Instructional books on running remain a staple. But what have emerged from the pack in recent years are books that look at the personal side of running.
Claire Plimmer, editorial director at Summersdale and a runner herself, has a theory. Running “will encourage you to get in touch with those emotions that you haven’t really had time to think about,” she says. “The books that people seem to like are those where an author discusses their feelings or emotions when running, or what got them running in the first place, which in turn resonates with the reader. You might have some issue yourself and you think, ‘Oh yeah, now I can see that, and I’m not alone in feeling this way.’ ”
Summersdale will release Your Pace or Mine in June. In it, Lisa Jackson, who started running marathons at 31, explains why she runs and speaks with others she meets at races, including octogenarians and a crew that dons tutus with their running shoes. “It isn’t about getting a PB [personal best] or improving her fitness through it,” Plimmer says. “It’s about the race. It’s about the people she meets along the way and what running does for her, mentally and emotionally.”
Vybarr Cregan-Reid, who describes himself in his Twitter bio as a “passionate but untalented runner,” is an academic at the University of Kent in England, specializing in English and environmental humanities. In Footnotes (St. Martin’s/Dunne, July), subtitled “How Running Makes Us Human,” he travels around the world, visiting research centers and speaking to runners in the street, to determine why people run.
In The Long Run (Crown, May), Catriona Menzies-Pike examines how training for her first half-marathon helped her finally grieve the loss of her parents, 10 years after their deaths. The author, an academic and the editor of the Sydney Review of Books, also explores why other women have become interested in running, and how their place in the sport has evolved over time.
Women Who Tri (VeloPress, Apr.), by clinical psychologist Alicia DiFabio, who ran her first triathalon at 45, delves into the increasing popularity of the event and other endurance sports among so-called ordinary women such as herself.
The pros, too, acknowledge the emotional side of running. Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, whose 2012 memoir Eat and Run (HMH) has sold 73,000 print copies per NPD BookScan, returns with North (Little, Brown; Oct.) his tale of self-discovery while attempting to break the speed record on the grueling Appalachian Trail. In Square One (Skyhorse May), accomplished triathlete Dirk Vlieks shares how he recovered from suffering a stroke in a 2006 triathlon to finishing the same event five years later.