10 running books to inform and inspire you

In 2019, our Run4It Aberdeen store became the designated hub and library for the local book club/book swap setup by Aberdeen-based runner and Physiotherapist, James Cruickshank. Members of the local running and fitness community have enthusiastically shared (and continue to share) their best sporting reads, along with personal responses in the form of handwritten reviews, which has left us with a collection of running books and inspiring commentary, deserving of a wider audience.

Check out the reader comments and reviews below to decide on your next read.

How Bad Do You Want It? – Matt Fitzgerald

Read to… determine how the power of strong mental fitness can give you an advantage over those with stronger physical fitness. Matt’s psychological background gives him a fascinating insight not just limited to running but also the world of XTERRA, cycling and rowing.

He has failed or been close so many times that the hurt of not winning it became his fuel

Review: “Each chapter had a special message – but I liked the links to a sporting event or situation. It also gave me discussion points of which a few of my (physio) clients were exposed to. I felt I could really resonate with the chapter on “sweet disgust”. In the chapter it talks about Cadel Evans who was described as the best cyclist to never win the Tour de France… until he won it. He has failed or been close so many times that the hurt of not winning it became his fuel and when the going got tough he got angry, reflected on the hurt and found that extra ounce of something that he normally didn’t have.”

James, Aberdeen


The Sports Gene – David Epstein

Read to… delve headfirst into the nature vs nurture debate in athletic performance. Dispels factually incorrect myths and explores the influence genetics has on our sporting ability.

Review: “It was fascinating… Lots of insights! For example, there is a study on how a group respond to a 6-week training program (I think it was a running one but can’t remember for sure) and some improve a lot, some not as much (“slow responder”) and some not at all! 

Another example is some theories on what makes Kenyans (I think it was Kenyans!) so good at running from an anatomy point of view (long legs compared to the rest of body, narrow hips, small calf muscle…)..
The 10,000 hour “rule”…”

Ginie, Aberdeen


Mindful Running: How meditative running can improve performance and make you a happier, more fulfilled person – Mackenzie L. Harvey

Read to… learn more about how a positive mindset can have a significant effect on your body’s ability to run and progress in sport.

Review: “Makes mindfulness digestible and translatable to running context. I found it really helpful for hitting into a peaceful flow or hard long marathon runs, kept coming back to it when negative thoughts plagued my mind returning to runs post injury. Brought me back to the joy of running, especially when times/races were off the cards!”

Kerstin, Aberdeen


Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running – Richard Blagrove

Read to… learn about how strength and conditioning programmes can directly improve running performance and reduce the risk of injury, as well as long term high load baring benefits. A topic of much debate in the running world with coaches and runners slowly accepting the importance of S&C training techniques for all runners as a way to staying injury free.

Review: “I came across this book after going through a dip in form. This dip came about with picking up niggles which was due to neglect on my part. Lack of structure to my running (work and life was busy). My usual morning runs became a real effort as I also had lack of motivation due dip in form. All aspects were lacking. As a veteran runner I’ve been more aware of how important strength and conditioning as part of my running plan, sadly I also neglected this. Anyway, on to the book! I’ve found this useful and I refer back to this frequently. The book gives a detailed breakdown of the exercises includes colour photos ……..”A book with pictures is a good book” Liam Gallagher sometime in the 90s. The book has an detailed training plan, how many days reps of exercise etc and there’s also quick reference guide throughout the chapters. Highly recommended……”

Steve, Aberdeen


The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop – Bill Jones

Read to… unravel the mystery surrounding the man who created a stir in the running world, leaving race stewards furious and crowds roaring with excitement. Known as the ‘Ghost Runner’ John Tarrant compromised his amateur status as a runner by accepting expenses for a boxing match in his teens in the 1950s, well, who knew this would follow him through a running career that will go down in the ages as a brilliant show of class and determination.

Have a read – you won’t take entering a race for granted again!

Review: “This poor sod was a world class runner but was treated like a leper because he accepted a few shillings for expenses from participating in a boxing match. He wasn’t allowed to enter races – imagine yourself being banned from races for picking up £10 worth of vouchers at a low-key local race! It dominated his already difficult life, and he died young with health problems. Have a read – you won’t take entering a race for granted again!”

George, Aberdeen


Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance – Alex Hutchinson

Read to… Gain insight into the limits of endurance athletes from an exciting psychological perspective. Learn how Hutchinson’s new discoveries of old psychology techniques can advance performance in modern day athletes.

Review: “One of my favourites. It’s not specifically about running; covering endurance sport in general. It’s got a nice balance between the hard science behind our sport and interesting anecdotes that illustrate this science in practice. It covers all of the factors that limit our performance, why they do, and how we might overdo then. It’s got a pretty readable and compelling style similar to his column in outside magazine. My one frustration is that for all the discussion of the issues it didn’t really provide any hard answers to how I can run faster”

Chris, Aberdeen


Once A Runner – John L. Parker, JR.

Read for… inspirational quotes! John’s story is inspiring, funny, and a spot-on tale of one man’s quest to take on the greatest milers in history. Becoming a champion doesn’t come without sacrifice and John lays it all out in his 1978 classic. Originally sold from the back of his car at races this book became, and still is a rite of passage for a lot of runners.

If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn

Review: “Once a Runner by John L Parker really should be mandatory reading for anyone joining a running club. Fantastic story about the training, competing, the monotony of training and how running can irrationally dominate our mind and thoughts above everything else going on in life. Plus, it contains some of the best descriptions of those mental and physical feelings deep in training.

My favourite quote, which used to inspire midweek slogs on Strava titles:

“You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

Closely followed by “if the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn” to justify any post run treat!”

Tom, Aberdeen


Runner: A Short Story About a Long Run  – Lizzy Hawke

Read to… uncover the physical and mental challenges that all runners go through especially those at the edge of elite human endurance. Lizzy hawker is an inspiration to those who want to see how far the human body can go!

This book inspired me to try something different and turned me to trail running

Review: “After road running for 12 years and finishing my 2nd Loch Ness Marathon this book inspired me to try something different and turned me to trail running and entered the Lairig Ghru hill race in 2014. Lizzy was not just a great ultra-runner but an amazing 24hr runner and record breaker!!”

Alex, Aberdeen


Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers Steve House, Scott Johnston and Kilian Jornet

Read for…  an accessible training manual for those who feel most alive in the mountains. This manual is for coaches and runners alike who take part in distance running particularly those who thrive off the uphill ascents, ski mountaineering, skimo, and skyrunning. A solid book of advice written by one incredible mountaineer, one Olympic level ski coach and one of the best endurance athletes on the planet.

Review: An education into becoming a ‘self-coached’ athlete. A great blend of science, practical learnings and case studies plus a brilliant way to devise your own training plan.

Will, Edinburgh


Running Up That Hill: The Highs and Lows of Going That Bit Further – Vassos Alexander 

Read to… discover how simply the desire to run longer can go a long way. After dipping into the marathon scene, Vassos Alexander set his sights on a bigger challenge, the ultra-marathon! This book combines his honest accounts when competing in ultra-marathons whilst maintaining a light-hearted and almost comical approach.

Review: The book gives an “honest approach to running longer”, is a “quick synopsis of the big races and racers” and reads in a way that meant reader Dave didn’t need to fish out the dictionary. He does however state that the story jumps around a lot so give it time and read bigger chunks at once. Ultimately this book will make you want to run a spartathlon. Leading Dave to give this book a solid 4.8 out of 5.

Dave, Aberdeen