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15 Marathon Training Books for Inspiration and Planning


Taking on the challenge of long distance running requires a commitment to your training. Fortunately, there are many marathon runners and champions that have written about their own experiences in the sport.

Their stories can give you insights into your training and provide you with the inspiration you need to continue and develop your own program.

Here are our top 15 marathon training books that are a must read for any aspiring marathon runner.

Marathon Training Books #1: The Complete Book of Running

The cult classic that belongs on any runner’s bookshelf. Although it’s long since out of print and finding a copy is rare, there are still a few retailers that have a copy.

Originally released in 1977 and selling more than 1 million copies, Jim Fixx helped take the sport of running into the commercial fitness industry and founded the movement of the recreational runner.

His popularization of the sport opened it up to the public eye and before long, people running around in shorts and long socks with a vest was a common sight in any neighborhood.

Marathon Training Books #2: The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

For a story that takes a stark, genuine look, at a running from a perspective of an ultramarathoner that has both tales of humor and struggle, this book by the Seattle cartoonist, Matthew Inman, is a fantastic read.

This book documents his experience with training and competition, telling his own story of overcoming his own personal challenges on the way to becoming a marathon competitor.

Marathon Training Books #3: Marathon Woman

Back in the 1960’s, women competing in marathons was a rare exception from the rule. Today this has changed to women marathoners taking up over 40% od finishing athletes.

Katherine Switzer documents her memoirs in ‘Marathon Woman’ and shares her story. From registering as the first female entrant of the Boston Marathon to being one of the most iconic female competitors in the sport.

Katherine gives a look at her historic run with one of the world’s most prestigious marathons.

Marathon Training Books #4: Marathon – Training bibles

If you are looking for that competitive edge then this work by Hal Higdon gives you everything you need to know in preparing for your first marathon, including the training and mindset to help you across the finish line. Higdon crossed the finish line over 111 times during his marathon career. Read and contemplate his advice, he is a true legend of the sport.

Marathon Training Books #5: Advanced Marathoning – 2nd Edition

For those marathon competitors that have logged a few finishes under their belt and are looking to improve their performance and their times, this advanced text written by former Olympian Peter Pfitzinger is your new training bible.

Filled with golden nuggets of knowledge related to training, competing and even nutrition, this guide is a comprehensive work that should be read by any competitor looking to improve their performance.PR.

Marathon Training Books #6: Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Scott Jurek is a legend in the world of ultramarathon running. His autobiography documents his experience with growing up in the sport, to achieving 7 straight wins at the Western States 100.

This book is great for vegan athletes looking to find advice and tips about their own training and competitive habits.

Marathon Training Books #7: Ultramarathon Man – Stories to keep you going

Ultramarathons are more than just a race, they are a test of human resolve and persistence. In this book by Dean Karnazes shows a unique view of what it takes to be a top-level competitor in one of the world’s most demanding sports.

Karnazes has tested the limits of human capabilities in a marathon and this book gives you his insight into what it takes to be an effective and successful ultra-marathon runner.

Marathon Training Books #8: The Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide Paperback

Competitive marathon running has been further popularized into the mainstream public view with the introduction of the half-marathon.

Graeme Hilditch takes an honest and balanced look at how running these events has become such a popular competitive sport for millions of new runners all over the world.

Marathon Training Books #9: A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York

Every Marathon runner has the New York marathon on their bucket list. This book by New York Times reporter, Liz Robbins, follows the experience of five athletes as they prepare and run the race.

With her journalistic style seeping into her writing, this book is a must for any enquiring mind that is looking for a glimpse into the minds of the competitors of one of the most prestigious races in the world.

Marathon Training Books #10: 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon Paperback

Dave Kuehls wrote this guide to marathon running for anyone seeking advice on training for a big event. The book gives a complete guide to what you need to know in preparing for race day.

Written with easy-to-read prose and kept in a light heart, this book is the complete guide that you have been looking for.

Follow the step-by-step plan in the book to improve your training and step things up from the beginner level to an experienced athlete in the sport.

Marathon Training Books #11: First Marathons: Personal Encounters with the 26.2-Mile Monster Paperback

“If you have the passion, you have the power.” This statement by author Gail Kislevitz pretty much sums up everything you need to know about this book on marathon running.

Gail documents her own experience from early beginnings to becoming an established female competitor in the sport.

Gail’s honest account of how the sport helped her persist in life is a testament to human perseverance. A must read for any female competitor that is looking for insights on training and mindset in one of the most demanding sports on the planet.

Marathon Training Books #12: Marathon Man

Four-time winner of both the New York city and Boston marathons, Bill Rodgers, wrote this fine example of the perfect book on the competitive mindset of a marathon runner.

Bill discusses his own personal trials and success that led to him achieving huge success. Nicknamed ‘Boston Billy’, Rodgers earned his respect from the top athletes in the game as a focused competitor with a desire to win.

Marathon man is a tale of a true champion of the sport and the mindset advice alone makes this book incredibly special and well-worth the read.

Marathon Training Books #13: Lore of Running

Acclaimed sports nutritionist and long distance competitive runner, Tim Noakes has long been a proponent of running as a sport that optimizes the human experience.

His book, published in 1995 was a deep look into the science behind the sport and what strategies can be deployed to improve a runner’s performance.

Noakes has a gift of being able to take the most complicated scientific studies and making them easy to understand and comprehend. This work is a must for anyone that has an interest in the science behind the sport of marathon running.

Marathon Training Books #14: Marathon Running for Mortals: An ordinary mortal’s guide to the joy of running or walking a marathon or half-marathon

John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield co-authored this book on marathon running. If a couch potato like Bingham can be convinced of the physical benefits of running enough to compete in a marathon, then it is a possibility for anyone to achieve in the sport.

This book gives you all the advice you need to take you from your first step in your first training session, right up to crossing the finish line of your first marathon.

Training and nutrition tips along with quirky tales and language make this book a classic that’s worth the read. Jenny Hadfield does a great job of bringing the experiences to life and placing the reader in the shoes of an athlete attempting to train for their first marathon.

Marathon Training Books #15: Marathon and Half Marathon: From Start to Finish

If you are looking for a comprehensive, well-written guide, complete with absolutely everything you need to know, then Sam Murphy’s work is your perfect marathon guide.

Filled with everything you need to know, from training to nutrition and mindset, Sam guides you through what it takes to get your shoes on and across the finish line.

Written with the beginner in mind, this book is the perfect fit for anyone new to the sport and a must-read that should be on every competitive marathon runners ‘To read’ list.

The final step

These books provide the reader with a look into the minds and lives of the finest competitors that have ever crossed the finish line of a marathon or ultra-marathon. Modeling those that have achieved success with the sport is key to any athlete that is looking to establish their own long distance running legacy.

Take the tips and experiences of the best to ever tie up a pair of running shoes and transfer them onto your own training.