Top ten 10 Books by female runners
So far, 2022 might not be the best year for us women, but it is an exciting time for female runners. More specifically, the female runners who are brave enough to share their stories with the world. Whether you get excited about running or reading (both would make a winning combination), these running books for women have been written by female authors who are also professional runners.
Like running, reading can often feel weightless – it’s empowering and motivational. Both are rare forms of healthy escapism that allow you to pause your thoughts and empty your mind.
Reading about running – well, that’s a special kind of trip. The following 10 titles have thrilled us, made us sweat, and helped us discover a new source of strength. Each in its unique way, they talk about using your legs to achieve the unattainable: a bit of discipline, mindfulness, and a lot of self-love.
These are our picks for the best running books written by female runners.
1. Runner: A Short Story About a Long Run – Lizzy Hawker
For Lizzy Hawker, the prize is “not a position or a time; instead, the getting to know myself, the work and the training must be its own reward.” This specific kind of wisdom is not rare in running circles, but it’s necessary that we are reminded of it from time to time. That keeps us on track.
As you might know, Lizzy Hawker is one of the world’s greatest female ultrarunners. She is a five-time winner at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, in addition to being a 100km World Champion.
The most educational part of Runner is Lizzy’s ordeal through the Great Himalaya Trail, but not only because Nepal is the holy grail of ultrarunning. It’s also the mental and emotional race against self-doubt that’s been wonderfully depicted in this literal tour-de-force for Lizzy.
2. The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience – Jennifer Pharr Davis
In one humble but confident teaching moment, Jennifer Pharr Davis writes: “Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong”. That’s how her pursuit of endurance ends.
If you’ve heard about Jennifer, you certainly know about Liz Thomas, Scott Jurek, Heather Anderson, and Scott Williamson. A few times throughout the book, the author joins these FKT greats for a friendly chat about the meaning of the athletic feat, our limits, and our gender bias.
In great part, The Pursuit of Endurance is a book of feministic ruminations. Jennifer’s yawp for equality is refreshingly composed – she is a female athlete and a better one for that.
3.The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand – Anna McNuff
On her personal blog, Anna describes herself as an “adventurer, author, speaker, and mischief-maker.” That is exactly what her book, The Pants of Perspective, feels like. Unlike the best running books on your shelf, this one is a splash of color on an otherwise muddy trail.
Known for running barefoot, Anna set off on her first running adventure so that she “could eat cake”. This book is a telling of her 3,000-long Te Araroa Trail run, a lesson in personal challenges, and a witty reminder that life is a messy adventure made of scones and hugs.
4. Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink – Nita Sweeney
Depression Hates a Moving Target is not a story about professional running, nor was it written by a professional athlete. Personally, we find it even better because of this. It’s JUST a tale of depression turned into a life-saving motion, every bit as inspiring as it is ordinary.
When she decided to return to running, Nita was 49 years old and struggling with bipolar disorder. She started small, in her neighborhood, with a kitchen timer, not giving up.
The resilience and courage to overcome self-doubt, but also the criticism and mocking, are at the heart of every story about running. But still, Nita’s book is written with such down-to-earth charm and moving simplicity that it ultimately reads like a folk tale about being rediscovered.
Next on our list of the top ten 10 Books by female runners is:
5. Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness and Balance in Your Running – Emelie Forsberg
Emelie Forsberg is a trail runner with impressive achievements in skyrunning, mountain running, and social media posting. She’s basically a Wonderwoman, so imagine our excitement when she published her first book. Sky Runner is gorgeous, brave, reflective, and inspiring, but somewhat naive.
We recommend it nevertheless. It captures the spirit of running perfectly, offers inside workout tips, and shares yummy recipes. As a piece of literature, it lacks a dimension. But as a coffee table book with motivational quotes, it’s one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen (thanks to Kilian Jornet).
6. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory – Deena Kastor
Described as self-help in sneakers, this bestseller by Deena Kastor is already a running classic. Like Deena defied the odds throughout her career, Let Your Mind Run defies genres. It’s a good read even if you’re not a running nerd, all thanks to Deena’s career-defining mental toughness philosophy.
Of course, Deena is a legend in her own right. The American Record holder in the marathon at 2 hours and 19 minutes and tireless presence on the US athletic scene, she is more than qualified to tell a story of how elite athletes are forged with positive thinking and unwavering commitment.
7. Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race against Time – Ida Keeling
Read one after the other, Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run, and Ida Keeling’s Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down takes us on a trip along the two sides of the running track, one fast and privileged, the other everything but. And spoiler alert, Ida’s protagonist runner is 101 years old.
You might know Ida as a 105-year-old woman with seven world records. She sadly passed away only last year. This book is her life story, depicting her early days in Harlem and the loss of her two sons as two key events that motivated her to put on the running shoes and chase it all away.
A word of warning, though – this extraordinary story is more about the obstacles than about the running trail. It’s an enjoyable blend of biography and sportsbooks, but it might not be the right choice for those in pursuit of a quick pick-me-up while on a trail somewhere in the wilderness.
8. Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas
There’s one thing that separates Alexi Pappas from the other names on this list – her book on running is not the first thing she’s written. In fact, Alexi is a Dartmouth-educated renaissance woman who is also a poet, a filmmaker, an occasional actor, and an Olympic goal-getter.
Bravey is a delightful reflection of all these parts of her. It’s a collection of essays in the form of a memoir, both bitter and funny at the same time. Alexi writes about her ongoing battle with depression with rare honesty, making Bravey relatable to runners and sitters.
9. Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life by Sanya Richards-Ross
Arriving at the top, where the lone runner is surrounded by nothing but mountains and silence, is an achievement described as spiritual by more than a few athletes. Finding spirituality in running and beyond is the starting point for Sanya Richards-Ross’ book, Chasing Grace.
In case you’re not familiar with Sanya, she is a three-time Olympic gold medalist (plus one bronze) and the fastest American woman at 400 meters. Throughout these achievements, as Sanya writes in her book, the greatest feat was in her soul, with God as her ultimate coach.
10. How She Did It: Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from Fifty Legendary Distance Runners – Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery
How She Did It – a title both compelling and aptly found, offers first-person experiences from 50 female runners, as told by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery. Both are decorated athletes – Molly is a two-time Olympian, and Sara is a two-time NCAA champion.
Bear in mind that this is not your typical running book. If you’re into biographies, self-help, and feminism, this will probably not be your top beach read pick this summer.
Instead of tugging your heartstrings, Molly and Sara wrote a practical book about setting goals and overcoming them through painful obstacles such as malnutrition, coercive coaching, and chronic injuries. This book is the Reality Bites of the running world.
Running and Reading in 2022
Whether you’ve started compiling a collection of audiobooks to keep you company while running in 2022, or you’ve just found a mountain shade perfect for reading, these are the best books about running authored by women. We hope they will keep your adrenaline pumping for the rest of the year. Lube up, tie your shoes, or take a break to read.
Thank you for reading our top ten 10 Books by female runners list and we wish you a great summer.