For those just wanting to dip their toes in, the 2010 book, Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks & Adventures by Runner’s World is a brilliant read and one I return to again and again. It’s an anthology of the best sports writing from Runner’s World magazine – the US edition – so the subjects are mainly American. It covers topics such as the legendary 1982 Boston Marathon as well as inspirational stories of ordinary runners, like the runner and her dog who got lost in the desert or the New York fire officer who was told he’d never walk again after a catastrophic accident, but went on to complete the New York Marathon.
There are many personal memoirs about running from people who have overcome adversity, who run for their mental health or run for a cause; one that I really enjoyed was another recommendation from my running and reading group: Bryony Gordon’s Eat, Drink, Run: How I Got Fit Without Going Too Mad. Gordon is a Telegraph journalist and author of a memoir about her struggles with severe depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Her warm-hearted and insightful running memoir covers the year she spent training for the London Marathon, as well as many other life events. Gordon isn’t a competitive runner, but her descriptions of her increasing fitness and how covering ever greater distances on the run gave her the confidence to tackle more of what life threw at her will resonate with anyone who’s been taken by surprise by how much their body can achieve. It’s funny, brutally honest about living with serious mental health issues and, ultimately, uplifting.
In a very different style, Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running also looks at how running and life can overlap and mutually complement one another. Murakami, a best-selling Japanese author better known for his fiction, is also a keen runner and this short, lyrical autobiography drifts between his work, his life, his running and his memories. This was the first book about running I ever read that wasn’t a ‘how to’ and it absolutely charmed me – the ease and conversational nature of the writing make it feel like a chat with a friend on a run, and the parallels he draws between his writing and running show how central both are to his life‘.