Yes, at times it’s difficult to feel motivated to run during the frigid winter months. The cold, wind and blowing snow can be giant hurdles standing in the way of us and the front door.
A perfect solution to these woes are running novels! Inspirational tales of others pushing past their own preconceived limits can be a great motivator to help us push past our own limits be them physical and weather related.
I have one in particular that I consider my “go-to”, the kind of novel I read over and over again, each time identifying with a different message. For me, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is my number one inspirational running book.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running By Haruki Murakami
Writing and running might seem like an unlikely duo, but it works. For me, one inspires the other, both taking turns at the leading and supporting roles. Murakami is a wordsmith, he paints vivid stories with precisely selected words. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami masterfully tells a deeply personal story about his journeys with writing and running. Personal, insightful and inspiring, it reads as a personal journal from the summer of ’05 to the fall of ’06, the time when Murakami training for the New York Marathon. This novel was recommended to me early on in my running journey, and even now, I find myself going back to it, often. I re-read it before major races to unwind and remind myself why I fell in love with running in the first place.
“It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome the pain, that we get that feeling, through this process, of really being alive – or at least the partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.”
I was interested to know what literature motivates other individuals in the running community, so I reached out to the leaders of run crews and creators from all over the world, to find out. Each leader plays an important but uniquely different role in the global running movement; they each have a different voice and are an inspiration all on their own. From New York to Copenhagen and back home to Toronto, here’s what motivates the motivators:
Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
Nai Vasha, New York
Undo Ordinary Co-Founder
I was born wild. Bless my mother’s heart for the attempt but no human hand can train me. As a young curious tomboy my spirit controlled the flesh. Somewhere past peak adolescence the tables turned. I wanted the control and let the junior brain reign supreme on possibilities. What I thought I knew was very little to nothing at all. Along the endless path of enlightenment you’re more conscious to clues, characters and heavenly spirits along the way. One of many in my life is Robin Arzon who co-founded Undo-Ordinary with me back in 2013 and suggested I live for this book. I did.
It is the location pin to my uncharted ways. Stories of women who walked to the beat of their ticking hearts. Not provoked by trend or fear. No, these women were wired to roam free. As a runner, entrepreneur and student of food, I continue to strengthen my spirit as much as my flesh. Performing from the inside out. Training from the inside out. Understanding that this body is a shell for a spirit that wants to run forever.
“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”
Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear
Following the University of Colorado Cross-Country team and their legendary but controversial Coach Mark Wetmore, Chris Lear gets a rare, full access view to what the Buffaloes need to put on the line to truly achieve excellence in an unforgettable NCAA season. During their 1998 season, these top-level collegiate athletes are faced with adversity, both in their athletic and personal lives. However, their commitment and passion for the sport plus their sheer will to win, will motivate you to get over any hurdle you may face in your own training. From injuries to the loss of a teammate, each character’s body and mind are pushed to the limit.
Running with the Buffaloes” is a must read for anyone who calls themselves a runner. The triumphs and heartbreaks suffered by Olympic hopeful Adam Goucher and his teammates is the epitome of “guts and glory”. It will not only leave readers feeling inspired but also ignite the desire fulfill their own dreams.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Steven Artemiw, Toronto
Parkdale Roadrunners Co-Founder
Born to Run is an equal mix of science and anecdotes. The author, asking his doctor “Why am I getting injured?” and never quite getting a satisfying answer, led him to the deserts of Mexico in search of the Tarahumara and the legend of El Caballo Blanco, a white man who supposedly toes the line and rubs elbows with the ancient tribe, to answer the more pertinent question “Why do they not get injured?”
The author contends that it’s our shoes that are the problem, and presents compelling evidence too. Comparing once popular, now shelved, shoe designs with the thin leather sandals still worn by the tribe, as they have been for centuries. Detailing the all night ragers held by the Tarahumara the night before completing distances, over rough, unforgiving terrain, many of us could only dream of covering.
It’s a captivating, compelling, and romantic story, that provides answers to questions I’ve had as a runner. Though, it may leave you with one more unanswered question: Could I run an ultra-marathon?
“The Song of the Ungirt Runners” a Poem by Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915)
Nanna Sine Munnecke, Copenhagen
A colleague mailed me the poem “Is this what you mean?…”. It’s a great example of the core sense of what drives us. Imagine to endure something so utterly painful and be at peace with it; let is soak in and let the run lead you. We do this all the time. Pain is an intricate part of running – and like Sorley we wrap pain carefully in effort, lightness, dedication, smiles, persistence, celebration and time. Intentional free movement – Sorley felt that in the trenches 100 years ago – the refugee boys I run with can relate and I relate too. So yes, it’s exactly what I mean.
“We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.”