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top ten running books

Good idea JC, here you go:

But first, a caveat: This list is not the “best of” list for running books by any stretch. It is simply a list of ten running books that have had the biggest impact on me and my running, for whatever reason.

 Also, it’s a continual work-in-progress and I’m always looking for new entrants… Richard M, looking forward to reading your masterpiece.

So, let’s get cracking:

  1. Once a Runner. Head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to providing an insight into “how it is” to be a committed competitive distance runner. If you’ve ever suffered through a painful set of 400m reps, you’ll know why this book hits the spot. It is simply full of sections worth reading again and again. And more quotes than you can shake a stick at. The accounts of the workouts, sessions and races capture the essence of training and racing hard more than any other book.
  2. Ultramarathon Man (Sorry, but it made more of an impression on me than Born to run. Possibly only because I read it first, but there you go. Read the chapter on Badwater). An average-joe story about a guy who has a bit of running talent and a lot (understatement) of personal drive. Also good to see someone trying to fit a full running program into an almost normal life, work, family etc.
  3. Born to Run. The first half of this book is unbelievable. And was poised to topple Once a Runner. But it flatters to deceive and unfortunately sets a standard I felt it didn’t maintain. I was a bit disappointed a lot of the second half. The final race was exciting. Unnecessary cheap shots by the author also detracted from its quality.
  4. Training Distance Runners. Not much of a storybook but a fascinating insight into the training regime of one Sebastian Coe. Take the ingredients of proper quality, a career-plan and attention to detail and mix that in with sufficient natural talent and mental discipline and you have the best middle distance runner in the world. A lesson in the benefits of periodisation and identifying your goals. Plus some of his sessions would flat out make you cry like a baby.
  5. Lore of Running. The bible, obviously.
  6. Paula: My Story So Far. Written mostly when she was on top of the marathon world by a comfortable margin. An outstanding story of long-term commitment and not being swayed by disappointments en route. I read it on a flight back to South Africa for the Two Oceans Ultramarathon and it set me up for a great weekend’s running.
  7. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. A writer who runs, writing about his running. A novel angle. Can be a little self-indulgent in parts but has enough gems and musings to sneak it into this list.
  8. Everyone’s Guide to Distance Running. May not be a classic but I read it very early in my running career (1993-ish), and like it or not, it probably shaped a lot of my early thinking on this sport of ours.
  9. The Testament of Gideon Mack. It may not strictly speaking be a running book, but the main character is a marathon runner, and a decent one at that – a number of sub-three’s to his name – his slightly cynical outlook on life is something that has to be read to be appreciated.
  10. It’s Not About The Bike. Shit I know it’s not a running book, but it felt wrong to not have it in here. In a “sports book list” it would be my number 1. But I’m sticking to one list for the time being. Lest the wife realises I’m actually even geekier than she has come to accept.

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