Running and me have a strange relationship. We’re on-again off-again, love-hate. We have a history. In school I hated running, but as an adult, after doing Couch to 5K, I fell for the sport (and a little bit for Laura, the lovely voice in my ears who talked me through it). Then I fell hard out of love with it again, after a literal fall that had me doing an unexpected split and tearing a groin muscle (not recommended – it’s as painful as it is undignified). Several false starts later, I’m gearing up to get running again, and am building up my enthusiasm with my own personal reading list of books for reluctant runners.
If, like me, you’re not a natural athlete and find it difficult to get into the running mindset, you might find some inspiration in this collection of running-themed fiction and non-fiction. Alternatively, you might need a bit of support and reassurance by reading words from slower, less fit, and less “natural” runners. I know I do. Wherever you are in your running journey, I hope these books for reluctant runners help you stay the course.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Castle Cranshaw, also known as Ghost, is a faster runner than I’ll ever be, so while I won’t be reading this book to pick up running tips, I still can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Written by author and poet Jason Reynolds, Ghost is the first in the four-part Track series, and follows the story of Castle, a boy who has had to deal with trauma and domestic violence, who finds joy in running.
Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie
This memoir of depression, anxiety, and running as self-care struck such a chord with me. Bella Mackie used running as a tool to counter the negative thought patterns that are such a pervasive part of mental illness, and this book follows her route to recovery.
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Wing Jones is one of the best YA novels I’ve read in recent years, and reading Wing’s story was definitely a major factor in my decision to start running. The descriptions of Wing’s running prowess in this story are evocative and gorgeously-written, and the story is so well-crafted that you feel as if you’re with her every step of the way.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Another running-based memoir, Haruki Murakami’s story details his experiences in his first year as a runner. He took up the hobby to keep fit while he switched his career to writing full-time, and soon became bitten by the running bug, completing courses in a multitude of different countries and meeting many interesting people along the way.
Okay, I’ll come clean. One of the reasons I started running – and basically the only reason I upgraded to a smartphone after years of using my ancient Nokia 3310 – was to use the Zombies, Run! app. The post-apocalyptic story in the podcast has kept me focused on my run even when my energy is flagging, and the tie-in book has given me plenty of tips on nutrition, complementary exercises, and mindfulness. It’s a great and very motivating read.
Not Your Average Runner: Why You’re Not Too Fat to Run and the Skinny on How to Start Today by Jill Angie
Jill Angie’s Not Your Average Runner podcast has been essential listening while I’ve been building back up to regular running post-injury, and her book builds on the fantastic lessons she gives as a plus-size, middle-aged runner. As someone who often feels like I don’t have the right body type to run, this book is a great reminder that as long as I’m out there, it’s a win.
Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running by Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner
Like Not Your Average Runner, Sole Sisters is a reminder that there’s no right way to be a runner – and a testimony to a number of amazing women who’ve taken on the sport in their own way, and changed their lives as a result. Telling the story of several different women, all with different approaches and motivations for running, this book provides plenty of inspiration to lace up your shoes and go.