Some Favorite Training / Inspirational Books


Experience From - Drew Pallette , Darren Billings , Phil Mislinski , Ray Zirblis , Pat Wellington , Dan Brannen , Drew Pallette#2 , Mike Strzelecki , Steve Pero , George Beinhorn ,

Drew Pallette

As a newcomer to the world of ultra running, for the last year or so I've been reading some of the relevant books on the subject and have been surprised at the limited number that are solely related to ultra running. Some have been very informative and inspiring such as:

David Horton's book "A Quest for Adventure" which details his conquest of teh Appalachian Trail and the Trans-America Footrace.

Bob Holtel's " Soul, Sweat and Survival on the Pacific Crest Trail" " In similar vain is Benyo's " Death Valley 300 ".

My favorite is still Annerino's "Running Wild" on his running the length of the Grand Canyon.

Bob Boeder's " Beyond the Marathon: The Grand Slam of Trail Ultrarunning " is a great read as well. There are a few technical books such as Andy Milroy's "Training for Ultras" Tom Osler's "Ultra-Marathoning". Along this line you'd have to include Dr. Timothy Noakes "Lore of Running".

What is your favorite Ultra book or books? Now, please limit it to primarily Ultra content. I know some of you will want to list the Bible, Sheehan's " Running and Being" or Chairman Mao's "Long Walk" (yes, I am aware there is another "Long Walk" by Rawicz which is a great read about a 4000 mile walk out of Siberia to India), but please try and keep it to Ultras This will kinda be the "Ultra List Top 10 Ultra Books". After all it is in the middle of the summer and we do need some summer reads when we're not out on the trails!

Darren Billings

One of the most incredible books to have been written about Ultra's will have to be " Ultramarathon " by James Shapiro (Bantam Books Sept 1980). An excerpt appeared in Sports Illustrated around June 1980 and the complete book was published that same year. From the book:

"To go on when everything else wants to stop...It is not a pain I feel but a sinking. My involvement with the world grows dimmer. It occurs to me that it would be nice to keel over. A barely audible whisper says it would be a way out. It seems almost impossible to bother any more....but I do....."
He later followed up on this with " Meditations From the Breakdown Lane: Running Across America " (Random House 1982). Both books are of the highest quality writing for the sports 'genre,' and deserve noting.

Phil Mislinski

Check out " The Endurance " by Caroline Alexander with photos by Frank Hurley. Or read the autobiographical version written by Sir Ernest Shackleton, "South". Both books will make running an ultra seem trivial. The story will definitely give you inspiration when you feel like quitting anything in life.

Ray Zirblis

If you enjoy Dr. Tim Noakes' LORE OF RUNNING, then you'll like any of the books written by South African distance running pioneer Arthur Newton:

  1. Running On Three Continents
  2. Commonsence Athletics , and, um, I think
  3. Racing and Training .

I think they're out of print, but I got "Running" via old book search. Newton has that wonderfully wise and canny way of flatly stating opinion that can sound pompous to Yanks, but which I really enjoy. Kind of like Masterpiece Theater on distance running.

Mike Spino's " Beyond Jogging: The Inner Spaces of Running " (California, 1976) has some good practical suggestions, and a valuable section on the Australian maverick coach Percy Wells Cerutty. This too is out of print but shows up in the used bins.

Pat Wellington

In February of 1998 the list had a discussion on Training For Ultras and I ran the following post.

In 1994 I ordered two books edited by Andy Milroy and published by the Road Runners Club of Great Britain: "Training For Ultras" and " International Ultra Training " which were described in the 1994 July-August issue of UltraRunning. These simple paperback books are priceless and contain a wealth of ultra history/training information. I especially enjoyed the articles on ultra running for women by real ultra running women pioneers!

Don Bonser
76 Benhill Wood Road
Sutton, Surrey, SM1 3SJ
United Kingdom

And the price was $20 CASH--I couldn't believe I was sending cash through the mail to the UK, but I sent my request on July 6 and promptly received these treasures on July 16!

Here's a description of the books that ran in the 1994 July-August issue of UltraRunning:


"Training for Ultras," edited by Andy Milroy and published by the Road Runners Club of Great Britain, has recently come out in a revised, updated, and enlarged edition. This popular book, whose advice was described as being like gold dust, has now been developed into a wide-ranging, detailed publication, packed with advice from experts. It should be essential reading for all ultrarunners and their coaches.

The book includes updated and expanded articles from: Don Ritchie, Eleanor Adams-Robinson, Dan Coffey, and Tom O'Reilly, plus new articles from Suzi Thibeault, Mike Cudahy, Erik Seedhouse, Stephen Moore, Mike Hartley, Tony Jones (coach of Carolyn Hunter-Rowe), Marianne Savage, Dave Cooper, Mike Newton, Hilary Johnson, Dr. Lynn Fitzgerald, Norrie Williamson, Marie Caldwell and Andy Milroy.

Areas covered in depth: getting started; preparing for the shorter ultras; training for the 100-km; 24-hour training; trail running; multi-day (up to 1000 miles); ultrarunning for women; race walking; cross-training; over-training; plus the most comprehensive bibliography yet produced.

"International Ultra Training" contains expert advice from such runners as: Bruce Fordyce, Hilary Walker, Sandra Kiddy (pioneer world record holder), Rune Larsson (multiple winner of the Spartathlon), Terry Edmondson (former British record holder at 24 hours), Sandra Barwick (holder of the world six-day and 1000-mile bests), Bernd Heinrich (U.S. record holder for the 100km), plus comprehensive advice for beginners on preparation and equipment for ultras, and detailed analysis on how the experts have tackled the 24-hour event.

These books (actually small paperbacks) were still available when I posted last year. And they're just another example that bigger isn't necessarily better...

Dan Brannen

Andy Milroy's books are still available from the same source at the same cost in U.S. cash. Whenever they run out, they just reprint a new batch, very quickly.

Drew Pallette#2

As the thread for my posting on the Top Ten Ultra Books has petered put I thought I'd let listers know the results. I got a total of 20 responses to my original posting. Here's how it breaks down:

  1. 8 - " Meditations from the Breakdown Lane " by James Shapiro
  2. 8 - "Ultramarathon" by James Shapiro
  3. 7 - "The Endurance" by Caroline Alexander
  4. 5 - "Training for Ultras" by Andy Milroy
  5. 3 - "Wild Trails to Far Horizons" by Mike Cudahy

Honorable mentions:

  1. "The Long Walk" by Steven King
  2. "The Long Walk" by Rawicz
  3. "International Ultra Training"
  4. "Running on Three Continents"
  5. "Commonsense Athletics"
  6. "Racing and Training"
  7. "Runners and Walkers"
  8. "Wobble to Death" by Peter Lovesey
  9. "South" by Sir Ernest Sackleton
  10. "My Run Across the United States" by Don Shepherd
  11. "Evidence of a Misspent Youth" by Mark Pickard
  12. "Indian Running"
  13. "Angle of Repose" by Steiger

So there you have it! Good luck finding them. Most of the ultra specific ones are out of print. The Milroy book is currently available. Thanks again to all those who responded.

Mike Strzelecki

The American Film Institute just released their "top 100 movies" list, and the editorial board of Modern Library followed suit with their list of "top 100 English-language novels of the 20th century." Feeling left out, I'd thought I'd release my own list -- my top ten favorite running books. They are, in no particular order:

  1. The Death Valley 300 by Richard Benyo
  2. The Lore of Running by Tim Noakes
  3. Ultramarathonining: The Next Challenge by Dodd and Osler
  4. Running and Being by George Sheehan
  5. Ultrarunning by James Shapiro
  6. The Runner's Literary Companion, edited by Garth Batista
  7. Hills, Hawgs, and Ho Chi Minh by Don Kardong
  8. Thirty Phone Booths to Boston by Don Kardong
  9. And Then the Vulture Eats You, editied by John Parker, Jr.
  10. Meditations From the Breakdown Lane by James Shapiro

My absolute favorite was Shapiro's "Meditations" Anyone out there have any other suggestions of well-written and interesting running books?

A great way to locate copies of those out-of-print books is through one of three web sites listed below, which run searches on used book store inventories. Each web site interconnects with the databases of thousands of used book stores around the country (and in some cases, the world). You can run a search for your book of interest, and get a list of the used book stores that currently have that book in stock, along with information on the book, including book condition and price. You can then order the book via telephone or internet. One benefit is that you can compare the price and condition of various copies of the book. The drawback is that you are buying the book site unseen, a risk for used books (though I use this method frequently and have never had problems).

The three web sites (which essentially serve the same function and are somewhat duplicative) are:

bibliofind (accesses the inventory of thousands of used book stores across the country)

Steve Pero

Here's my no particular order

and yes...not ultrarunning realted, but one of my absolute favorites...The Four Minute Mile by Sir Roger absolute classic!

George Beinhorn

" Soul, Sweat, and Survival on the Pacific Crest Trai l" By Bob Holtel available at

It's a wonderful book--not so much for the trail descriptions, which are fine, but for the attitude, personality, and inspiring vibe of the author.