Popular books about running: 12 great gift ideas

Running has made us laugh, cry, utter words we never thought we’d hear ourselves say and do some things that are questionable or simply bizarre to non-runners. Running is, in every sense of the word, one hell of a personal journey and I’m sure that we all know someone in our running community that can […]

Running has made us laugh, cry, utter words we never thought we’d hear ourselves say and do some things that are questionable or simply bizarre to non-runners.

Running is, in every sense of the word, one hell of a personal journey and I’m sure that we all know someone in our running community that can associate with at least one of these great books.  If you’re in the market for a gift, I’d say one of these is bound to hit the spot!  Besides, with Christmas Day around the corner (you’re welcome!), now is perhaps a good time to start your gift planning.

1. Personal pick: The Five Hour Pilgrim –  Tom Cottrell

When Tom and I met for the very first time in January 2018 in his beautiful home in Johannesburg, South Africa, he opened up about his journey which led him to write this book.  We spent hours talking about our dreams, our runs, our journeys and about facing our biggest challenge in life – facing ourselves.  Before I left, Tom gifted me a copy in which he wrote a beautiful, personal message to me which I will always cherish.

This book is bound to make you laugh, cry, and remind you of how running prepares you for the race of life, how it heals you, how it motivates you and how it can sometimes bring you to your knees.

2. A Beautiful Work In Progress – A memoir by Mirna Valerio

Runners’ vocabulary is full of acronyms like DNS for “Did Not Start” and DNF for “Did Not Finish,” but when Mirna Valerio stepped up to the starting line, she needed a new one: DNQ for “Did Not Quit.”

Valerio has tied on her running shoes all across the country, from the dusty back roads of central New Jersey to the busy Route 222 corridor in Pennsylvania to the sweltering deserts of Arizona. When you meet her on the trail, you might be surprised to see she doesn’t quite fit the typical image of a long-distance runner. She’s neither skinny nor white, and she’s here to show just how misguided these stereotypes can be.

In this prejudice-busting, a body-positive memoir told with raw honesty, an adventurous spirit, and a sharp sense of humor, Valerio takes readers along on her journey from a first-time racer to ultramarathoner and proves that anyone can become a successful athlete.


3. Running With A Police Escort – Tales from the Back of the Pack by Jill Grunenwald

In the fall of 2012, quirky and cat-loving Cleveland librarian Jill Grunenwald got an alarming email from her younger sister: her sister was very concerned with Jill’s weight and her overall mental and physical health. Having always struggled with her weight, Jill was currently hitting the scales at more than three hundred pounds. Right then, Jill looked in the mirror and decided that she needed to make a lifestyle change, pronto. She enrolled in Weight Watchers and did something else that she—the girl who avoided gym class like the plague in high school—never thought she’d do; Jill started running. And believe it or not, it wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was kind of fun.

Speaking of running, don’t you just love the look of these?

4.  Runaway Comrade – Bob de la Motte

If you’ve read my blog post ‘How the journey to running 90km’s prepared me for starting a business‘, you’ll know how close I hold my Comrades Marathon experience to my heart.  In Runaway Comrade, according to the website dedicated to this book, the book reflects ‘An insider’s view of the oldest and biggest ultramarathon in the world against the backdrop of politics in 1980’s South Africa; the social contribution made by black runners; the Chicken Run to Australia; being sued for $1 billion; and a hectic life on four continents.

The author is applying the proceeds of the publication of “Runaway Comrade” for the benefit of a few of South Africa’s leading black ultramarathon runners from the 1974-90 era’ so your purchasing this book will really go to a good cause.

5.  Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier – Scott Douglas

I was born in a country where there is still an unfortunate stigma around mental health challenges which is changing too slowly in my opinion.  I am blessed to now live in Australia and am amazed at the extent to which the almost-opposite is true.  Sure, people are people everywhere and stigmas are hard to break, but the Australians I have met seem to be extremely comfortable around the topic, if not advocates for its acceptance, and many races offer the chance to raise funds for mental health support, and the medical system Medicare is set up to provide excellent support.

In his book ‘Running Is My Therapy‘ Scott Douglas,  a contributing editor for Runner’s World and the author or coauthor of eight books, including the New York Times bestseller Meb for Mortals – Hot to Run, Think, and Eat like a Champion Marathoner and Advanced Marathoning,  explores this topic from over 110,000 miles of personal experience and scientific research.

‘Whether you’re a runner struggling with depression or anxiety or someone who is depressed and anxious looking for a scientifically supported way to improve your mental health, Running Is My Therapy is here to help. Longtime running writer Scott Douglas marshals cutting-edge science, anecdote, and expert advice to show how running can reduce depression and anxiety and boost the mind. You’ll learn how running affects the brain and about options for combining running with different kinds of mental health treatments, from cognitive behavioral therapy to antidepressants and more, as well as how running can lead to a more fulfilling life by encouraging social connections, healthier habits, a sense of purpose, or even decreasing use of controlled substances.

From proper pace and distances to choosing optimal surroundings and personal routines, Douglas provides proven methods that have helped him and others battle depression and anxiety, improve mental health, and live happier—both while running and while enjoying the rest of life.’

6.  How to Lose a Marathon: A starter’s Guide to finishing in 26.2 chapters – Joel Cohen


As an avid fan of cartoons, especially the Cyanide and Happiness range, I was immediately drawn to this book.  The author, Joel Cohen, is a writer and producer for the popular TV Series ‘The Simpsons‘.  In this hilarious book, he takes his readers through ‘a humorous, illustrated guide for any and every wannabe marathoner’.

The book is also available in French.

I ran the Comrades Marathon using a civvio running belt, but here are some others you may want to consider (If only those abs came with the belts – sigh!):

7.  Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Phil Knight

This book will be of equal interest to those in business, or thinking about business or running.  Phil Knight started Nike with a $50 loan from his father and sold his first shoes out of the boot of his car.  Today, Nike’s sales top $30 billion and they have one of the most easily recognized logos in the world.

‘Above all, he recalls the relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers.’

This book is definitely at the top of my pile to read next, given that I strongly associate the struggles, challenges, and lessons of ultramarathon running as documented in my blog post ‘How the journey to running 90km’s prepared me for starting a business

8. The Complete Runner’s Day-By-Day Log 2019 Calendar – Marty Jerome

It feels like yesterday that I posted the 2018 version to Canada to take part in a Secret Santa with the Run, Heifer, Run community run by the hilarious Melissa Khan.

Sure, there are endless electronic and automatic methods to log runs but there is something magical about writing something – anything – by hand.  I generally prefer writing by hand instead of typing wherever possible and journal by hand.

All runners hit a patch of self-doubt at some point along the way.  I hit this every single time I attempted a new distance for the first time – from my first 15km to the Comrades Marathon.  It was an extraordinary help to look back on every single run and the associated notes and to get a holistic picture of all the progress to date to help me with confidence.

This nifty journal/log book comes complete with photographs, space for making a lot of notes in addition to logging your miles as well as tips and inspirational quotes.  Power to the pen!


9.  Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes – Shalane Flanagan

This is the first book on the list that touches on nutrition, and who better to listen to than world-class USA marathoner, running sweetheart and 4-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan.  In this book, she shares recipes fit for runners after cooking up a storm with chef Elyse Kopecky.

‘Packed with more than 100 recipes for every part of your day, mind-blowing nutritional wisdom, and inspiring stories from two fitness-crazed women that became fast friends over 15 years ago, Run Fast. Eat Slow. has all the bases covered. You’ll find no shortage of delicious meals, satisfying snacks, thirst-quenching drinks, and wholesome treats—all made without refined sugar and flour. Fan favorites include Can’t Beet Me Smoothie, Arugula Cashew Pesto, High-Altitude Bison Meatballs, Superhero Muffins, Kale Radicchio Salad with Farro, and Double Chocolate Teff Cookies.’

I’m hungry just after reading that (yes, more hungry than I usually am!)

At home, I use a Nutribullet to chop and blend to my heart’s desire, and I especially love the consistency of the smoothies it produces.  Here are a few options if you are in the market for one or want to treat someone to an awesome, useful gift.

10. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen – Christopher McDougall

First, a bit of history.  The geographical territory covered in this book is home to the UMCB (Ultra Maraton Caballo Blanco), which was started by Micah True (Caballo Blanco) who wanted to bring runners from all over the world and introduce them to the Tarahumara people.  This race brings together endurance runners from all ends of the earth to run alongside over 600 Raramuri athletes and introduced a marathon distance in 2017.  Ok, enough history, now more about the book.

‘An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?

Isolated by Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.’

11. The Incomplete Book of Running – Peter Sagal

This book is the #1 seller in Track & Field Sports on Amazon, and in just reading the description I think I can start gauging why.

‘Just before turning forty, Sagal—brainiac Harvard grad, short bald Jew with a disposition toward heft, and sedentary star of public radio who had exercised sporadically as a teenager—started running seriously. A decade later, what began as a simple mission to keep himself healthy had evolved into fourteen marathon finishes—including one in Boston in 2013, where he crossed the line only moments before two bombs went off—and tens of thousands of miles on roads, sidewalks, paths, and trails all over the United States and the world.

Candid, clear-eyed, and frequently hilarious, The Incomplete Book of Running is about more than just a man and a sport. It is a field guide to life, a collection of lessons centered around all those things that keep us moving forward: hope, persistence, practice, and love.’

12. Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You – Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher, another running sweetheart and USA runner, probably needs no introduction.  With her book exploring the importance of mental conditioning, and techniques to do so, it reminded me of what my mom, a 13-time Comrades Marathon finisher repeatedly told me before I ran my first Comrades with her in 2015: “Remember, you run the first 60km’s with your body and the last 30km’s with your mind”.  Only on the day of the race this really hit home.

‘Kara Goucher shares her secrets to conquering self-doubt and improving running performance using proven tools from the field of sports psychology. Strong includes tips, techniques, and real-life experiences from Olympians Emma Coburn and Molly Huddle, and New York Times bestselling author Robin Arzón. Strong also offers perspectives from two experts in the field of sports psychology, including Kara’s own sports psychologist, Dr. Stephen Walker.


  • Kara’s stories, experiences, and glimpses inside her personal confidence journal.
  • Insights from inspiring women in the field of running.
  • Guided activities to incorporate eight confidence techniques into your own training, including Positive Self Talk, Mantra, Setting Goals, Enclothed Cognition, Power Pose, Visualization Techniques, Power Words, and Social Connections.
  • Tools to starting your own Kara-style confidence journal, with over 25 prompts to get you started.’

Get the above books on Kindle

All the hardcovers referenced above are available on Kindle and you can access a free trial of Kindle Unlimited by clicking on the image below.

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With running love,

Anna and the team at GetToTheStart


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