“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 SeenÂ 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 GreatnessÂ 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 UltramarathonsÂ 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.
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 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 JourneyÂ 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 FarÂ 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.