When it’s cold and wet outside, a runner’s motivation can easily wane. The lure of the couch along with back-to-back Christmas films and endless amounts of chocolates can be enough. Factor in the grey skies and miserable weather, and those good intentions to get moving can fast disappear.
If you’re struggling to lace up your trainers, an easy (and winter-friendly) way to get your fitness mojo back on track is by delving into a great read about running success.
From gruelling tales of ultramarathon success, to hilariously relatable memoirs, there’ll be something here to get you going – whether you’re training for a big race, or just starting out on the track. Here’s our seven top picks…
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (£8.99, Vintage)
As if training for the New York City Marathon wasn’t enough, celebrated Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami decided to put pen to paper and write about the experience as well. In this beautiful memoir, the title of which is a play on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, he documents his four-month training journey, while reflecting on the mental and emotional struggles that come with long-distance jogging.
The joy of getting out on the road, the excruciating pain of the hardest miles, and the euphoria of seeing the finish line in sight – if you’re as obsessive about running as Murakami is, or just really want to chase that marathon dream, you’ll be able to relate to it all.
2. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir Of Thinking My Way To Victory by Deena Kastor (£17.99, Crown Archetype)
Deena Kastor was a gifted runner from a young age, but her fear of failure meant her career almost ended after college, when she ran herself to the edge of mental fatigue.
Instead of throwing in the towel, she travelled to Colorado, where she trained with legendary coach Joe Vigil who had just started the first professional distance-running team. In this intimate memoir, she explains how training her inner voice to be kinder and more compassionate to herself ultimately improved her running and eventually led her to scooping up America’s first Olympic medal in the marathon for 20 years.
3. Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (£9.99, Profile Books)
Award-winning journalist McDougall has earned high praise for his bestselling tome, that looks at how Mexico’s mysterious Tarahumara tribe have developed the incredible endurance to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury, often barefoot and in treacherous conditions.
Combining human biology and personal stories, alongside some history of the trainer industry, this fascinating investigation asks what it takes to be a good runner and explains how our bodies are naturally programmed to run. More inspirational that instructional, it’ll make you question everything you think you know about running so far.
4. Eat And Run: My Unlikely Journey To Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman (£8.99, Bloomsbury Paperbacks)
As one of the most celebrated ultramarathon competitors of all time, plant-based Jurek is living proof that you don’t need to fuel yourself on meat to achieve sporting greatness.
Attributing his vegan diet as the key to his success, he explains how and why he transitioned from a Midwestern childhood of hunting and fishing to a life of veganism – not merely for ethical reasons, but because he believed it helps him to run faster. A mixture of practical advice, anecdotal wisdom and genuinely thought-provoking science, this book is for anyone who’s rethinking their meat-based marathon meal prep.
5. Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (£8.99, Cornerstone)
Affectionately referred to as ‘the Bridget Jones of running’, Alexandra Heminsley’s hilarious retrospective is a relatable running companion for anyone who’s more likely to spend Sundays hungover in bed than tackling a 10K.
She’s not a professional athlete, but a retired couch potato that went from wheezing her away up and down her street to smashing a casual five marathons. Funny, warm and brutally honest, this is a totally down-to-earth read that will resonate with any new starter who worries they’re a bit rubbish at running.
6. How To Lose A Marathon by Joel Cohen (£11.99, Abrams Image)
Any wannabe marathon runner knows that the worst thing about signing up for a big race is the expectation to be good at it – and indeed, able to complete it. In this book for non-athletes, The Simpsons writer Joel Cohen (who proudly ‘barely’ completed the New York City Marathon) gives step-by-step advice about how to go from couch potato, to a couch potato that can run a marathon.
An antidote to the many worthy running manuals out there, this is an ultimate guide for anyone who isn’t looking to run a marathon in a particular time, but just make it through those 26.2 miles.
7. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll (£13.99, Three Rivers Press)
At age 39, Rich Roll was 50Lbs overweight and barely able to climb up the stairs without stopping to catch his breath. That’s why, on the night before turning 40, he decided he needed to make a major life change for the sake of his health.
Adopting a plant-based diet and a daily training routine, Roll shed the excess weight and took on the Ultraman 2008, a seriously gruelling three-day event that involves a 320-mile ordeal of swimming, biking and running. With only six months to get into shape, he amazingly scored the second fastest swim and finished 11th overall.
In this book, Roll reflects on how he managed to turn his life around overnight, and why it’s never too late to change your destiny.