Must-Read Books for Marathon Runners

To some people, jogging 26.2 miles for fun seems like a batty idea. But it's as popular as ever: Last year, close to 500,000 Americans finished marathons. Fall features some of the country’s most high-profile races, from the Chicago and Washington, D.C., Marine Corps marathons in October to the New York City marathon in November. For an extra dose of motivation, check out these great books. Trust us: Whether you’re a seasoned racer or a newbie looking to tick running 26.2 off your bucket list, there’s something here for you

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'Marathon Woman' by Kathrine Switzer

At a time when more than 40 percent of American marathon finishers are female, it’s hard to believe there was ever an era when women weren’t allowed to participate in the sport. But that was the scene in the 1960s, as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman ever to register for and complete the Boston Marathon, describes in her memoir, “Marathon Woman.” During her historic run in April 1967, Switzer was taunted, harassed--and even assaulted. “[Race official Jock Semple] grabbed me and screamed at me, ‘Get the hell out of my race,’” she told PBS. “I realized this was very important and it was probably going to change my life--and change women’s sports.”

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'Paula' by Paula Radcliffe

While Switzer paved the way for female marathoners, Paula Radcliffe took women's marathon running to the next level: Ten years ago, the U.K. native and mom of two broke the tape at the London Marathon at 2:15:25, setting a world record that still stands today. That triumph aside, she's faced challenges in recent years: In 2004, she dropped out of the gold-medal race at the Athens summer Olympics with cramps. In her eponymous memoir,“Paula,” Radcliffe opens up about that crushing experience and more. Runners looking for Radcliffe’s tips on the track should also check out her detailed guide, “How to Run.”

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'Marathon' by Higdon

Whether you’re preparing for your first race or trying to improve your PR (personal record), Hal Higdon’s classic guide “Marathon” is a great place to start. One of the running world’s most beloved figures, Higdon—who’s finished a mind-blowing 111 marathons himself--has been disseminating running advice to pavement-hitters for decades. Featuring training plans for runners at every level, “Marathon” is one of the best resources around.

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'Devoted' by Dick Hoyt

If you've ever read about father-son pair Dick and Rick Hoyt, you know how moving their story is. Born with cerebral palsy, Rick was never able to run on his own but loved the sensation of racing with his dad, who pushed Rick's road-fitted wheelchair. In 1981, the Holland, Mass. natives ran their first Boston Marathon—and they've done it every April since, completing 31 Bostons (this year would've been their 32nd finish, if not for the bombings that halted the race) and scores of other endurance events. In July, Dick, 73, and Rick, 51, were awarded a special ESPY award for their achievements. Dick tells their awe-inspiring story in “Devoted.”

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'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' by Haruki Murakami

When he’s not writing quirky, beautiful novels, Haruki Murakami can be found pounding the pavement: A 20-time marathoner who completed a 62-mile ultramarathon in 1996, he's as avid a runner as he is a writer. The author reflects on the impact his healthy hobby has had on his craft in his memoir-slash-training guide, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running."

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For more of Bookish's book picks for marathon runners, click here. For books by female athletes, click here.

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First Published Tue, 2013-09-24 13:50

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