#Running and #Triathlon Books for the Holidays

“Not another book!” This is usually my kids’ responses when they receive a book as a gift. Not that they don’t like reading. They’re both voracious readers; my oldest son is into Percy Jackson and 39 Clues (and the multitude of spawn from that series) while my younger son dabbles in Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants, while I do my best to steer him to Roald Dahl, my favorite author as a child. They just don’t think of a book as a present.

I, on the other hand, love receiving books. I read mostly on the Kindle now as it’s easier, but I miss book jackets and real pages. Plus, as my husband pointed out, you can’t share a Kindle book.

Anyway, on to the point of this post. There is one, really. I thought that something was missing from all the holiday gift guides I’m seeing on blogs and TV and just about everywhere else: Books. Not that there aren’t fabulous things on the gift guides, but books seemed to be missing. Like my kids, I think we sometimes forget that a book can be a present.

Here’s my Holiday Book Guide for your favorite runner or triathlete. These are all books that I own and love:

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

The barefoot running book. The minimalist running book. This book has many monikers. Mostly, it’s a fascinating story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons. And of course this is the book that brought us Caballo Blanco, AKA Micah True, who passed away in March doing what he loved – running.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Jurek in June. He is a fascinating individual. His demeanor is calm, relaxed, unassuming, yet he races Ultras with an intense passion, drive, and oblivion to pain. His story is uplifting, depressing, inspiring. Jurek’s experiences are one-of-a-kind, and he uses them all to harness the power he needs for racing the way he does.

Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell, ultramarathoner and editor of I Run Far, the definitive site for everything ultra, has written a book on ultramarathoning for the masses. This is Ultramarathoning for Dummies. There are race plans for distances from 50K to 100 miles, as well as advice on how to run trails, how to fuel and hydrate, as well as advice from some of the world’s top ultramarathoners.

Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, Revised Edition: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program

This is a great training guide for a triathlete who wants to train for a half marathon or marathon while still having time to swim and bike, or for a runner who likes to cross-train. The basic tenet of Run Less Run Faster is that you don’t need to run as much as some plans would have you think…if you cross-train. With just 3 runs per week (speed, tempo, long), the training plans might seem unusual, but they work. I used this plan for a half marathon, at which I PR’d by 6 minutes. I then used it for a marathon and PR’d by 7 minutes. Bottom line: if you cross-train, it works. If you like easy, relaxed runs where you can chat with friends, this is not for you.

Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons

Kara Goucher may be an Olympic marathoner, but she’s incredibly down to earth. I met her at Boulder Bolder 10K in May, where she chatted happily with runwiki and me while a long line of people waited to meet her. The book is an easy read: quick tips, sample training plans, running during and after pregnancy, the challenges of the female athlete’s body, balancing family and running. But by far my favorite part is Kara’s description of running her first marathon: New York in 2008, probably because it involves my running idol: Paula Radcliffe. On the bus ride to the start, Kara was such an emotional mess from the pressure that Paula, under immense pressure herself as she was defending her title, sat down next to Kara and talked to her for an hour, calming her down. Kara went on to place 3rd, despite dropping her water bottles, cramping, and vomiting.

A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey by Chrissie Wellington

Chrissie Wellington is one of my favorite triathletes. She is a fighter. She admits that the pressure she feels when racing is mostly self-inflicted; she is the one who is hardest on herself. What’s interesting is that she has this plentiful, loved-filled childhood, and then, when she shows some promise as a triathlete, enters into one of the most abusive coach/athlete relationships I could imagine. It’s horrific, and I kept wondering why she didn’t leave. But of course she gets results under this coach, and that’s why. Even when she is eventually forced to leave him she doubts her ability to continue to succeed without his guidance. Even world champions do some dumb stuff.

Paula: My Story So Far by Paula Radcliffe

I’ve saved the best for last. Paula’s had some disasters over the years, including more 4th place finishes at Olympics and World Championships events that you can imagine, a total meltdown at the Olympic marathon in Athens in 2004, an injury-filled leadup to a lackluster performance in Beijing in 2008, and more injuries leading to withdrawal from London in 2012, which must have been an unbelievably hard decision. And yet she is the women’s world record holder in the marathon. Paula has been my running idol since my cross-country days as a teen. People aren’t so aware of her cross-country prowess, but when I was growing up she was virtually unbeatable. She won the world cross-country championships as a junior in 1992, but it wasn’t until 9 years laster that she finally managed to wrestle the senior title away from Gete Wami. She describes all of these experiences, and more, in brutally honest detail. And while she admits that, at 38, her elite career may be over, she’ll always be impressive to me.


  1. You forgot socks and underwear. I’m joking of course, this is an excellent list, as usual you’re thoughtful, intelligent and more sophisticated than most, one of the thousand things I love about you! Happy reading love! xoxo
    Lisa McClellan recently posted..10 Holiday Gift Ideas for RunnersMy Profile

  2. Mzungu Aldrich says:

    Great review. The only gift better than a running book is a triathlon book. The only gift better than a triathlon book is mint-flavored Glide.

    BTW, I thought that Born to Run was about capturing the joy in every run and “going somewhere” with your runs. It made me reconsider my tendency to run loops.

    • Racingtales says:

      Thank you Mzungu. I have said mint-flavored Glide. It is good. The wonderful thing about a good book is that everyone gains something different from it! Glad it made you reconsider those mad loops.

  3. What a great list! I love my kindle, never thought I would but it’s so convenient. I read Born To Run, it wasn’t my favorite but parts were really good. I’ve been meaning to read Scott Jurek’s book, so I’ll def add that to my list and check out the others. Thanks!

    • Racingtales says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mollie. The kindle is great although I wanted hard copies of some of the books because I was getting them signed by the authors!

  4. I am with you on ‘steering’ my children towards certain books. I thought for sure I would be reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory or the Harry Potter series along with my 9 year old, instead its Diary of A Wimpy Kid and The Dork Diaries. Well, at least she’s reading.

    Not a running book at all, but I just finished The Life Of Pi (had to before I saw the movie) and it was incredible.
    Mark Matthews recently posted..So, Too Much Running Can Kill You? Bury Me With My Shoes On ThenMy Profile

  5. I really enjoyed “Born To Run” it was such a fun read! I need to pick up a copy of “Relentless Forward Progress” next. I decided I want to run a 50k in April, so I need to start training for that.

    What I’m reading right now is “The Longest Race” by Ed Ayres. I haven’t gotten to far into it just yet, but so far, so good.
    Ricardo Bueno recently posted..Crystal Cove 6k Trail Race RecapMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Hey Ricardo, which 50K are you running? I love that distance. Relentless Forward Progress has some great training plans.

  6. Jesica @rUnladylike says:

    This is such a great twist on the standard holiday gift guide for runners. I can’t wait to check out some of these books, and I’m really looking forward to reading Run Less Run Faster. I find that 3 days a week is sometimes all I can do during triathlon season. And the constant battle to strike a balance between training, work, life and family makes that training option ideal. Have a great holiday!


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