Reading about running…

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I love to run. I also love to read. It will come as no surprise therefore that my bedside table is always hidden under a mountain of books and magazines about running. I am always on the lookout for new recommendations and often have people ask me to share my own favourites so I thought I would stick all of my opinions in one place by writing them down here! Please let me know your own thoughts and suggestions so I can continue to fuel my habit…

There are too many for me to cover in a single blog post so below you will find a mere selection of my favourites in no particular order…

Two Hours – by Ed Caesar

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Kenny and I are both big fans of the ‘Marathon Talk’ podcast and I had heard them discussing Ed Caesar’s ‘Two Hours’ a couple of times on the show. After their discussion of the book throughout December I started putting hints out to Vicki that it would be a great present and lo and behold, on Christmas morning I had a shiny new copy of it nestled under the tree!

The book did not disappoint and is a really interesting read with plenty of information about the marathon as an event. It follows the history of the marathon from its formation up to the modern day and discusses the changes in approaches and attitudes to the distance over the years. It also follows the story of Geoffrey Mutai and his rise to marathon prominence. The book would definitely appeal more to someone who is interested in following professional marathon running and its history as opposed to someone who is purely focused on their own enjoyment of the sport.

Born to Run – by Christopher McDougall

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One of the first books that most people will encounter when looking for something related to running, this was a real eye-opener for me. It manages to combine interesting stories about running, technical theories and a sense of adventure all in a very light and enjoyable book. The different elements that make up this book are all very well balanced which help to make it very readable for anyone with an interest in running who is not necessarily looking for something too scientific or technical. This is a book that I would read again.

Natural Born Heroes – by Christopher McDougall.

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Having read and loved ‘Born to Run’ (see above), I was very excited about Christopher McDougall’s latest work. This one promised to deal with our natural ability to overcome physical challenges and consider some phenomenal feats of strength and endurance. I was particularly interested in this book as it appeared to deal with lots of the concepts which I had encountered in my time spent training in Crossfit.

The book was actually very different to what I expected. Large chunks of it are based around the historical events of WWII on the island of Crete which I was not expecting at all. This was however really interesting and these chapters proved to be some of my favourites. There is not as big a focus on running in this book as I thought there would be but it is an interesting and enjoyable read nonetheless.

Running with the Kenyans – Adharanand Finn.

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Another classic which seems to be on every runner’s bookshelf. I came to this pretty late and it had been recommended to me by loads of my pals. This is another book which combines interesting stories with a sense of adventure as it follows Finn’s experience of running out in Kenya and also those of moving his family out with him. It is not a book that will provide you with any real information about improving your own technique or running ability but will definitely provide some inspiration to get out and run. This is possibly my favourite running book to date.

The Way Of The Runner – Adharanand Finn.

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Inspired by my enjoyment of his earlier book, I recently picked up a copy of Finn’s ‘The Way Of The Runner’. In this work Finn travels out to Japan to learn about the fascinating culture that surrounds endurance running in the country and also the Ekiden running community. The different approach of the Japanese to running is an interesting contrast to that of his experience in Kenya although it does mean that Finn struggles to get as involved in the running community in this book. There is still however a fascinating insight into the sport and, having read this, I have made it a priority to get out to Japan myself and experience the running culture of a country which produces an unbelievable number of elite marathoners. Again, this book offers little in the way of technical information but huge amounts of inspiration and fascinating experiences.

Advanced Marathoning – Pfitzinger and Douglas.

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This was another book which  I had heard being referenced on ‘Marathon Talk’ as Tom Williams followed one of its programs in his own marathon preparation. After it was also recommended to me by a running friend, I decided to investigate further. This is a very detailed technical guide to marathon running. It can be split into two parts: the second half of the book is a collection of training plans based on different weekly mileages; the first half is a detailed explanation of the theory behind the plans and the reasoning behind each of the sessions which is prescribed. This means that you could quite easily just use the programs and get the benefit of clearly structured training, however I was also intrigued by the theory and enjoyed learning about the different types of training and the physiological effects that these would have. This is a very detailed, technical book which is aimed providing the information that you would need to train for a marathon. These does make it a fairly challenging read (particularly if, like me, you have limited scientific knowledge when it comes to physiology!) but it was interesting nonetheless. I often dip into the book when planning my own training but is not something that would be read for entertainment.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Vassos Alexander.

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This was a book which I sought out after hearing an interview with Vassos on a podcast. I did not know the extent of the man’s running obsession and I was intrigued to find out more. The book is structured as a series of short chapters based on his own experiences which makes it very easy to dip into when you have a spare few minutes. It is a very light and entertaining insight into Vassos’ experiences of running and provides plenty of funny and also inspiring stories based on his running exploits.

At the start of every chapter, Vassos includes an insight into the experiences of a different runner and we get a snippet of information about a huge range of characters including the Brownlee brothers, Jenson Button and Nell McAndrew. These fascinating interactions add another element to the book and make it a fun and easy read.

There are plenty of other books on my shelf which I am working my way through so this post is certainly to be continued…

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