Ultra Running Books: Must-Read List

Ultra Running Books: Read Good Books and Run Really Far

Books about ultra running, adventure novels, athlete stories and testimonials, and training disciplines…this list is my essential reading list for ultra marathon runners (or would-be ultra runners). When you’re at mile 40, 60, or 100, you might pull from an inspirational story (like Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra) or perhaps Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning (a comprehensive training guide) will get you through the pain cave.

For some, classic fictional stories like The Alchemist inspire their many steps toward the finish line. Others might remember Ernest Shackleton’s horrifying ordeals from Endurance when they feel like discomfort and fatigue are robbing them of success.

Alright, let’s get to the list. Here are books every ultra runner should read. If I missed your favorite, let me know in a comment at the bottom. After all, my last official race was in 2019! I may not be up to date on newer books.

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Inspiring Athlete Stories

Many ultra marathon runners have amazing stories to tell. They’ve experienced dark and painful trails, unlikely finishes, and every emotion that 100+ mile races offer us. These men and women–influential for their candid testimonies about the power of the infamous pain cave–set the example of living a life fulfilled, of pursuing dreams, and of settling for nothing but your best. These are their stories, backstories, and optimistic ambitions.

Read about great personalities like Dean Karnazes, Emelie Forsberg, Rich Roll, Kilian Jornet, Catra Corbett, Scott Jurek, and David Goggins. From Navy SEAL training to Western States 100, you’ll find captivation by what one can accomplish with a proper mindset, and an adventurous spirit.

Want to start with some of the stories that inspired me to start ultra running? Check out Born to Run or Finding Ultra, two crowd favorites. These are two books you’ll often hear cited as someone’s ultra marathon beginnings.

Ultra Running Books About Training

Training for an ultra marathon is more than good running shoes and daydreams of the finish line. It takes a long time to build up to the kind of mileage needed to successfully conquer such a feat of endurance, not to mention excel on race day. Learning from those who’ve been there, done that (and coached others to do the same) can have a monumental impact on your approach and mindset. Level up your endurance training with these popular books.

Fictional Ultra Running Books

Fiction uses human themes to tell stories that convey deep meaning. Suffering, companionship, achievement, victory, sensation, adventure: they’re all represented in fictional stories.

And they’re literally represented in ultra running.

Dive into these stories to immerse yourself in the human condition and evolve through your relation to the characters. Fall into another place, time, or world. Don’t forget to bring something back with you. I love adventure and creativity, so I’ve made sure to include books that ultra running lovers of fiction might enjoy.

If you enjoy fiction, you might check out my list of best classic adventure novels.

Non Fiction Books For Ultra Runners

Stories of adventure, suffering, and perseverance depict the original ultra marathons: uncertain wanderings into the great unknown. Men and women facing danger, insurmountable odds, or grand adventure paved the way for common people to strive for greatness. The question “What am I capable of?” is born of these stories and adventures.

Books Matter: Train Your Reading Muscles to Run Farther

Ultra runners ought to train their minds with books like they train their bodies with miles. A good book lets your mind wander into the realm of possibility: What are you capable of by the characters examples? Are there adventures left unexplored? What new experiences are you drawn to?

Sounds a bit like ultra running, no?

Ultra running and books are related in ways both obvious and mysterious: some stories scream at you with the ideals of the ultra marathon (like discomfort, fatigue, and patience). Others, thought-provoking and clouded with questions, beg the reader to think beyond understanding.

Ultra runners reach beyond understanding each time they toe the line.

It might be a book about strength training, VO2 max, and splits. Or modern, heroic stories about overcoming addiction and destitution.

Sometimes, it’s fiction, or history, or philosophy.

Reach beyond understanding.

Question your motives, ideals, and actions.

Recommend another book to add to this library. Email

George Callahan is the creator of Pine Tree Poet. He is an author of short fairy tales, fantasy stories, and magical adventures. He prefers mountains and pine trees to most other things, and usually takes his dog Cowboy along for the ride.

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