Three must-read books for runners (and wannabe runners)

Training for a marathon — or just thinking about it? These new books help runners get started, bounce back from injuries and understand the role (and evolution) of running shoes.
Running Press Adult, VeloPress, Bloomsbury Sport
By Amanda Loudin

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Fall marathon season is in full swing and along with perfect training conditions, runners are out in droves right now. Fittingly, there are three new books on the sport for fall, each with a very different focus in mind. No matter what chapter of running life you might be in — or even if you’ve yet to enter a chapter — one of these books is going to meet your needs.

From authors Cindy Kuzma and Carrie Jackson Cheadle comes "Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries," "Running That Doesn’t Suck" from Lisa Jhung, and from Brian Metzler there’s "Kicksology: The Hype, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes". All of these books written by experienced runners and journalists who have deep understanding of their subject matter.

1. "Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries" by Cindy Kuzma and Carrie Cheadle

Since an unfortunately high number of runners end up injured every year — estimates go as high as 50 percent — odds are you have faced, or will face, a layoff at some point in your running career. Whether it’s your first or 10th injury, however, you know that it is always hard to sit on the sidelines, missing your favorite activity. Cindy Kuzma and Carrie Cheadle understand this, which is why they wrote "Rebound" in hopes of making the tough period of injury lay off just a bit easier.

"Rebound" serves as a roadmap to help injured runners return to their sports stronger with a combination of tools allowing runners to take control of their recovery. The book includes the personal stories of athletes and researchers who offer up their wisdom and science, all backed up by Cheadle’s experience as a mental performance consultant.

According to Kuzma, there was a need for this book because most of the support for injured athletes comes in the form of physical, not emotional. “Research offers us an increasing understanding of how the brain plays a key role in all stages of athletic performance and recovery,” she says. “We’re glad we can contribute to the conversation and help offer much-needed support to athletes on the mental side of the rehab and recovery process.”

Many runners, when injured, deal with guilt over how much the layoff impacts them emotionally. For this reason, the entire first chapter of Rebound addresses the roller coaster of emotions injured athletes face. “What I’ve learned from writing this book is that all those emotions are normal and natural,” says Kuzma. “It’s OK and in fact, essential, to feel and express them.”

The book goes on to offer mental drills to help injured athletes train their minds and learn to work through injury so that they can return physically and mentally stronger than before — skills they can use in every area of their lives.

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2. "Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running Even if You Think You Hate It" by Lisa Jhung

Ever say to yourself "I want to run, but I can't?" Lisa Jhung, an experienced runner and journalist who writes about running, understands how hard it can be to get started, which is why she authored the newly released "Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running Even if You Think You Hate It".

Jhung's book includes a “know-thyself-to-become-a-runner’ quiz to help wannabe runners find the type of approach that might work best for their individual needs. The results help readers to then navigate the book and learn more about different “ways in” to running.

Read our interview with Jhung about the book.

3. "Kicksology: The Hype, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes" by Brian Metzler

Author Brian Metzler has been running pretty much all of his life, and as a journalist who covers the sport and its gear, has run in just about every type of shoe out there — over 1,500 pairs, by his estimate. While not every runner might share his fascination for all that goes into running shoes, Kicksology offers up plenty of useful information for runners to digest.

“I think runners of all experience levels will find fascinating some of the stories about the history of shoes, how shoes are made, and the recent advancements in shoes,” says Metzler. “Going inside shoe factories in both China and New England was eye opening for me. Then again, so was learning about how a shoe comes to life, what it costs to make a pair of shoes, and how some recent advancements have really helped improve marathon times.”

"Kicksology" dives into the fads and science that have shaped running shoe trends, and does a good job of helping runners learn how to separate the hype from the real in order to become informed consumers. A chapter on running injuries and whether or not shoes can play a role in preventing them is a good example. “Running shoes definitely don’t cause injuries,” says Metzler, “but they can have a big impact on a runner’s fitness and performance.

“The combination of a runner’s foot shape and running gait are entirely unique to that runner based on their anatomy, injury history and day-to-day postural traits and habits. Because of that, there are better and worse shoes for every individual.”

That said, Metzler astutely points out in his book that most runners get mired down in the marketing of running shoes, often putting far too much stock in what a shoe can and can’t deliver. “The key to healthy, efficient running has less to do with shoes and more to do with the time, effort, care and passion that each of us puts into it,” he points out in the book.

In his final chapter, Metzler takes a look at what runners can expect from running shoe development in the coming years, which may involve a good deal of personalization and customization. At the end of the day, no matter how they change, he says, running shoes will continue to play the role of inspiring and bringing runners together.

After all his research, does Metzler have a favorite shoe? “They span a wide range,” he says, “but they’re all based on both the quality and uniqueness of the shoe, and also the emotional attachments I have from running in them.”

A few that make the cut: The original Adidas Oregon from the early ‘80s; the Nike Air Tupu from 2002; the HOKA Speedgoat 2 from 2017; and the Altra Timp 1.5 from 2018. “But as soon as I mention those, I can think of dozens more, too,” he admits.

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