The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner
Alan Sillitoe

It’s a new year and your resolution (once again) is to get fit by running. But being a literary type, you are not going to rush out and immediately pound the pavement for mile after mile. Oh no! First, you will read a book or two about running for inspiration and perhaps guidance.

Running is so simple – you just put one foot in front of another – and yet it has inspired a raft of fiction and non-fiction. Pheidippides’ epic run kicked off this sub-genre and remains a key piece of ancient Greek folklore.

Our fiction selection will have your heart pounding. The novel Once a Runner by John L. Parker used to be one of North America’s most sought-after out-of-print books until a publisher realized there was massive demand. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was one of the best short stories to emerge from the late 1950s. There’s also a little science fiction where running means running for your life.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

And as the non-fiction, there is the tale of Eric Liddell who wouldn’t run on a Sunday at the Olympics and Dorando Pietri who took 10 minutes to cover the last 300 meters of the 1908 marathon, as well as the landmark run of Roger Bannister, the tragedy of American middle distance runner Steve Prefontaine and the massive cultural impact caused by Jesse Owens’ four gold medals at Berlin Olympics.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami has become a modern classic as the Japanese author describes how running has influenced his writing. Murakami has run a marathon every year for the past twenty years and he has completed an ultramarathon - a 62 mile course. His book about running is equal parts travelogue, training log and a look back on how funny has shaped his life.

Everywhere you look someone is running, or least reading about it.

Fictional Running Books

Once a Runner by John L. Parker
Once a Runner
by John L. Parker

This cult novel fell out-of-print before being revived in 2009. An athlete is suspended from the track team after a protest.
Again to Carthage by John L. Parker
Again to Carthage
by John L. Parker

Sequel to Once a Runner. Can Quenton Cassidy revive his athletic career and make one last Olympic team?
Flanagan’s Run by Tom McNab
Flanagan’s Run
by Tom McNab

Set in 1931, the story covers an epic footrace across the entire United States for $150,000.
Marathon Man by William Goldman
Marathon Man
by William Goldman

Paranoid thriller featuring a former Nazi dentist, diamonds and an aspiring marathon runner.
The Running Man by Richard Bachman
The Running Man
by Richard Bachman

A novel about fleeing for your life on the ultimate TV reality show. King wrote this novel in a week.
Slinger Sanchez Running Gun by Bruce Glikin
Slinger Sanchez Running Gun
Bruce Glikin

A world class track runner struggles to become an olympian.
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Running Dream
by Wendelin Van Draanen

Jessica loses a leg and bids to run again with a prosthetic leg but this novel is about much more than disability.
The Runner by Christopher Reich
The Runner
by Christopher Reich

Devlin Judge is hunting Nazi Olympic track star Erich Seyss after he escapes from a POW camp.
The Runner’s Literary Companion: Great Stories and Poems about Running
The Runner’s Literary Companion

48 short stories and poems on running including Joyce Carol Oates, Walt Whitman, and A.E. Housman
Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson
Logan’s Run
by William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson

In a dystopian society people are killed at 21. Citizens who don’t comply “run” but are hunted down.

Non-Fiction Running Books

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
by Haruki Murakami

Murakami began running to keep fit. Now he runs marathons & reflects how running influences his life.
The Flying Scotsman by Sally Magnusson
The Flying Scotsman
by Sally Magnusson

Eric Liddell famously refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday and later became a missionary in China.
Poems and Plays of Robert Browning
Poems and Plays of Robert Browning

Browning’s poem 1879 Pheidippides celebrates the hero of the Battle of Marathon.
The Cretan Runner by George Psychoundakis
The Cretan Runner
by George Psychoundakis

Psychoundakis was a resistance runner on Crete in WWII because he knew the island so well.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
by Christopher McDougall

A scientific analysis of running and the Mexican Indians who were able to do it so well.
The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Amby Burfoot
The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life
by Amby Burfoot

Boston Marathon winner Burfoot presents 15 life lessons learned in 35 years of running.
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner Dean Karnazes
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
by Dean Karnazes

Run 100 miles a day like Dean Karnazes, from Death Valley to the South Pole.
Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich
Why We Run: A Natural History
by Bernd Heinrich

An examination of ultra-endurance through human evolution.
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
by Neal Bascomb

The race for the first sub four-minute mile featured an Englishman, an Australian and an American.
Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan
Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine
by Tom Jordan

Dead at 24, Prefontaine held every American running record from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters.
Jesse Owens: An American Life by William J Baker
Jesse Owens: An American Life
by William J Baker

A black sprinter, the son of an Alabama sharecropper, shocked the Nazis at the1936 Olympics.
Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession by Richard Askwith
Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession
by Richard Askwith<

Real running is when you are racing up and down mountains.
The 1908 Olympics by Keith Baker
The 1908 Olympics
by Keith Baker

So much drama - Dorando Pietri disqualification in the marathon was one of many incidents.
Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer
Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running
by Danny Dreyer

A guide to running that minimizes the risk of injury.
Ghost Runner by Bill Jones
Ghost Runner
by Bill Jones

Banned over boxing expenses, John Tarrant gatecrashed races over Britain in order to compete.

What's your favorite running book? Leave a comment:

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