A Short List of Our Favorite Running Books

On our way to the Santa Barbara 100K this weekend (John had an incredible experience but DNF – more on that to come) we finished an audiobook: “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. One of the most fascinating things to me about ultra-distance events, whether it’s running, biking, swimming, or all three is the state of mind that the athletes describe being taken to when they transcend the pain, fatigue, desire to quit, and sometimes hellish environments of their endeavor. Scott Jurek, the #1 guy in the world at achieving said state of mind (the 7 times he won the Western States 100, for example), wrote a great memoir about it. He is also an athlete that, you might tell from the title, takes his fuel seriously. He’s vegan, and discusses just how he got there from his Minnesotan meat-and-potatoes roots. I love a good discussion about sport nutrition – being a Paleo Crossfitter who likes to run doesn’t mean I don’t respect a vegan ultra runner who likes to lift weights. In fact, as these things often do, the book has even inspired a little adventure in me and I may just prepare a few vegan meals this week.

The first book I ever read about ultra running was “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami, actually not because I was interested in the subject of running but because, at the time, I was interested in the subject of writing. Murakami is a writer himself, of novels, short stories, and non-fiction, and as he got deeper into his writing career, started running longer and longer distances to move his body and break up the day around long periods at his desk. It was the first time I had even heard of a 50 mile race, and I remember thinking that if you could run that far, you could write a book. Murakami is one such biathlete, the runner/writer. The next ultra book I read was actually a Kindle Single called “The Long Run” by Mischka Salander. These things are great quick reads if you have a Kindle (or, I suppose, the Kindle app on your phone) and this one is actually one of the best sellers; it’s the author’s description of his own climb out of alcoholism and depression and into running, and then ultra running. If you’ve ever gotten involved in any multisport events of any distance, but especially the long ones, I bet you’ve met a  recovering addict or two. What is great about running (or biking, swimming, or all three) is how universal it is, but also how personal. The three books that I’ve named so far are from three incredibly different people with incredibly different stories, but they’re all doing the same thing – running ultras. They all got there different ways, and they each get something different out of it. But they’re all running! I can relate to it, you can relate to it; we can see ourselves in the stories or find something completely new to  be inspired by. Looking for some good reads this summer? Now you’ve got three. A couple of others worth mentioning: “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. This book, it goes without saying, is a must-read for anyone that calls themselves a runner. Run, don’t walk, and get yourself a copy. Also on our shelf is “Run Gently Out There” by John Morelock, a really sweet memoir (or maybe more accurately a collection of essays) that is both inspiring and comforting to all of us who have ever known the need to just be ‘out there.’

And on our list of To-Reads: anything by Dean Karnazes, “Zen and the Art of Running” by Larry Shapiro, “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham, and “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life” by Amby Burfoot. You can see I’m starting to explore my spiritual side 😉 Happy reading!

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