The Best Running Books for Coaches & Athletes

Essential Books for Running Coaches

A weekend or online certification is only the beginning of being a running coach. Run coaching requires a commitment to continual education and refinement of your training philosophy. The best approach? Read everything you can. These books are what I (and from what I have read, many other coaches) consider the essential texts for running coaches who train distance runners on the road. 

Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels

Daniels’ Running Formula is one of the seminal works of modern training. His book covers everything from training intensities to season planning. He provides clearly delineated paces zones and formulas for how much of each week to spend at a given intensity. For novice coaches or for those who prefer clear-cut training approaches, his methodology is dependable. 

Even if you do not fully prescribe to his methodology, Daniels’ book is worth keeping as a key reference. I regularly rely on his approach to returning from injury/time off and his VDOT pace calculator. 

Purchase the Fourth Edition of Daniels’ Running Formula on Amazon

The Happy Runner by Megan and David Roche

The Happy Runner is a must-read for coaches for two reasons. The first part of the book explores the role of enjoyment in performance and how to promote enjoyable, sustainable, and effective training. In the second part of the book, the Roches delve into their methodology – which has seen success not just in elite athletes, but in real-world runners who balance training with life. 

The Happy Runner applies to all runners, but its strength is in long distances and trail running. The Roches provide insight on topics such as the diminishing returns of vertical training, optimizing velocity at lactate threshold, and downhill training. For anyone coaching athletes who dabble in trail running or ultra distances, this book is a must-read. 

Purchase on Amazon

Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes by Dr. Philip Skiba

While a degree is not necessary, all coaches should have an understanding of basic exercise physiology. Skiba clearly explains the training intensity domains for endurance athletes. He provides evidence-based discussions on specificity, periodization, and more, making his book an invaluable resource for all endurance coaches.

Purchase on Amazon

Run to the Finish: The Everyday Runner’s Guide to Avoiding Injury, Ignoring the Clock, and Loving the Run by Amanda Brooks

Brooks’ book is an essential read for runners of all experiences. So many training books (including many on this list) offer training advice for elite and sub-elite runners. However, a majority of runners are not running sub-3 hour marathons or 70 mile training weeks. Brooks’ book offers gems of wisdom for the average runner – and for coaches who work with the average runner.

Purchase here on Amazon

The Science of Running by Steve Magness

Does VO2max really matter? What role does the central nervous system play in fatigue? How can you manipulate short intervals for the same effect as a tempo run? Magness answers these questions and more in his thought-provoking book. 

For Magness, coaching must balance practice and theory. Magness is open-minded and challenges you to think critically about how you train. His section on manipulating workouts should be required reading for all running coaches, especially to break out of common prescriptions such as “6 x 800 with 400m rest” or “3 mile tempo run.” 

Unlike Daniels or McMillan, he does not outline a training formula. It’s recommended to familiarize yourself with Daniels and McMillan first to understand the fundamentals. Then, you can push yourself outside your comfort zone with Magness.

Purchase The Science of Running on Amazon

Run Faster from the 5K to Marathon by Brad Hudson

Renato Canova pioneered the concept of specific endurance training, especially for the marathon. Since Canova’s methodologies aren’t easily available in book format, Hudson delivers a Canova-esque approach of training that can be adapted for runners of all abilities. 

His book also explores how to adapt training for different types of athletes and throughout the season. If there is one important takeaway from Hudson, it’s that your initial training plan at the start of the season won’t look the same as the training you actually execute – and that’s good! 

Purchase here on Amazon

Finish Strong: Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes by Richard Boergers and Angelo Gingerelli

By now, you likely know that runners benefit from resistance training. This is partially due to the performance benefits and partially due to the general health benefits such as preventing age-related muscle mass loss and improving bone health. However, how to structure your resistance training as a long-distance runner can be tricky. This book gives guidance specifically for endurance athletes, including how to adjust it based on training phases and what exercises to do.

Purchase here on Amazon

Inside a Marathon by Ben Rosario and Scott Fauble

This book does not teach training philosophy. Rather, it provides a glimpse into the approach of one of the best elite coaches in the country. Ben Rosario coaches the North Arizona Elite, which includes Olympic Trials Champion Aliphine Tuliamuk. Rosario explains how he modifies training plans throughout the season, chooses workouts, and coaches runners through highs and lows alike. 

Purchase here on Amazon

Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry

In my opinion, every running coach should have a passing knowledge of how to strength train for performance. Jay Dicharry clearly distills how to lift weights in order to improve running economy, prevent injury, and improve form. 

If you read all these books, you will notice they interconnect. For example, you will find from Daniels, Hudson, and Magness that a split tempo run (such as 3 x 10 minutes at tempo with 1-2 minutes in between) can be more effective than a 30-minute tempo run. 

You will also observe differences in all of these training philosophies. The goal of learning as a coach is to expose yourself to as much information as you can. The more training approaches you understand, the more you can refine your own unique approach with elements from each. 

Purchase Running Rewired on Amazon

What are your essential running books?

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9 Responses

  1. I love reading running books and I really need to get Greg McMillan’s book, seeing that he is now my virtual coach.
    I like reading non-coaching running books as well. I just received “Above the Clouds” by Kilian Jornet yesterday. I am looking forward to reading it.

  2. How funny that we wrote about the same topic today! I dont think I’ve heard of Inside a Marathon-that sounds interesting! It really does help to read about slightly different training philosophies so you can try them out and see what works best.

  3. All great reads! I think the hardest part about being a coach would be writing training plans that are individualized to a particular runner’s personality!! I did really well with the marathon training plan my crossfit coach wrote for me. It wasn’t high mileage but she incorporated a lot of strength and crosstraining in there, which is what I needed. She also did a lot of mental toughness stuff with me, which was a game changer!

  4. Great list of titles! No matter what the topic, there are always so many resources, good and bad. It’s always nice to get them narrowed down by a professional.

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