First of all, let me congratulate you on your decision to run a marathon. What an amazing path full of hard work and learning waiting in front of you! As you probably know, marathon training is one of the most challenging tasks that most people decide to undertake. How does one properly prepare for it?
If you are committed to achieving your running goal, it is essential that you acquire the necessary knowledge and expertise in order to become a more proficient runner. Over the next few weeks and months, you will need to educate yourself on topics such as training, nutrition, hydration, or mental preparation – neglecting any of these areas will result in insufficient progress. Running without a plan simply won’t cut it!
In order to assist you in expediting your invigorating journey of knowledge, we have compiled a list of the 6 best running books that will prepare you for your first marathon in every aspect necessary. If achieving excellence in long-distance running is your goal, these must-reads are essential!
Daniels Running Formula
Perpetually recognized as the ultimate resource for running, Daniels Running Formula remains number one on my list in 2023. This timeless book is a must-have in any runner’s library; it provides unparalleled insight into training methods and the fundamental science behind running to allow you to maximize your performance. There simply isn’t another text that provides such comprehensive knowledge about the art of running as this iconic publication!
With comprehensive training plans, workout routines, and injury prevention tactics to the significance of optimal fueling, hydration, and equipment – this running book has it all for your marathon journey! Not only that but you’ll learn about different kinds of training runs but you will also be armed with priceless tips on how to handle diverse weather conditions.
Jack Daniels’ Running Formula is renowned for its scientific approach to every element of running. This is unsurprising, considering Jack’s own running experiences as a two-time Olympian and impressive background as a long-term Olympic athlete coach.
If you are serious about running, we highly recommend that you invest in the latest paperback edition of this book. Not only is it known as one of the best running books ever written, but it will be an invaluable resource for your journey of becoming a successful runner.
But if you aren’t ready to commit to buying just yet, then here’s a special offer: answer five marathon-related questions in our messenger sports quiz and get a 20-page summary with all the key information and insights absolutely free!
Takeaways for runners
- 10 basic running principles
- science of running – the role of lungs, blood, and muscles
- different types of training runs
- how to measure your fitness improvement
- running in different environments and weather conditions
- race preparation
Can’t Hurt Me
Coming in second on our list is the remarkable true story of David Goggins, a former Navy SEAL. This well-renowned book released in 2018 has earned its title and still remains one of the best motivational pieces of literature currently available.
Through his incredible life journey—battling childhood trauma and learning difficulties to achieve greatness—David will open your eyes to new possibilities and forever change how you perceive yourself and the life around you.
If you are longing for true success as a long-distance runner, mastering the mental component of running is vital. Your body will only perform to the extent that your mind permits it. This book does an incredible job of developing mental toughness and self-discipline – traits that are indispensable for sports but have become increasingly hard to come by these days.
Through his inspiring journey, David will challenge you to confront your own life and struggles. On the way, he offers numerous mind tools and mental techniques that he has created and used himself to build resilience and self-discipline.
This life-changing book is, together with David’s new book Never Finished, one of the best sellers on Amazon, offering precious insights and motivation necessary for your running journey. You’ll need each bit of mental fuel to help you push through preparation and ultimately persevere during race day.
Goggins’s audiobook version of the book comes with exclusive commentary from him after each chapter. If you’d rather listen to a podcast, check out Joe Rogan’s piece with Goggins on Spotify; as usual, it is full of inspiring stories and tips that could only come from a very special character such as David Goggins for sure is.
Takeaways for runners
- all about the mentality of running
- how to develop self-discipline and mental toughness
- amazing tips and mental tools to get through long races
- how to push past physical limitations
How often do you get to read a running book where they actually tell you that you don’t have to kill yourself every single time you hit the trail or treadmill? And that it will actually have a positive impact on your running performance? Well, this is exactly the case with Matt Fitzgerald’s book called 80/20 running, no. 3 on our list of best running books.
The book comes with a fairly simple but effective running methodology endorsed by many elite athletes and world-renowned runners. In a nutshell, the idea behind 80/20 running is to focus 80% of your weekly training on running at a slow, sub-ventilatory pace, to build endurance and fatigue resistance. In contrast, the remaining 20% should be an intense workout stressing your aerobic capacity to allow you to run quicker for an extended period of time.
According to Fitzgerald, the most widespread mistake that not only beginners but also professional runners do is that they train too much at moderate intensities. While these runs are proven not to be as advantageous for running fitness when compared to low or high-intensity workouts, they do sap energy levels quite quickly making runners drained and demotivated.
As many researchers state, the aerobic system is strengthened most effectively by a combination of lots of low-intensity running and a little high-intensity running.
This running strategy has been endorsed by many inside the running world not only because it is widely supported by scientific research but also reportedly leads to better results in long-distance races. Not to mention the fact that you don’t have to kill yourself with each run but rather you can enjoy the slow pace knowing you are doing the right thing for your body.
Takeaways for runners
- world famous running methodology
- understanding the benefits of slow running
- understanding the benefits of HIIT training
- what is polarized training and why do moderate intensities actually hurt you
- real-life success stories of implementation of 80/20 strategy
Eat and Run
Eat and Run, a book written by ultra-runner Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman as co-author is an electrifying account and no. 4 on our best running books list.
Steve is a true inspiration for those who are “hungry” for success and have dreams. This captivating read will challenge your assumptions about what it takes to reach peak performance through proper nutrition and it will surprise you with what a healthy diet may look like!
The book is an amazing resource for vegan-friendly, plant-based recipes – such as strawberry pancakes and pizza bread – that are beloved by long-distance runners like Jurek. This knowledge will be essential to your own running goals; its insights will ensure you get the most from yourself on each run.
Scott Jurek is a renowned ultra runner, having set the American 24-hour running record with an astonishing 165.7 miles! From 1999 to 2005 he was also unbeatable at Western States Endurance Run – managing to win this 100-mile run over Sierra Nevada’s trails seven times consecutively!
Additionally, Jurek was one of the runners profiled in the running bestseller Born to Run, book no. 5 on our list.
Takeaways for runners
- what does it take to be an ultra runner
- key insights into running techniques and breathing
- all you need to know about nutrition, and hydration
- plenty of healthy and nutritious recipes for runners
Born To Run
Christopher McDougall’s iconic book, highly regarded as one of the best running books ever written, was published to worldwide acclaim in 2009 and has since sold over 3 million copies.
The subtitle of the book “A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” tells us that we’re about to embark on an incredible journey into Tarahumara (Rarámuri) land — a native tribe living in Mexico’s Copper Canyons. The Rarámuri have gained the reputation of being some of the best runners in the world and you are about to discover some of their hidden secrets.
Christopher McDougall, both a professional journalist and an avid runner, confronted numerous running injuries that nearly ended his running career. Fascinated by the tales of these people, or as we would call them ultra runners, who ran over 100 miles without proper running shoes- he became determined to comprehend what made them so resilient.
This remarkable book unravels a captivating journey to the home of these incredible athletes and their methods for success.
Unveil secrets that enable them to run with such power, including nutrition advice as never seen before. It was here where I first encountered Tarahumara pinole – now my go-to fuel when running more than 15 miles! But this is only one element of an adventure within the pages, ready to ignite your passion for running like never before.
Takeaways for runners
- how evolution made us great runners
- how to develop a real love for running
- how to learn to embrace pain
- plenty of nutrition nuggets for long runs
Let Your Mind Run
This inspirational book by Olympic medalist and world-class marathoner Deena Kastor is a great pick for anyone looking to start their journey in running. Through stories of challenge and reward, Kastor encourages readers to keep running despite the obstacles they may and will face along the way.
Kastor’s thrilling running career has been an absolute success. She started as a talented young track star but being part of the track soon because fascinated by long-distance racing and had a super successful marathon career.
Although she never held a women’s marathon world record, she won the 2005 Chicago Marathon and 2006 London Marathon, placed 6th in the 2006 New York City Marathon, and 5th in Boston Marathon in 2007. She set American records on 8k, 15k, 10 miles, half marathon, and marathon distances. On top of that, she has been selected as the world’s top female runner in 2006 by Track and Field News.
Nobody knows better than Deena how running is all about mentality. Her inspiring story about how important it is to step up your mental game in order to be able to push yourself further will be a valuable lesson on your way to becoming a better runner.
Also listed in Runner’s World The Best Books For Runners, the book is proof of how positivity and optimism can help you overcome hardships and go beyond what you have ever thought possible.
Deena Kastor, currently teaching younger athletes how running changed her life, also co-authored an amazing recipe book for runners The Runner’s World Cookbook.
Takeaways for runners
- how a positive approach makes a difference in the life
- how to find motivation when you don’t feel like running
- tips on how to stay determined and focused while running
- how to use visualization techniques
More Great Running Books To Read
In addition, let me mention some other titles that are certainly worth exploring as well.
David Goggins – Never finished
The story goes on. How does Goggins cope with becoming a half-savage?
Alex Hutchinson – Endure
Exploring amazing science of human endurance by Runner’s World columnist.
Meb Keflezighi – 26 Marathons
Four-time Olympic athlete shares lessons learned over 26 marathons.
Andrew Kastor – Running Your First Marathon
US Olympic marathoner and head coach of Mammoth track team shares practical advice for those who just began running.
Ali Nolan – Master the Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide for Women
Training book with a focus on female runners.
Christopher McDougall – Born To Run 2
Guide to ultra running from a famous advocate of barefoot and minimalist running.
Lopez Lomong – Running for my life: One lost boy’s journey
An amazing journey from a victim of the Sudanese Civil war into a famous endurance athlete and US Olympian.