As the intensity of training peaks and races conclude for the season, the allure of sitting down with a good book can’t be denied. Fortunately, there are a number of new ultrarunning-inspired books that will keep even the most exhausted runners entertained and dreaming about a future race. Here are a few of our staff picks from this summer:
Running Home by Katie Arnold
Katie Arnold’s new memoir Running Home is a heart-pulling, courageous book that intertwines Arnold’s childhood with her struggles as an adult. Arnold is an ultrarunner and winner of the 2018 Leadville Trail 100 Run, and while running isn’t the over-arching theme, it’s a subtle backbone that maintains a constant presence and comes forth when it’s needed the most. The result is a raw account of her life, from childhood to motherhood, that keeps the reader wrapped with emotion during the constant pull of Arnold’s relationship with her father. The common trait they share is the desire for adventure, a characteristic which brings them both to different parts of the world – Arnold as an editor for Outside and her father as a photographer for National Geographic.
Arnold captures the emotions of a new mother who is watching her aging father physically wither away from cancer. Her writing is visceral as she bounces between fear, anxiety, fatigue and a struggle to capture every last moment with her father while raising a newborn and young toddler. These emotions eventually morph into physical symptoms that Arnold tries to address in numerous ways, including running long distances. While keeping her physical body in peak form, she still struggles with the side effects of grief after losing her father. Arnold captures the fluctuation of emotion, which includes sweeping feelings of anxiety and fear, so well that anyone who has lost a parent or recently become a new parent will be able to relate to her desperate attempt for solitude on a run. This book is an intimate look at her daily struggle with grief while raising kids, and readers will come away with a much deeper appreciation for the struggles we all face as when dealing with the loss of a parent.
Megan and David Roche’s The Happy Runner
Megan and David Roche are likely two of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. And as professional coaches, it makes sense that their book would promise to “help you get faster, go longer, and live stronger—all with a smile.”
The Happy Runner is divided into two sections, and Part I is focused on improving the mental and emotional elements of running such as embracing the process (all of it, not just the high points), practicing unconditional self-acceptance and understanding your “why.” These topics are underserved, as every runner knows the mental and emotional strength required for our sport, yet most instructional running books focus on physical training. The Roches place heavy emphasis on letting go of attachment to results. This and other guidance dealing with self-doubt, comparison, burnout and depression to name a few, are refreshing and inspiring. This section is also heavily peppered with humor in the form of quotes from the Roche’s dog and pop culture references that form the base of their coaching style.
In Part II, the book shifts away from emotional encouragement to dig into training principles intended to help runners get faster. Albeit a bit heavy on the science acronyms at times, the couple share some interesting strategic and tactical perspectives on speed work, running economy and training specificity. Their approach aims to help runners get faster while prioritizing long-term running success, sometimes in lieu of short-term goals, and they share a multitude of success stories about championship wins and podium finishes by their elite athletes.
The Mindful Runner: Finding Your Inner Focus by Gary Dudney
As a veteran ultrarunner and finisher of over 200 ultras, UltraRunning columnist Gary Dudney has experienced it all. In his most recent book, The Mindful Runner, he reminds you that life is all about finding balance. Dudney takes the reader on a journey that includes twists and turns in synergy with good humor, as well as delving out solid advice from his years of ultrarunning experience.
While the book begins by referencing a number of quotes, the pattern evolves into words of wisdom which warms up to great stories that have been filed away by Dudney as he continues the sport well into his 60s. What he shares is thought-provoking, enlightening, inspiring, nostalgia-inducing and reaches beyond just the act of running. The book will appeal to runners of all abilities, both young old, with not only superb advice but laugh-out-loud humor.
More from the UltraRunning bookshelf:
Training for Ultra by Rob Steger
Author Rob Steger recounts his inspirational journey of finding ultrarunning as he struggled to reduce stress while working as an analyst for a financial company. Abrupt life events help Steger through weight loss which eventually kickstarts his love of running. He chronicles the ups and downs at each of his races, building to his longest ultra, the Moab 240.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn
This global take on the sport of ultrarunning describes the author embarking on major races including Ultra Trail du Mount Blanc (UTMB) and Comrades. Finn mixes his quirky conversations with top ultrarunners around the world as he describes his own battles throughout each race, including a brief visit to the U.S. while running the Miwok 100K.
Training for the Uphill Athlete by Steve House, Scott Johnston and Kílian Jornet
An intimidating yet intriguing read, this “manual” by three top mountain athletes educates readers on everything from endurance, training, strength and how to implement the knowledge into your personal training regimen. Each section includes colorful photos and stories written by well-known ultrarunners such as Clare Gallagher, Jared Campbell and Anton Krupicka. The personal narratives are brief but entertaining, and the book offers strength exercises, training programs and other valuable data for everyone from beginners to experts to help improve vertical ascent in any endurance sport.