What Are Runners Reading?

June 24, 2016 - By: Sarah Hovis

Every summer there’s seems to be a plethora of salacious, breezy beach read options. Books about running? Eh, it’s getting better. Considering running is the second most-popular activity, according to data Fitbit gathered on workouts among people in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Britain, you would think bookstore shelves would be teeming with books on running-related topics. But just less than 10 years ago that wasn’t the case. The running reading landscape changed dramatically when Christopher McDougall, a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, wrote his 2009 bestseller, Born to Run. It sold more than a million copies, inspired a barefoot-running movement, and incited a publishing frenzy. TheWallStreetJournal.com reportedthat since 2009, the number of running-book titles published per year has nearly tripled to 267 in 2015, according to Bowker, a tracker of publishing trends.

Some running books focus solely on the technical aspect of the sport, but there are other areas that are inspired by running, such as:

A metaphor for something larger than the sport.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. The inspiration for the book came when Murakami was training for the New York City Marathon and decided to take an intimate look at writing, running, and the way they intersect.

Overcoming personal adversity.

Running Home by Alisha Perkins. This memoir chronicles how Perkins found relief from her anxiety disorder through running. “I think that all runners are running away from something, or running toward something,” says Perkins.

As a way to nurture spiritual growth.

The Tao of Running: The Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running by Ultrarunning magazine columnist, Gary Dudney. A fresh perspective to the topic of running that offers readers multiple ways to significantly deepen, enlighten, and enrich their running experiences.

And the popularity of these books seems to mirror the sport’s highs and lows. “We went from a period of all running books selling well to a period of almost none selling well,” says Joe Henderson, who has written 30 running books. Today, roughly 50 million Americans run at least once a year. Rodale’s Amby Burfoot, a one-time Boston Marathon winner and the author of several books, attributes the recent surge in running books “to the market’s slow recognition that 50 percent of runners are women. Women are believed to be strong book buyers.” In fact, Burfoot’s latest book is published called First Ladies of Running, and profiles female pioneers of the sport.

Tell us in the comments your favorite running read.