Running Books by the Dozen

Here is a list of 13 of my favourite books about running. Many of them I have blogged about in the past, but quite a few are ones that I haven’t read for ages. If I have blogged about it then I will add a link to my review, rather than repeat what I said last time. This is by no means an extensive list, or even a ‘best of’. Fiction and non-fiction, serious and humorous, it is just 13 books about running that I have particularly enjoyed. I think that they are all worth reading.

So, without further ado, in alphabetical order, I give you an odd selection of running books.

Running up that Hill by Vassos Alexander

A book mainly about ultra-running written by the sports guy from Chris Evans’ Breakfast Radio Show.

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I found this book to be particularly helpful and inspirational as I was about to have a go at my very first point to point ultra marathon. Vassos isn’t the most organised person, although Nicholas Turner (reviewed later) is far worse. I would like to think that I have learned from the mistakes I made many years ago. Much of the book covers the epic Spartathon run across Greece, but there are a whole load more interesting races which are more attainable to us mere mortals. Vassos has a great way with words and is genuinely very funny. Read a full review here.

The Long Walk by Richard Bachman

Technically this book isn’t about running, as the title suggests it’s all about a walk, and a very long walk it is. The premise is that every year 100 boys between 15 and 17 years old walk until they can walk no more. If you drop below a certain pace three times in one hour, you are shot and killed. The ultimate last man standing competition. Each chapter has a quote from a different TV quiz show presenter, and some of them are quite dark. In fact the whole book is quite dark. A dystopian future if ever there was one. Richard Bachman is a pseudonym used by Stephen King many years ago and he admitted that the books he wrote as Mr Bachman were an attempt to write ‘seriously’. Another of his Bachman books is The Running Man, which was made into a film staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. As expected the film bares no relation to the book, apart from the name. It also doesn’t have any running in it. The Long Walk also doesn’t have any running in it, but if you’ve ever completed an ultra marathon, you probably walked on more than a few occasions, everyone does, which is why I have included it.

Hell’s Event by Clive Barker

I’ve been a fan of the multi-talented Clive Barker for many years. He paints, writes screenplays, directs films, and of course writes books; wonderful inventive books covering all genres, although mainly quite dark. This short story is from The Books of Blood collection, and is definitely in the horror genre. Every 100 years a running race is held through London, with one entrant representing Hell. If he wins then Hell wins everything for the next century. It is full of historical imagery, including Lot’s wife and Dante’s Gates to Hell. The book only takes an hour to read, at the most, but it is a dark gem. There is a pandemic sweeping the world and Trump is president. Did Hell win the last race?

No Map in Hell by Steve Birkinshaw

A different kind of hell this time, a self inflicted one as Steve Birkinshaw recounts his attempt to run all 214 Wainwrights in as short a time as possible.

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Most people who attempt to walk or run all of the Wainwrights take years, or even decades. Steve attempts to complete the feat in one week. It is worth reading the foreword while standing in a bookshop before buying this nook, as it was written by the legendary Joss Naylor, the current holder of the Wainwrights run. Read what I thought of this book here.

Parkrun by Debra Bourne

I miss parkrun. It is looking likely that we won’t be parkrunning until May at the earliest, so here is a book all about parkrun. The book contains the history of parkrun, how it evolved, new runs added and new countries, but the best thing about it are the stories from regular people explaining how parkrun saved their life.

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Nelly also likes parkrun. Read my full review here.

Running Britain by Sean Conway

Sean Conway, the great big ginger bearded adventurer. He has swam up the coast of Britain, cycled across the world and in this book he runs from John O’Groats to Lands End. One stand out moment of the book is when he contemplates eating dog food as it contains lots of protein, which he finds difficult to eat enough of when running everyday. Anyway, a full review can be found here.

The Gingerbread Girl by Stephen King

Ginger beard to gingerbread. This short story is from the Just After Sunset anthology and Mr King is also the only author to have two entries on my list, although you could argue that Richard Bachman is a different author. I was browsing Goodreads (read about it here) and someone recommended The Gingerbread Girl. My local bookshop didn’t have a copy although they could have ordered one for me. On Amazon the e-book for this short story on its own was more expensive than buying a second hand copy of the full anthology. I haven’t yet read any of the other stories, but The Gingerbread Girl was a right good read. It’s not too dark as there are only a few grizzly murders, and definitely not as dark as Hell’s Event.

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After the cot death of their daughter, Em, the main character, turns to running to make sense of her life, running longer and more often. Stephen King suffered a very bad road accident a few years ago, and part of his mental and physical rehab included running, which is one reason why he looks a lot more svelte than he used to. The power of running (or exercise in general). Back to the book, and Em leaves her husband and takes a trip to a deserted cabin on a small peninsula. The rollercoaster starts here as she is stalked by a deranged murderer and has to run and run to escape.

Adventureman by Jamie McDonald

One of my most recent book reviews and what a book it is. Jamie runs across Canada, meets hundreds of people and raises half a million pounds for childrens’ hospitals. He is also living with Anna McNuff (see next book).

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Don’t bother reading my review (which can be found here), just buy the book as all proceeds go to various charities.

Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff

Anna was a competitive rower, very competitive, as she was looking at representing the UK at the Olympics. In the book she describes the reasons why it didn’t happen, and how she was looking for something else. The ‘something else’ ended up being a bike ride through all 50 states in America and then a run along the spine of New Zealand. I’ve yet to read her cycling book, although it is on my wish list.

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Anna is an amazingly upbeat and hyper person, as well as being incredibly infectious. You will believe that you are capable of anything after reading one of her books.

In this book, as I mentioned early, Anna plans to run from the southern tip of the south island all the way to the northern tip of the north island of New Zealand. I went to New Zealand 17 years ago for two weeks, which wasn’t long enough, but I can safely say that it is the only place in the world I’ve visited that I could imagine moving to and living permanently. The people are so friendly and the land is stunning with so few cars.

Running every day with a heavy rucksack is not easy, especially when you have to carry a tent, water and food, and are then aiming to run close to a marathon every day. As expected there are plenty of ups and downs, tears and tantrums, as well as a blossoming long distance relationship with the equally crazy Jamie McDonald.

I’m not giving anything away by telling you that she does indeed run the whole way, as the book is more about the journey and the people she meets along the way. Another excellent book about running.

Why I run Long Distances by The Oatmeal

Probably the best book about running, ever. There are so many truths in this book, mostly running to avoid becoming ‘The Blerch’. The Blerch is that voice that tells you to stop and it’s the sound food makes when it is squeezed from a tube. However, the blerch can be outrun.

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They say you should treat your body like a temple, I treat mine like a fast moving dumpster.

Running through forests, over mountains and under cityscapes makes me feel alive, eating iceberg lettuce and counting calories makes me feel tired and robotic.

The DOs and DO NOTs of running your first marathon are particularly funny. DO delude yourself into thinking that energy gels taste like the milk from a cyborg. DO NOT remind yourself that you paid good money for this.

Seriously, every page of this book is a gem. Buy it, laugh about it and then recommend it to your running friends.

401 by Ben Smith

Ben Smith was bullied as a child and decided to raise awareness of bullying and raise money for a couple of worthy challenges, by running 401 marathons around the UK. When he visited Lancaster I was one of many runners to run with him. I was with Nelly at the time and she was being very unruly, wanting to sprint to the front of the group and run at her pace. It was hard work so we said good luck to Ben and cut the run short. He did a couple of marathons near Hull when I was living there, and I wish that I had had the sense to run with him then.

My beard was longer and a bit of a mess back then, but Ben’s book is a brilliant read. (Read my review here).

Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale-Pope

This book is one of the more inspirational. When Rosie’s husband died she looked for something truly epic to do in his name. Running around the world fitted the bill, especially taking the northern route, which involved winters in Siberia, Alaska and Canada. Even more impressive when you realise that Rosie is now in her 70’s. As with Jamie McDonald earlier, she started her run with a rucksack which was soon ditched for a long trailer. Read my full review here.

How Not to Run 100 Marathons by Nicholas Turner

Last but not least is Mr Turner, who shows us what can be achieved, even when you do everything wrong.

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Getting drunk the night before a marathon is one of the favourite misshaps, along with getting lost finding the start, something we’ve all done in the days before Sat-Nav, and getting lost once the race is underway. I wasn’t sure whether to include this book or not, because by marathon 50 or 60 you start to wish that maybe he could have learned something from all of the previous cock-ups. Anyway, you can read my full review here.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of running books, but each and every one here has something to offer, and are a good mix of fiction, non-fiction, humorous, serious and the long distance.

I would love to hear from you if there are any running books that you would recommend.