Running and Runners

Anacostia LibraryStaff PicksMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

Running and Runners

Books for and about runners

Are you an aspiring runner in need of guidance? An occasional jogger who sometimes needs a push to get out the door and onto the road or trail? Or a dedicated veteran runner who wants a little inspiration? The books below provide advice on equipment, running technique, training programs and tales of runners whose performances have made the sport what it is today.

The Runner's Field Manual: A Practical (and Tactical) Survival Guide by Mark Remy
Comprehensive and informative, fun to browse through, this book covers all the topics you need to know about: how to choose a pair of running shoes, how to circumnavigate roadkill, what to wear in various weather conditions, what to eat, how to stretch, whether to use a treadmill or an elliptical trainer, etc. Beginners and veteran runners alike will appreciate its insights – and its humor.

The Running Revolution: How to Run Faster, Farther, and Injury-free for Life by Nicholas Romanov with Kurt Brungardt
After you've been running for a while, you'll want to start thinking about form. Romanov’s book is all about what he calls the “pose method” (or “pull method”) – as opposed to the “push method” of running that emphasizes leg extension to propel the body forward. In a nutshell, according to Romanov, “the momentum the runner’s body achieves with gravity is what propels the body forward.” This volume presents his theory of optimal running motion along with a full set of exercises that train the mind and body to reorient posture and stride, followed by training programs for a variety of distances.

Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think and Eat Like a Champion Marathoner by Meb Keflezighi with Scott Douglas
Meb Keflezighi is one of the best American distance runners of the past two decades, and in this book he offers readers a training plan that covers running form, diet, stretches, mental preparation, and training schedules for various distances. The down-to-earth book is targeted to a broad audience (one need not be a sub-three-hour marathoner to benefit from it) – just about everyone who has been bitten by the running bug will find valuable guidance and tidbits of useful information on all sorts of topics. The personal approach taken by the book (including anecdotes from Meb’s running life) make this both engaging and informative.

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed by Matthew Futterman
This is the absorbing story of Bob Larsen, one of the great American distance running coaches due to his development of novel training methods and attention to detail. The book reads like a novel, beginning in the 1950s with Larsen’s relocation from rural Minnesota to San Diego and concluding with Meb Keflezighi’s victory in the 2014 Boston Marathon (for many years Larsen coached Meb). While telling the tales of the young runners whom Larsen befriended and coached, the author reflects upon what drives runners to run and to push themselves to the edge of their abilities.

Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn
To discover how Kenya produces so many world-class distance runners, the author, a dedicated marathoner himself, traveled to Iten, Kenya, the home of some of the top training schools in the world. This is “embedded” journalism applied to the world of sport – a first-person tale of high-altitude running, full of incident and discovery. And if you enjoy Running with the Kenyans, you might want to check out The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running by the same author.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami has become one of the most highly regarded writers of fiction in our young century, and What I Talk about When I Talk about Running will delight devotees of his stories as well as newcomers to his writing whose primary interest is running. In this memoir, Murakami reflects on how running fits into his life, how he experiences his runs, how they affect him, how he trained for and ran the New York City Marathon in 2005, and how running and writing fit together. (To quote from the volume: “Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day” – and writers will appreciate his comparisons between writing and long-distance running.) With his quiet voice, subtle observations, and gradual building up of detail into a complete narrative whole, Murakami provides a portrait of a runner – not a professional by any means, but one who includes distance running as an activity essential for his identity and well-being.

Today We Die a Little: The Inimitable Emil Zátopek, the Greatest Olympic Runner of All Time by Richard Askwith
At the 1952 Olympic summer games in Helsinki, Emil Zátopek won the gold medal in all three distance races (the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter runs and the marathon), an unprecedented feat, and one that remains unequaled. This biography tells his tale, from humble beginnings in interwar Czechoslovakia to his season of success in the 1950s, persecution by the communist regime in the 1970s for his political views, and his rehabilitation following the Velvet Revolution. Runners and non-runners will revel in the details of his fascinatingly odd training, the accounts of the political machinations Zátopek endured, and the tales of his great successes – and his great friendships with other athletes.

You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises by Mark Lauren
Runners often seek to add some cross-training routines to their running schedule – some prefer cycling, others lift weights in the gym or hike or participate in some sport. But bodyweight workouts can provide significant benefits too. They strengthen muscle groups in ways that complement running workouts (often focusing on the core muscles), they increase balance and strength, and they allow the body to rest and recover from punishing runs. And, perhaps best of all, such workouts can fit easily into a busy schedule: they can be performed just about anywhere for little or no cost. Also recommended: Bodyweight Workouts for Men by Sean Bartram.