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Fast Women’s guide to the best women’s running books

For decades, running literature was dominated by books by and about men, and the quality of the books was hit or miss. That’s gradually changing, and there are more quality options for running books by and about women.

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We also made a list (below) through, because quite a few of the books we wanted to recommend were not available through Purchases through these links will also support Fast Women, in some cases, but less so.

Fast Women’s Book List:

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory, by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
Deena Kastor tells her story while sharing tips and tricks for running strong.
Dandelion Growing Wild: A triumphant journey over astounding odds by American marathon champion Kim Jones
Kim Jones writes about the hardship she endured on the way to becoming one of the top marathoners in the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big IdeasA memoir from Olympian and filmmaker Alexi Pappas. Life lessons that extend far beyond running.
Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story, by Wyomia Tyus and Elizabeth Terzakis
A 2018 book about Wyomia Tyus, who was the first person to win back-to-back Olympic 100m gold medals, yet isn’t well known.
Running Tide by Joan Benoit and Sally Baker
This is Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson’s autobiography, published in 1987. It’s out of print but still available and still good.
Feel-Good Fitness: Fun Workout Challenges to Inspire Your Fitness Streak, by Alysia MontañoOlympian Alysia Montaño demonstrates strength exercises and shares fun workout challenges.
First Ladies of Running: 22 Inspiring Profiles of the Rebels, Rule Breakers, and Visionaries Who Changed the Sport Forever, by Amby BurfootEach chapter of this book features a different “first lady” of U.S. long distance running.
Girls Running: All You Need to Strive, Thrive, and Run Your Best, by Melody Fairchild and Elizabeth CareyThe book you wish you had to guide you as a young runner.
Passing the Baton: Black Women Track Stars and American Identity (Sport and Society), by Cat M. Ariail
Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of YouA guide and tool for building one’s running confidence, from Olympian Kara Goucher
The Silence of Great Distance: Women Running Long, by Frank MurphyIncludes what is probably the best history of women’s long distance running, but also chronicles some tough stories involving mental health struggles.
A Long Time Coming: Running through the women’s marathon revolution, by Jacqueline Hansen
The autobiography of women’s running pioneer Jacqueline Hansen, who helped fight for the opportunity to get women’s distance events into the Olympic Games.
Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe, by Becky WadeProfessional runner Becky Wade spent a year traveling the world as part of her Watson Fellowship, and learned about running (and eating) in different cultures around the world.
No Finish Line: My Life As I See It, by Marla RunyanThe autobiography of Paralympian and Olympian Marla Runyan, who has one of the more incredible stories in the sport.
Mental Training for Ultrarunning, by Addie Bracy
Available for pre-order, comes out June 30, 2021.
Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds, by Hillary Allen
The story of world-class ultrarunner Hillary Allen’s comeback after a life-altering fall.
Uncommon Heart, by Anne Audain and John L. Parker, Jr.
The story of New Zealand’s Anne Audain, who overcame childhood challenges to become the first women’s professional runner, an Olympian, and a Commonwealth Games gold medalist.
To Boston With Love, by Bobbi GibbBobbi Gibb tells the story of becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1966. This 50th anniversary edition includes a new introduction from Gibb, as well as illustrations drawn by Gibb.
Wind in the Fire, by Bobbi GibbI’m not sure how this compares with the previous selection, but you can get a pretty long preview by using the “look inside” link, to get a sense of the content.
Running Home: A Memoir, by Katie ArnoldA memoir by Katie Arnold, the 2018 Leadville Trail 100 champion
A Beautiful Work In Progress, by Mirna ValerioMirna Valerio writes about her journey from beginning runner to ultramarathoner.
Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s SportsAn autobiography of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon
Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness
Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton writes about her running journey, her battle with mental illness, and her experience working as an escort.
Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team, by Elise HooperA novel, published in 2020, about Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens.
What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, by Kate Fagan
The story of the mental health struggles and death of Penn cross country and track & field runner Madison Holleran.
Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It, by Rachael Steil
The Oval Office: A Four-Time Olympian’s Guide to Professional Track and Field, by Lauryn Williams
A guide to being a professional track & field athlete
The Fragile Champion: Doris Brown Who Always Ran the Extra Mile, by Ken ForemanThere are a lot of words other than fragile that I can think of to describe five-time World Cross Country champion Doris Brown Heritage, but this is the best source of Heritage information out there.
World Class: A Champion Runner Reveals What Makes Her Run, With Advice and Inspiration for All Athletes
Autobiography of nine-time New York City Marathon champion Grete Waitz. It’s out of print, but used copies are still available.
American Women’s Track and Field, 1895-1980: A History, 2 Volume Set, by Louise Mead Tricard
More of a reference book, and an excellent source for the nerdiest of track nerds.
The First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson, by Joe Gergen
A biography of 1928 Olympic 100m champion Betty Robinson
Determined to Win: The Overcoming Spirit of Jean DriscollAutobiography of eight-time Boston Marathon wheelchair champion Jean Driscoll
Runner: A short story about a long run, by Lizzy HawkerWhen I previously made a list of books without this one on it, several people recommended it.
Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me about God and Life
Autobiography of Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross
Unwavering Perseverance: An Olympic Gold Medalist Finds Peace, by Mary Wineberg
Autobiography of Olympic gold medalist Mary Wineberg
Amazing Racers: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Team and its Revolutionary Coach, by Marc Bloom
A look at the Fayetteville-Manlius high school running program
Robin Emery: Maine’s First Lady of Road Racing, by Ed Rice
Daughters of Distance: Stories of Women in Endurance Sports, by Vanessa Runs
Girl Runner: A Novel, by Carrie Snyder
High Performance in Midlife and Beyond: Champion Masters Women Runners and Other Experts, by Cathy UtzschneiderThis book came out the day I made this list and looks interesting.
Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries
Not specifically about women or running, but applicable to both, and much of the guidance comes from fast women
Running: A Love Story: 10 Years, 5 Marathons, and 1 Life-Changing Sport, by Jen A. Miller
A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York, by Liz Robbins
Liz Robbins’ book about the New York City Marathon
The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras, by Sarah Lavender Smith
Go, Gwen, Go: A Family’s Journey to Olympic Gold, by Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen
Technically a triathlon book, Gwen Jorgensen’s mother and sister tell the story of Gwen’s road to the 2016 Olympic gold medal in triathlon.
Young Readers:
Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Women’s Running Revolutionary, by Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox
The story of Maureen Wilton, who held the world record in the marathon at age 13. Aimed at middle schoolers, but I’m told it’s a great read for all ages.
The Running Dream (Schneider Family Book Award – Teen Book Winner), by Wendelin Van Draanen
Fiction, written for teens, but I’m told adults will love it, too.
Ya Sama! Moments from My Life, by Tatyana McFadden and Tom Walker
The story of Tatyana McFadden, aimed at middle schoolers.
The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, Katherine Webber
There aren’t many novels on this list, but every time I make a list of women’s running books, someone recommends this one.
Jason Reynolds’s Track Series Paperback Collection: Ghost; Patina; Sunny; Lu
Series for 5th/6th graders about an elite track team. Only one of the main characters, Patina, is a girl. You can get just her book here.
Right on Track: Run, Race, Believe, by Sanya Richards-Ross
A biography of Sanya Richards-Ross, aimed at teens.
Run with Me: The Story of a U.S. Olympic Champion, by Sanya Richards-RossA biography of Sanya Richards-Ross, aimed at 8–12 year olds.
Fearless Frosty: The Mighty Story of Mountain Runner Anna FrostA children’s book about New Zealand’s Anna Frost
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, by Pat Zietlow Miller
A children’s book about Wilma Rudolph
The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, by Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti
A children’s book about Bobbi Gibb
Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon, by Kim Chaffee
A children’s book about Kathrine Switzer
Girl Running, by Annette Bay Pimentel
Another children’s book about Bobbi Gibb
Wilma Rudolph (Little People, BIG DREAMS, 27), by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
A book about Wilma Rudolph aimed at ages 4–7
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman, by Kathleen Krull
Another Rudolph book for the same age range.
Unbeatable Betty: Betty Robinson, the First Female Olympic Track & Field Gold MedalistA children’s book about Betty Robinson aimed at ages 4–8
I Didn’t Win, by Mary Wineberg
Olympian Mary Wineberg’s children’s book about goal setting and self belief.
Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes: A CookbookShalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s first cookbook teaches readers how to say no to diet culture and focus on sustainable fueling.
Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes: A Cookbook
Flanagan and Kopecky’s second cookbook, with a focus on recipes that are a bit quicker than those in the first book.
The Runner’s Kitchen: 100 Stamina-Building, Energy-Boosting Recipes, with Meal Plans to Maximize Your Training, by Emma Coburn
This is 2017 world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn’s cookbook, available for pre-order. Comes out on December 22.
Training Journals:
Believe Training Journal (Classic Red, Updated Edition), by Lauren Fleshman and Róisín McGettigan-Dumas
A place to record your training, with much wisdom interspersed. I’ve been using these logs for years, and they’re great.
Believe Training Journal (Electric Blue Edition)For those who like blue better. (There are more color choices on the Amazon website, and also on their website, if you want to support them directly.)
COMPETE Training Journal (Tangerine Edition) (Believe Training Journal)This is also a training log, but the wisdom focuses more on preparing for competition.