Want some additional motivation for your next marathon or ultra? Want a book for your holiday travels?  Want to gift the runner in your life, but can’t spring for new shoes?

These four books make great reads or gifts for any athlete:

  1. Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich

Over 30 years, ultramarathoner Marshall Ulrich has thrived under conditions and mileage most of us automatically consider impossible: running 586 miles across Death Valley among other feats. In Running on Empty, Ulrich chronicles his most daring test yet: a 3,000+ mile run across the United States in 2008, at 56 years old.

Running from San Francisco to New York City, Ulrich averages 400 miles per week- two marathons per day- through extreme heat and cold and near-constant injuries. But more challenging — and compelling — is his mental battle. Lonely 10-hour runs force him to confront not just boredom and fatigue, but the grief, guilt and inadequacy he’s tried to outrun for decades. The sheer difficulty of the task also forces a stubbornly independent runner to rely on friends and family for support. But personal demons, lost toenails and 90+ degree days aside, his gratitude for nature and for running shine through.


And although we’re unlikely to attempt his journey, any runner can relate to those qualities.

  1. The Long Run by Matt Long

Weeks after he qualified for his first Boston Marathon, a bus accident left Matt Long unable to sit upright by himself. In The Long Run. Long retells his arduous recovery, from relearning to walk to running the New York City Marathon.

With raw emotion and ample gallows humor, Long shares his hopelessness of being slowed down- perhaps permanently. But as he trains for NYC, he demonstrates a resolve that resonates with anyone who’s been told “no.”

Massive as his comeback seems, he sprinkles similarly bold stories throughout The Long Run. Rescuing people from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Going from couch to Ironman. Both in his recovery and his life as a whole, Long reminds us to seize all of life’s opportunities and maximize our potentials.

  1. Run the World by Becky Wade

Getting paid to run around the world is every runner’s dream job.

After finishing her track career at Rice University, elite marathoner Becky Wade won a fellowship to travel the world and research running cultures. In Run the World, Wade describes her yearlong travels through the world’s most influential running cultures: Ethiopia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland and more.

Running 3,500 miles in nine different countries, she experimented with different training styles and recovery techniques, from three-hour long runs in Ethiopia to Irish post-run teas to Swiss hill training. Her explorations force her to question America’s “numbers-obsessed” running culture.

Run the World shows that running transcends boundaries. In all nine countries, Wade forges friendships formed over long runs, appreciates breathtaking scenery and indulges in post-run feasts (recipes thoughtfully shared in the book), showing that the best parts of running are universal.

  1. Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear

Running with the Buffaloes takes an inside look at the University of Colorado 1998 men’s cross country season, which included 2000 Olympian Adam Goucher. Under legendary coach Mark Wetmore, these 18- to 23-year-olds balance 100+ mile training weeks with full course loads, part-time jobs and their relationships, all in pursuit of another NCAA title. Along the way, an unthinkable tragedy presents them with adversity far beyond 15+ hour training weeks and untimely injuries, further testing their fortitude before the biggest race of their races.

For any former athlete, Running with the Buffaloes is a throwback to the demoralizing and transcendent workouts, the life-changing friendships, ecstatic victories and crushing defeats of any season. But it also explains the methods behind Wetmore’s 100-mile weeks and mental techniques, making it particularly useful for marathoners on the cusp of a new PR.

Do you have your own running book suggestions? Leave the title and author in the comment section below!

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