book is so much more than that. It's a mixture of inspiration and practical advice for runners of all levels, and it's one of the best running books for beginners. You’ll learn how to integrate Meb’s training into your own life, which is perfect for anybody looking to get into running or improve their performance.

This has to be one of the most inspirational running books you’ll ever read, as Meb charts both the ups and downs of being a marathon runner. He provides some much needed inspiration for anybody struggling with their training, and fully acknowledges that it isn’t always easy, but also shows us that the rewards are worth the effort.

The lessons here extend well beyond the world of running, and are just as useful in every day life as they are on the track. We loved the way Meb met adversity, always head on and always with the determination to push through. The lesson is simple: marathons, much like life, present a series of challenges, and overcoming those challenges makes you a better person. 

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Rodale Press (2019) 

Price: £12.99 (Waterstones), £15.19 (WHSmith), £12.99 (Amazon)

#19 - Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

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If you’re looking for great books on running for beginners, then you can’t go wrong with Running Like a Girl. It charts Heminsley’s journey from the absolute beginning, with her high hopes and ultimately disastrous first race. It’s an experience must runners will be able to identify with, but of course the story has a happy ending. She has now run five marathons on two continents, and all because she was bored with her usual exercise routine of going to the gym and doing yoga.

Heminsley never stops reminding the reader than anyone can be a runner, regardless of how difficult they find it to begin with. While some running books can feel daunting, Heminsley’s observations are comical and down to earth (she even talks about her dread of intimidating staff in sports shops!). 

The book is roughly divided into two parts. The first comprises Hieminsley’s own experiences, which are always inspirational. She isn’t a distant professional runner or trainer, she feels like one of us, so her journey feels achievable. The second half is full of brilliant practical advice for anyone who wants to embark on that journey, with wisdom on equipment, exercise programmes, devising a schedule and finding the motivation to keep pushing.

Heminsley acknowledges that running is always partly psychological. Runners must be able to push through their limits and their pain barriers, something which is especially true for those just starting out on their journey. Her experiences offer practical advice on how to do this, and it’s incredibly refreshing to hear that someone so successful went through all the same struggles and problems as everybody else.

Few other running books for beginners are as honest or as funny as this, and it’s sure to give you the kickstart you need.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Windmill Books (2014) 

Price: £8.99 (Waterstones), £7.37 (WHSmith), £6.89 (Amazon)

#20 - Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

great running books

As the title suggests, this is a book all about pushing your limits and seeing how far you can go. Less about physical training and more about the mental side of pushing through barriers, Endure differs from the other running books on this list by moving beyond sport. It looks at adventurers and other peak performers in a wide ranging study about how to push beyond your limits.

Alex Hutchinson is an elite distance runner, and this book is very scientifically minded. It primarily looks at how the brain responds when we appear to be reaching our “limit,” and what can be done to move through the barrier. He uses techniques including brain mapping and computer imaging to understand how we can train ourselves to push harder.

Many books about running focus purely on physical training and nutrition plans, so Endure immediately stands out as something different. While the heavily scientific approach might seem alienating to some, and this certainly isn’t the book you might reach for in search of inspiration for a rainy Sunday morning run, it does draw some encouraging conclusions. 

Hutchinson's research establishes a framework by which anybody, regardless of their level of fitness or age, can boost their performance through psychological rather than physical adjustments. The book aims to help everybody get the absolute best from their bodies and redefine their limits, making it one of the best running books for beginners, especially those who might be struggling.

We love the universal concept of this book: peak performance isn’t a special gift that some are born with and others aren’t, it’s something we can all learn.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: HarperCollins (2019) 

Price: £9.99 (Waterstones), £8.19 (WHSmith), £8.05 (Amazon)

#21 - Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

running books on running training

Ultramarathons are notoriously punishing. Much longer than a traditional marathon, participants often go for long periods of time without sleep or rest, and the races usually take place in some of the more inhospitable parts of the world. They’re certainly not for the fainthearted, and represent the absolute pinnacle of long distance running.

Dean Karnazes holds the achievement of having run 262 miles - that’s equal to ten marathons - without rest. Staggering as it might seem, he’s also run across Death Valley and to the South Pole, and in this book he shares his tips on getting in shape, staying fit, and the nutrition he requires to achieve these feats.

Of course, running that distance equates to an emotional and mental challenge just as much as it does physical, and this book examines the concept of mental strength. What do you do when you reach your limit, and how do you keep going? Dean answers this question as well as many more, and he does so with a touch of humour that we found genuinely endearing. 

The sheer distances involved make this one of the more specialized books on running currently available, but the life lessons of perseverance, mental strength and resolve really stand out. This is one of the most inspirational running books around, and will certainly push anyone to test their limits and discover that they can achieve much more than they thought possible. The lessons on offer here transcend running.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Allen & Unwin (2017) 

Price: £9.99 (Waterstones), £8.19 (WHSmith), £7.72 (Amazon)

#22 - The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater

books about running image

In this book, Julian Goater seeks to answer a singe question: how can runners run faster? It seems simple, but by examining this conundrum, and looking at training programmes, nutrition and psychology, he has produced one of the best running training books, and also one of the best books on running for beginners.

As you might imagine, the emphasis is on achieving a new personal best, and the various adjustments you need to make to accomplish this. The book features a mix of personal experience from Julian, himself a top level athlete, examples from other famous runners, and laser focussed practical advice. 

The training tips that Julian offers are incredibly focussed, from running on the front foot to tips on increasing your recovery time. Everything is geared towards making your running more efficient, and there's a general focus on strength, endurance and, of course, speed. It’s one of the best training guides you’ll find, and we love how specific the advice is. 

Anybody of any level will be able to apply Julian’s tips and reap the benefits. The writing style is completely down to earth. While some books can make running seem daunting, everything here is explained in a straightforward manner. The tips are perfect if you’ve been running for a long time and want to increase your times, but this is also one of the best running books for beginners.

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Human Kinetics (2012) 

Price: £14.99 (Waterstones), £13.79 (WHSmith), £11.19 (Amazon)

#23 - Born to Run by Christoper McDougall

top running books

Not only is Born to Run one of the best running books ever written, but it’s probably the most influential. It inspired sweeping changes in the running shoe industry, as companies rushed to design simpler, more minimalistic shoes in response to the book. We can’t emphasise how much this book changed running, and why it will always have a place in the pantheon of the all time greatest books about running.

At its heart, Born to Run seeks to answer a very simple question: what makes a great runner? The search for this answer feels like a quest in itself, and centres upon a tribe of Mexican Indians who are said to be the best runners in the world. Crucially, and one of the main reasons for this book's longevity, is the way they run: either barefoot or in very simple sandals.

Armed with this knowledge McDougal meets an array of runners and sports professionals from around the world, many of whom have accomplished incredible feats. His journey takes in the more scientific side of running too, and he visits a number of sports laboratories, not least one owned by Nike.

His conclusions about modern day running shoes being the cause of injuries led to massive change within the industry, and a shift in mindset for many runners. The emphasis on a minimalistic approach to running is hugely refreshing, as is the suggestion that you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on high tech running shoes to be successful. If you are on the lookout for running products on a budget, check out OriGym’s list of the best cross-country running shoes. 

Christopher McDougall is an ultra runner, and his words are inspiring. This book covers so much ground, from tribal runners to sporting labs, that it’s impossible not to recommend. Anybody with even a passing interest in running will find something to love here, and there’s no doubt this is one of the top running books ever written. It even has 5,211 ratings on Amazon (of which 94% are positive), and has reached #1 Best Seller status. 

Available at: Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon 

Published: Profile Books (2010) 

Price: £9.99 (Waterstones), £6.99 (WHSmith), £6.99 (Amazon)


We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading our list of the best running books on the market, and that you’ve managed to discover a number of new reads to add to your to be read list. After all, there really is something for everyone here, and each book has performed well on both online and offline marketplaces! 

Ever considered becoming a PT or a qualified Nutrition Coach? If so, you should take a look at our Level 4 Course in Advanced Sports Nutrition, or download our course prospectus here to find out more about our large range of fitness qualifications. 

Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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