Books on Marathon running


Some useful reading material

There are a lot of good books out there about marathon running, from the humourous to the technical. Here is a selection of some of our favourites. Shop around for the best deals or simply visit your local library. And in no particular order….


Tim Noakes, MD – Lore of Running


Weighing in at over 900 pages this could be used in your strength training programme. This is a very comprehensive look at running from a scientific view. There has obviously been a huge amount of research behind this book, as it includes information and data from over a century of runners. Almost every topic imaginable to a runner is included, from detailed biological information (blood, oxygen and muscle systems), to training techniques, ideas on mental attitudes etc. It also includes some interesting research on the training ideas of past elite runners, which can be useful to compare to modern ideas.

Most chapters are organised into three distinct sections; the chapter starts with quotations from varied runners, then goes on to examine the theories and ideas behind the quotes, both for and against, and finally finishes with conclusions drawn by Tim Noakes based on his personal ideas from years of running and research.

Whilst this book is extremely detailed and very thorough, for myself it has been more of a reference book for specific problems, rather than an general training manual. The entire book is rather like a scientific analysis of running, and not the type of general training guideline you could read from cover to cover.


John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield –  Marathon Running for Mortals

Former couch potato and “Runner’s World” columnist John Bingham has joined forces with coach Jenny Hadfield to create a plan designed to work for all. In “Marathon Running for Mortals” the reader will find: eight different training programmes to run, run-walk, walk-run or walk the marathon or half-marathon; the advice you need physically, mentally and emotionally; tips to help you customise your training, buy the right shoes and clothing, and eat the best foods; and guidance on common running problems. This is an enjoyable and easy read.


Russell Taylor – The Looniness of the Long Distance Runner: An Unfit Londoner’s Attempt to Run the New York City Marathon from Scratch

Take one unfit 39-year-old Londoner and present him with the challenge of training for, and running, the New York City Marathon. This is Russell Taylor’s humorous account of his journey from its unwise inception after too many beers, through the first teetering steps on the treadmill to the big show-down in NYC. Inspired by the charity running of his friends, Russell Taylor decided to spare himself the post-event trauma of trying to extract money from reluctant sponsors by writing this book and donating the proceeds to charity instead. This account follows our intrepid runner north London gym to the mean streets of Manhattan as we discover what lurks within the breast of the endurance athlete: an unreasonable hatred of his fellow runners (except nubile females of the species), a contempt for the idiocy of stadium announcers and a strange fear of spectators inanely shouting, “Keep going,” by way of encouragement. Written with panache and self-deprecating humour, this is ideal entertainment for anyone who has ever run any distance on their own two legs.


John Bryant – The London Marathon

‘If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon’ – Emil Zatopek. Written in 2006,”The London Marathon” salutes 25 years of the London Marathon by exploring the incredible physical and mental challenge that lies at the very heart of marathon running. It begins with the author standing on the start line at Blackheath for the very first London Marathon in March 1981. And it ends 26 miles and 25 years later, as the author emerges, still running, past Buckingham Palace and on through the miles and memories to the finish. From the legend of Pheidippides and the mystery of Spiridon Louis – who won the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896 – to the agony of Paula Radcliffe, reduced to tears on the long road to Athens more than a century later, this is a story of dreams, pain, struggle and achievement. The courage and the craziness of the characters that for 25 years have run the streets of London have turned this race into the greatest marathon in the world. But this book isn’t just about London it’s a good general history on marathon running more generally.


Gail Kislevitz  – First Marathons: Personal Encounters with the 26.2-Mile Monster

Well written easy to read, containing lots of short stories, so it’s easy to dip in and out of if you are a busy person. Inspiring and at times tear jerking.  The individual’s stories in this book are not only extremely motivational but also touching and sometimes funny. A good book for all first time marathoners as well as people looking for that extra inspiration in reaching that goal that you’re not quite sure you can make. It’s enthusiasm is infectious and it’s bound to inspire anyone of any age or size to get up and give running a go.


Hal Higdon – Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide


Many believe this to be one of the most authorative no-nonsense books on training for the distance. Widely regarded as one of Americas top coaches and writers on athletics, this book is full of detailed information principally designed for runners who have run a marathon and want to improve their times by the use of specific training. But has a lot of useful tips for getting the first timer round too.

Higdon’s writing style is very easy to read, entertaining and conversational He draws on many years of running experience. The training schedules are clearly explained and he covers all aspects of training from preparation to injury prevention to recovery.


Richard Nerurkar –  Marathon Running: From Beginning to Elite

Now seen perched on the back on the lead motorbike commentating for TV, Nerurkar was, in the 1990s, a leading UK marathoner.

His insight can guide the novice from the end of the street to the finish line, 26 miles–and don’t forget the 365 yards–later, while at the same time help the elite club runner find those extra few seconds that will give you a new personal best. As well as providing structured training schedules to follow, Nerurkar shares his own experiences with the reader to help you on your way no matter what your standard. The pages are crammed full of practical tips for the active mind and body and have all been put into practice so you be sure that despite the pain and suffering they work. There are no shortcuts to the marathon, but with the help of this book Nerurkar points you in the right direction.


Hugh Jones – The Expert’s Guide to Marathon Training

Jones is another leading marathon runner. He won London in 1982 so ahould know what he’s talking about.

The Expert’s Guide to Marathon Training is a comprehensive and inspirational 16-week training programme for runners of every age and ability, a step-by-step schedule which can be personally tailored to fit every reader. This book will show you how to plan ahead to build up endurance, how to avoid injuries, how to rest between runs and how to develop the mental toughness to take a full marathon in your stride. The Expert’s Guide to Marathon Training comes complete with a week-by-week training log with tick boxes and diary where you can record the miles and times you put in, then readjust your schedule to match your progress. Whether you are an experienced runner or a ‘penguin’ taking part just for the fun, this is the book you need to inspire you for the challenge of the longest run in sport. With full colour illustrations and handy tips it sure is miles ahead of the competition.


 Bob Schwartz – I Run, Therefore I Am – Nuts

A lifelong runner, Bob Schwartz makes light of runners’ personalities and the hilarious situations that all dedicated runners can relate to. This is an easy read. Each short story is set within a section on training racing etc. Read about Schwartz’s experience drinking from plastic cups, the pain associated with disgarding a pair of old trainers especially ones you PB’d in, and the excitement in getting ones hands on the latest gadget, bit of kit or energy gel.