Best Ultra Running Books: Build endurance & discipline through long-distance running
Running is one of those meta-habits that act as a domino. Once you start going, it can improve other areas of your life as well, such as sleep (which is just as important as training, if you don’t want to invite an injury), healthy eating (you won’t have enough energy to run when you’re fueling your body with junk food, sugar or alcohol).
Running gives you structure, patience and discipline, helping build resilience and mental toughness.
It’s been more than four years since I started a running habit and I plan to continue with it for the rest of my life. It’s my favorite way to disconnect and forget about the daily stress.
Thanks to running, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet amazing people from different social ‘bubbles’ (can’t imagine I’d have ever met them otherwise) and they’re now close friends.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to running. Luck or rich parents don’t make a difference.
However, expect it to be hard. Yes, it’s supposed to hurt. Pain is inevitable. You need to put in a lot of training, every day, and you need to treat sleep and rest days just as seriously. Anything less will lead to injuries or frustrations.
In case you need some inspiration to lace your running shoes and get out the door, here are a few great running-related books I’ve bought and read throughout the past four years.
P.S. do note that not all books listed here appear in the photo above, as some of them I read on Kindle or are lend to friends.
INSPIRING RUNNING & ENDURANCE STORIES:
These are great books about endurance sports that were written by journalists – and some of them also happen to run:
- Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, is probably the best first book you should read about running, and I’m guessing you already heard the story behind it. Christopher McDougall sets out to discover the secrets of the Tarajumara ultra-runners, injuries caused by modern footwear, and more. His second book, Natural Born Heroes, is also an interesting read (although harder to follow).
- Endure, by Alex Hutchinson: the most recent and comprehensive research on endurance sports and what our body is capable of.
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami – yes, the great writer Murakami is also a runner and has been running marathons since he started his writing career. This is a great collection of essays / journal pages about running, written throughout decades.
- Running with the Kenyans oder The Way of the Runner, by Adharanand Finn: part running books, part travel journals, read these to understand the running culture in Kenya and Japan. Btw, his new book will be out soon: The Rise of the Ultra Runners.
- The Rise of Superman, by Steven Kotler, who explain through recent scientific research how flow helps athletes perform at their peak.
LONG-DISTANCE RUNNERS WHO WROTE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OR MEMOIRS:
These are books written by some of the best runners in the world – if you’re looking for autobiographies or journal pages about running, or if you admire one of these runners, give them a try. Some of them may not be extraordinarily well written, but they’re worthy of your time just to learn what goes on in the mind of those who are among the best at ultra running in the most challenging terrain (up and down the highest mountains or pushing through extreme temperatures, weather conditions and so on).
- Eat & Run, by Scott Jurek – one of the best auto-biographies of an endurance runner who’s also a vegan. His new book, North, is also good.
- Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll (do follow his podcast as well!)
- Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes
- Run or Die, by Kilian Jornet, who’s currently one of the best trail runners in the world
- Runner, by Lizzy Hawker, one of the greatest ultra-distance runners, record five-time winner of UTMB, holds world record for 24-hour road running, former world champion at 100 km. Lizzy will release a new book next year: “Journey“.
ADVANCED RUNNING BOOKS FOR NUTRITION & TRAINING:
If you want to dig into more technical notions of training and nutrition, these below are books written by doctors, coaches, researchers – and most of them endurance athletes themselves:
- Lore of Running, by Tim Noakes, a professor, MD, research scientist and long-distance runner himself, with more than 70 marathons and ultramarathons. This book was paradigm-changing in 1986, when it was first published, and until today it remains the most complete ‘bible’ for runners.
- Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life, by Ben Greenfield: if you want to learn more about biohacking and what our bodies are capable of, in a clear and easy to understand way, I recommend Ben’s work (he also shares a lot of free content through his blog and podcast).
- Training Essential for Ultrarunning, by Jason Koop: I have this one at home, didn’t get to read it yet. It’s recommended by my friend Robert Hajnal, who’s also one of the best ultra-runners in the world (second winner at UTMB 2018), competing for Altra team.
- Unbreakable Runnerby T. J. Murphy & Brian MacKenzie – this one is for cross-fit fans.
- Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: if you want to start running ultras, this book’s a great place to start digging into details.
- The Cool Impossible, by mountain runner coach Eric Orton, who trained and ran with Christopher McDougall for the Copper Canyon run – an adventure from more than 10 years ago, that resulted into the book “Born to Run“.
OTHER INSPIRATIONAL BOOKS TO BUILD ENDURANCE:
These aren’t books that are entirely dedicated to running. Instead, use these as empowering books to get you started whenever you feel like losing your motivation:
- Living with a SEAL, by Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur and former musician who details how a SEAL (David Goggins) lived for a month with him, in his house, and trained him – a life-changing experience (and fun to read about).
- Kann mich nicht verletzen, by David Goggins: the SEAL mentioned above recently released his own book, where he shares his empowering story. Any excuses you’ve been telling yourself will vanish after you read this.
- The 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss – this is his second book, read it if you want to improve all things physical with tiny changes that will gain you the biggest results.
- Discipline Equals Freedom, by Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL who talks about how discipline (both mental and physical) leads to true freedom.
- Scott Karney: What Doesn’t Kill Us, by Scott Karney, a book that revolves around Wim Hof aka The Iceman, famous for his (seemingly crazy) experiments with cold, who believes that the things we have built to keep us comfortable and safe are actually keeping us weak, and cold is a great fortifier for our immune system.
P.S. we also have a list of the best books on how to build a lifetime habit – in case running isn’t part of your routine yet and you don’t know where to start.