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Get Inspired: Favorite Running Books

favorite running books
A stack of inspiration—and lots of miles.

As much as I love being physically active, there is nothing better than activating my brain with a good book.  The following are just a few of my favorite running books that don’t just inspire, but are also packed with informational tidbits on being the best badass mother runner possible.

Confessions of an Unlikely Runner by Dana L. Ayers
Six-Word Description: Part Bridget Jones, part Forest Gump.

This memoir chronicles the realistic and at times humiliating life of a back of the pack runner. Highlights include embarrassing running moments—can we say split pants and unfortunate chaffing—overcoming obstacles aka chugging liquids while undertrained for a half and promptly high fiving your friend and vomiting at the finish line. Pro tips such as “there are tons of ways to get yourself moving that are basically the equivalent of making an airplane noise to fly mashed-up vegetables into a child’s mouth. Find whatever trick works for you to get you to do your workouts” are scattered throughout the book providing practical advice without losing Ayers’ sense of humor.  Recommended for current runners who need a laugh or wannabe runners who need a little push off the couch.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Six-Word Description: YA Fiction inspiring for all runners.

This book reads closer to a memoir than fiction and is framed around a teenage track star that loses one of her legs. Tragic, yes, but  this book manages to remind you to keep perspective; things can always get worse, but it is what you do with those circumstances is what counts. Truly inspiring – and somewhat personal for me as I discovered the book about the same time my father had his leg amputated.      

Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner by Jennifer Graham
Six-Word Description: Humorous approach to a tough topic.

I’ll be frank: as a plus-size runner this book came up in my suggested reading list and the title hooked me. This humorous packed memoir starts with the line, “The problem with being a fat runner is this: Everyone wants to give you a ride.” What follows is a series of tips and tricks on navigating life as someone who feels they are a fat runner. As someone who struggles with body image, I appreciated the debate this author faced with internet trolls and others about whether she was fat enough to call herself fat. Sounds crazy… but not much crazier than runners questioning at what point they can call themselves a runner without feeling like a fraud, right? (Not that I’ve ever had that issue.)

Strong by Kara Goucher
Six-Word Description: Confidence journal disguised as a game-changer.

I am the same age and Goucher went to my rival high school so I’ve always been a bit invested in her story. (Go Greyhounds!) But what I truly love about this book is how vulnerable she was in terms of sharing some of her running insecurities including doubting her self-worth and wondering if she’s trained hard enough on the eve of big races. Goucher and I are miles and hours apart in experience, expertise and accomplishments but we share some of the same fears. How crazy is that? I also love that she pushes you to address those fears, in writing, and do something about it. The end result is an uplifting story, with tactical tools to level up your story as well!

[Read an excerpt of Strong]

A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio
Six-Word Description: Beauty and strength come from within.

I first learned about Mirna aka the Mirnavator in an article about body-positivity. I was curious enough to grab her memoir but did not anticipate how much she’d open my eyes up to issues around equity, inclusion and diversity. Beyond that, she’s a badass who regularly challenges the status quo in ultras, marathons and other courses. She goes deep in this page turner that gives you a glimpse into her incredible running journey that started with a desire to be healthier.

[Listen to the AMR Podcast with Mirna Valerio]

Run Like a Mother. How to Get Moving – and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.
Six-Word Description: Combination of coach, cheerleader, and counselor.

No, I didn’t add this to be a suck-up to the AMR founders. I stumbled across this book as a fresh new mom 7 years ago. It single handedly saved me from countless injuries and motivated me off the couch and back onto the road. As a BAMR, you know the incredible wit, humor and information Sarah and Dimity share regularly. This book captures all of that and more. It is probably the most tactical running book I own, but also addresses some of my most pressing running issues such as horizontal sweat sessions and perfecting pre-race and post-race selfies.

Bravey by Alexi Pappas
Six-Word Description: About so much more than running.

This read will blow your mind for more reasons than one. I had it on my must-read list but after hearing Pappas on the Another Mother Runner podcast, I was hooked. The writing is beautiful, vulnerable and raw. Pappas writes about a series of life lessons that both runners and non-runners can relate to, while also being incredibly candid about the roller coaster of emotions that come with being a professional runner.

[Listen to the AMR podcast with Alexi Pappas]

It Could be Worse: A Girlfriend’s Guide for Runners who Detest Running by Beth Probst
Six-Word Description: One runner’s candid journey to acceptance.

Hey – if you cannot be inspired by your own story, then what’s the point right? In all seriousness, I included this book because sometimes one finds themselves in a moment that is incomplete. Great stories have a beginning, middle and an end. This one doesn’t because I’m just getting started but I wrote a book anyway. Life’s messy that way and if nothing else, this book reminds you that the best thing about life is that as long as you’re breathing, there’s an opportunity to keep redefining your narrative.

[Listen to the AMR podcast with Beth Probst.]

What favorite running books have inspired you on and off the course?

4 responses to “Get Inspired: Favorite Running Books

  1. Any list of great running books needs to include “Let Your Mind Run” by Deena Kastor. And “Marathon Woman” by Kathrine Switzer. Oh– and “Fast Girls” by Elise Hooper!

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