5 books to read before running the London Marathon

Co-instigator of BookMachine, Gavin, is running the London Marathon on 21st April in support of Book Aid.

It’s very tempting, when training for a marathon, to spend as much time reading about the theory of running, as actually running. If you’ve fallen in to this trap, and I certainly did for a while, you’re as well to make sure that you’re reading the right stuff. Here are my top 5 must reads about running…

1. Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=1861978774&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=bookm 21ir?t=bookm 21&l=as2&o=2&a=1861978774This is the bible of the barefoot running movement. It begins with the author’s frustration at his inability to run without crippling pain; his doctors tell him that, well, running long distances just isn”t that good for you. Is there a better way to run? Are expensive cushioned running shoes actually the cause of rather than the cure for the epidemic of injury amongst runners over the last 25 years?

Enter the mysterious Tarahumara tribe from the Copper Canyons of Mexico, known as amongst the best distance runners in the world. The author travels to visit them in the hope of uncovering their secrets, and finding a more natural, pain free way to run. I didn’t start running with bare feet after reading this book, but I admit I did seriously consider it.

2. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B008BTC5E6&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=bookm 21ir?t=bookm 21&l=as2&o=2&a=B008BTC5E6One of the stars of Born to Run is the American Ultra Marathon runner Scott Jurek (ultra marathons are classed as anything above 26.2 miles, and are commonly up to 100 miles). This is part autobiography, part cook-book.

Jurek intersperses anecdotes about his ultra running career with handy recipes for fueling his grueling training sessions. While personally I can’t buy in to his 100% vegan approach (I like burgers just too much) I can vouch for the Minnesota Winter Chilli recipe. Wow.


3. The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B006B7LSDY&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=bookm 21ir?t=bookm 21&l=as2&o=2&a=B006B7LSDYThis book gives you everything you need to know to get from the couch to running a marathon. It has training plans, expert advice and tips for injury prevention, all designed for the non-runner (which made it right up my street).

There are pages of interviews with fellow non-runners who have followed the advice in the book, and have all successfully finished the marathon. They key words of wisdom here are to make sure your only goal is to finish, i.e no setting yourself up to fail by planning to get round in 2 hours 30. Fair enough. My only adjustment has been to target finishing on the same day that I start.

I’ve based my entire training schedule on this book, so I’ll let’s see what happens…

4. The First 20 Minutes

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This book presents some of the latest research on fitness in general, and is also full of surprising, and heartening advice. Chocolate milk is the best thing to drink after exercise apparently, helping speed recovery after a draining workout. A close second is beer (albeit non-alcoholic), which contains just the right balance of nutrients. Who knew?

There’s lots of great detail here for anyone who wants to get seriously geeky about their fitness.

5. Running With the Kenyans: Discovering the secrets of the fastest people on earth

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0077ROL40&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=GB&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=bookm 21ir?t=bookm 21&l=as2&o=2&a=B0077ROL40In a similar vein to Born to Run, here the author travels to Kenya to find out why their runners have been dominating distance running for such a long time.

This is an entertaining read, though sadly there isn’t one big secret to Kenyan running success that can be easily replicated, it’s more a combination of factors that work together to produce the greatest runners on the planet.

This book won’t make you a world beater over night, but is a good reminder of why you started running in the first place.


Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year Book Aid  provided 543,280 new books to over 2,000 libraries and have sent more than 30 million books to partner libraries since 1954.
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