The best way to learn about running is to read books and if you apply the knowledge obtained you will improve.
If you would you like to become faster, have a proper technique, create your own training plans, understand how heart rate based training works, know what you should eat, unravel the secrets of the Kenyans or just want to have a good time reading the story of a great athlete, pick up one of the books listed below.
I have read all of them and can recommend them to any runner — but you will enjoy the majority of them even if you don’t run. While the main topic is the same — running — it is written about it from a different perspective in each book.
1. Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
This is the autobiography of one of the most famous and popular ultrarunner from the USA. He has won plenty of races and the book describes how he reached this goal — mostly because of his vegan diet.
It is a short, straightforward book about a sick kid who turns into a carnivorous teenager. In adulthood he becomes an elite athlete due to his improved diet and hard work.
As an extra each chapter ends with a recipe.
2. Barefoot Running by Michael Sandler
A very detailed book about barefoot running — not minimalist. It also presents a roller skating accident of the author that lead to a shortened leg. Afterwards he could only get rid of the pain and run while wearing nothing on his feet.
It is also a slightly philosophical book about the connection between humans, the Earth and nature.
3. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
Rich used to be a professional swimmer during his teenager years before he turned an alcoholic during his college years. In his forties he started doing triathlons and the distance covered just kept growing.
The main topic of the book is the EPIC 5, a series of five ironmans completed in five days by him. Beside this you will find a lot of stories about the author mixed with yoga, diet and meditation.
4. Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger
Probably the best book about marathon running written by a two time Olympian marathon runner who turned coach later in his life. You will find all the knowledge he gained during his career in this book.
The book contains a ton of details about the preparation to run a marathon, how to race and recover after the race. It shows you the most effective strength training and stretching exercises, and also some very scientific diet advice.
This book may be too complicated for beginners, but it is a must for intermediate and advanced runners.
5. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
This book, published about a decade ago started the craze of barefoot and minimalist running. The author is a journalist who runs as a hobby, therefore the book is very entertaining with very little technical details. He added a bit of drama to it to make it more exciting.
The book is written about the preparation and the run itself of a 50 mile long trail race in the Copper Canyon, Mexico. The participants are a few ultrarunners from the United States, including Scott Jurek, who race against the Tarahumara Indians — the running people — in their homeland.
6. Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich
Heinrich is a biologist and a professor who loves running and broke some world records. The book analyzes running from a biological point of view and compares human motion with other animals, especially with the antelopes.
The author started running and experimenting with it before the age of the Internet and before running became so popular as nowadays. Therefore there was very little information to find. One of his memorable experiments was when he used beer — no sports drinks at that time — during a long run to compensate for the burned calories.
7. Thrive by Brendan Brazier
Brazier used to be a professional triathloner, who became successful after adapting a vegan diet. His method about eating is quite unique as he prefers clean, alkalizing foods with high nutrient density — functionality, health and performance over taste.
It also mentions superfoods, some very special and rare foods from all over the world that have exceptionally high nutrient densities. He also analyzes the negative impact of non-bio agriculture and animal farming.
8. Be a Better Runner by Sally Edwards, Carl Foster, Roy Wallack
Written by three authors, an ironman world record holder and a professional marathoner, a university professor and a trainer, the book covers everything that is related to running: training methods, stretching exercises, clothes, races, diet, cross training and training plans.
Mostly aimed towards beginners and intermediate runners some of the chapters may seem a bit longer than they should be. Still, it excels in two areas: heart rate based training methods and cross training. These are why it is worth reading it.
9. Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn
Finn is an editor and a freelancer writer who was curious why the Kenyans can run so fast. To do a research he moved with his family for a half year to Eldoret, Kenya, the running center of the country.
The book describes his experiences, the food they eat there, the school where his daughters and the Kenyans study and of course the life of the runners who want to escape from poverty by winning races. He befriends several of them and trains together with them for a marathon race.
It is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read with plenty of information about the Kenyan lifestyle and training methods that are very different from our western world.