Ultra-Running Books: 20 Must Reads

best ultra running books

When not on the trail yourself, what better way to spend your R&R time than reading about other great athletes on the trail! In no particular order, the following list is broken into two sections: inspiring ultra-running stories and guide books about ultra-running.

There is something on this list for everyone! These ultra-running authors will speak to you whether you are looking for inspiration, seeking stories that remind you of your own journey, or if you are carving new tips and advice for how to improve your technique, speed, and comfort long distances on the trail. Without further ado, here’s our list of 20 must read ultra-running books…

1. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall sets out to answer the question: Why does my foot hurt?

Ultra-runners push their bodies to run incredible distances over intense terrain. McDougall explores the secrets to being the best runner – inquiring at labs of Harvard, Nike and others about the greatest runners and their characteristics.

Along the way, he captures the outsiders view of how the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons have the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury.

The Tarahumara are believed to be the best distance runners in the world, notoriously running in sandals and togas. There is no surprise why this book is on everyone’s top running must read list!

Get a copy: Amazon

2. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes ran for 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep completing 350 miles.

Although this book tells the stories of Karnazes great running feats, it also tells about his thirst for change at a time when his life was at risk of falling apart. Karnazes is an accomplished ultramarathon runner – hence receiving the title of Ultramarathon Man. In his book, he tells of regularly running 100 miles at a time, his adventures in Death Valley, the South Pole, and the mountains of Sierra Nevada.

Impressively, he attempted to run 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days to raise awareness of youth obesity and to encourage Americans of all fitness levels to be physically and mentally active.

Get a copy: Amazon

3. North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek’s memoir takes readers through his 2,189 mile, 46-day run in 2015 to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

To do the math, that is 50 miles every day for almost 7 weeks! Jurek is a well-known ultrarunner, famed for finishing first in nearly all ultra-running elite events.

Although, in his book, Jurek reflects a different kind of feat – the one that breaks him down only to have him discover something new about himself while he builds himself back up.

Get a copy: Amazon

4. The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand by Anna McNuff

Anna McNuff runs for herself; not for time, not to win, not for distance, and not to impress.

McNuff found her own passion as a “real” runner traveling solo and unsupported (with the exception of kind hearts and hands of kiwi residents along the way) through New Zealands backcountry for 148 days, running through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, and along beaches and rivers.

This coming of age story leads readers through McNuff’s experienced fear, vulnerability, courage, and failure.

Get a copy: Amazon

5. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor

Deena Kastor, after being the brink of a burnout and risking her love of running, she changed her former approach and become a professional distance-runner.

She trained not only her body, but her mind to be encouraging, kind, and resilient. Kastors positivity gives her a competitive edge, no matter the size of the steps she takes to achieve her goals.

Get a copy: Amazon

6. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet

By the age of 25, Kilian Jornet conquered some of the most challenging terrain, including obtaining the speed record for running up and down Mount Kilimanjaro.

He has dominated ultra-marathons and races at altitude and redefined the human limits of running: a true symbol for the limits of human capacity.

In this book, Jornet shares his passion for running and love for the landscapes around him.

Get a copy: VeloPress

7. Finding Ultra, Revised and Updated Edition: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself

Over the course of only a few months, Rich Roll transformed his out-of-shape mid-lifer lifestyle into a renowned endurance machine.

His life consisted of work, stress, junk food, and poor sleeping habits. Roll’s journey takes him from a forty-year-old couch potato to the finishing line of elite ultra-competitions.

He pursues what he considers impossible and creates a life of mission and success for himself.

Get a copy: Amazon

8. Mud, Sweat, and Tears: An Irish Woman’s Journey of Self-Discovery by Moire O’Sullivan

Moire O’Sullivan writes this memoir about her inspiring story of completing the Wicklow Round, a 100K linkup of 26 Irish peaks in under 24 hours.

Her first attempted ended just short: at 21 and a half hours and two summits from the end. The next year she returned to set the record for the first person to complete the Round in less than 24 hours.

She takes her readers through her journey of how to suffer endlessly, over and over again, all for the passion and love of running.

Get a copy: Amazon

9. Runner: A Short Story About a Long Run by Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy Hawker runs for the love of running. She achieved an unexpected first place finish (the first of five) in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix.

Her story recounts her experiences with mental, physical, and emotional challenges that come along with hard work and determination as an ultra-runner.

This is an inspiring and moving read as it makes the reader want to feed their soul with the company of the mountains and mountain communities.

Get a copy: Amazon

10. Nowhere Near First: Ultramarathon Adventures From the Back of the Pack by Cory Reese

In this autobiography, Cory Reese, a father of three, a husband, a social worker, and a dog owner, shares his stories of balancing family and training for races.

Reese writes from a position in the middle to back of the race pack. He is not a first place winner on a podium, but he certainly knows what success looks and feels like. His running career spurred from tragedy and turned into triumph.

He expresses his dark parts of his youth and about his lessons from suffering that have brought him to a life lived to the fullest. He relates to the average ultrarunners – those looking to finish proud, not to place for first.

Get a copy: Amazon

11. Running Beyond: Epic Ultra Trail and Skyrunning Races by Ian Corless

Ian Corless captures ultra-running races from around the world through photographs, descriptions, and race maps.

This book is a great coffee table center piece, complete with awe-inspiring images and stories. Corless reminds readers that running is all about the journey and the views along the way – from valleys to mountains to deserts to beaches – not just the finish.

Get a copy: Amazon

12. A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio

Breaking stereotypes, Mirna is an ultra-runner. She writes her body-positive memoir with honesty, adventurous spirit, and a great sense of humor.

Follow her story from first time racer to ultramarathoner, proving anyone can become a successful athlete. Her message: fit comes in many forms and that people can still participate in athletics no matter what kind of body they have.

Get a copy: Amazon

13. Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon

This motivating and inspiring ultramarathon running book features interviews with 35 different runners.

It analyzes their drive, training, and how ultra-running differs from short course running and other types of running and racing.

This book shows how all types of ultra-runners expand their limits and achieve great personal goals and feats.

Get a copy: Amazon

14. The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn

Adharanand Finn studies the reasons behind the rise of ultra-running and what brings hundreds of thousands of competitors each year to run brutal and challenging races, often across the most extreme terrain.

Finn breaks down what it means for humans to test their boundaries and how it may be an escape from modern life.

Get a copy: Amazon

15. Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon, from 50K to 100 Miles and Beyond by Hal Koerner

Hal Koerner is one of America’s best ultrarunners. This handbook shares ultra-running wisdoms, field-tested habits, and professional tips on how to properly prepare for running 30 miles to 100 miles and beyond.

This book includes advice about the best gear, proper hydration practices, trail running specific techniques, first-aid knowledge, weather awareness, pacer tips, and how to win the mental game.

Get a copy: Amazon

16. Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers by Steve House, Scott Johnston, and Kilian Jornet

This guide provides proven training knowledge from top ultra running professionals: Steve House, Scott Johnston, and Kilian Jornet. It includes their training plans along with thoughtful and well-founded answers to questions from athletes who they have coached throughout the years.

The book gives individuals the tools to create their own seasonal and yearly individualized training plans for all forms of mountain running and ski mountaineering.

Although there are no training plans presented in the book, the authors offer a foundational understanding of the theory of running and training and a full toolbox to motivate readers to customize their own training plans based upon their ability level, lifestyles, training history, and targeted events or adventures.

Get a copy: Uphillathlete.com

17. Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell’s guide was the first of its kind. Following other inspiring novels about ultrarunners life obsessions, Powell took the initiative to write the first “how to” guide. In this book, Powell covers every possible aspect of training.

He seeks tips and advice to share with his readers from the greatest runners in the field: Geoff Roes, Krissy Moehl, Micheal Wardian, Dave Mackey, and David Horton.

By following Powell and these experts, readers will learn about what they are capable beyond their dreams.

Get a copy: Amazon

18. The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer Pharr Davis tells her story starting with her training, through running the Appalachian Trail, and then receiving the fastest known time.

Davis respects that there are many ways individuals enjoy hiking and supports HYOH – hike your own hike. Learning from her own experiences, she takes her readers through her rituals and histories of speed thru hiking.

She offers readers advice on how to maximize their own perseverance, on and off the trail.

Get a copy: Amazon

19. Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness, and Balance in Your Running by Emelie Forsberg

Emelie Forsberg shares her knowledge and mastery of how to thrive in the demanding sport of sky running. She uses interval training and uphill and downhill training to maintain her physical strength, she cross trains with yoga, and she eats healthy.

She nourishes her mind, body, and soul, through active practices of mental and physical injury recovery. Forsberg, as a professional athlete, she finds her perfect balance of life while sustaining motivation and passion for the sport she loves.

In her book, Forsberg discusses travelogue, cooking, contemplation, and training advice.

Get a copy: Amazon

20. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek explores the mental side of endurance running. His running resume will not disappoint, giving him the credentials and expertise for dishing advice on running rips, philosophies, and how to win on a plant-based diet.

Also read: 8 Vegan Runners and How They Get Enough Protein

He is championed for being one of America’s top ultra-running athletes who successfully stays fueled and maintains the optimal performance with a vegan plant-based diet.

Get a copy: Amazon

 

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