Best Running Books Films
Photo: Tim Huebsch/Kate Fagan/Nike.

In running, rest is essential. What else is essential? Passing the time during those rest periods, namely by reading or watching, of course, if you’re into that sort of thing.

In 2017, there were a number of books and films, some made for the web, like the Breaking2 documentary or for the big screen like Stronger, released for the running fanatic, from the elite scene to trail running to the recreational runner.

Here are some of the notable new films and books released in the past 12 months.


Three world-class distance runners, including this generation’s greatest men’s marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, prepare and race to break two hours in the marathon as part of Nike’s ambitious Breaking2 project. National Geographic, in partnership with Nike, documented the journey, free to watch on YouTube. Read more about the Breaking2 project here.

What Made Maddy Run (by Kate Fagan)

From web editor Sinead Mulhern’s “Why What Made Maddy Run is an important book that all runners should read” piece: “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, written by journalist and ESPN columnist Kate Fagan, is the must-read book of 2017 for runners or competitive athletes of all kinds. If there’s a narrative worthy of investing hours of reading time into, it’s Fagan’s account of the mental health struggles of university track athlete Madison Holleran.”

Read more about What Made Maddy Run here.

Where Dreams Go To Die

Where Dreams Go To Die follows Gary Robbins and his two attempts at the Barkley Marathons, a 100-mile (likely more) trail race in Frozen Head State Park, Tenn. Film director Ethan Newberry, who some may know as Ginger Runner on YouTube, captures race footage from the 2016 and 2017 Barkley as well as a behind-the-scenes look at Robbins’s training. The film was the focal point of the Where Dreams Go To Die tour, which featured sold-out stops in Canada and the United States this past fall.

Below is an excerpt, by editor Michael Doyle, from the January-February 2018 edition of Canadian Running.

RELATED: 10 books for your running friend(s) this Christmas.

“What Where Dreams Go to Die does best is allow Robbins to be the brash, charming yet self-effacing running star he is, and this scene needs so badly. The trust Robbins must have in Newberry is evident in both the film, which unflinchingly documents the elite runner’s lowest moments, and because they have subsequently toured the film together. It was unsurprising that Where Dreams Go to Die was as sellout hit across North America, as its expertly crafted and wisely paced. The only disappointment, if you can call it that, is that the film ends on an obvious cliffhanger, leaving viewers counting the days until Robbins heads back out to the Tennessee mountains. Will he snatch his dream of finishing back from the clutches of death? We’ll find out in the spring.”

How to Lose a Marathon (by Joel Cohen)

Below is an excerpt, by editor Michael Doyle, from the November-December 2017 edition of Canadian Running.

The Simpsons writer and executive producer Joel Cohen’s new book about his marathon experience reads like an entire season’s worth of notes on the trials and tribulations of Homer’s training. Cohen’s running story is typical and highly relatable. After growing up an active yet awkward kid in Calgary, he lived in Toronto for a while before following his brother out to L.A. All went well. He landed writing credits on a few T.V. shows before landing a permanent gig in The Simpsons’ writing room. But life as a writer had worn on his fitness. He decided to do something about it, and started running. Then he got the idea that maybe he should give a marathon a shot.

How to Lose a Marathon is the funniest running book you’re ever going to read. It functions as equal parts how-to manual (or, rather, don’t-do-it-like-I-did manual) and memoir. Cohen effortlessly shows off his comedy chops in both the form and content of the book, with self-deprecating chapter headings and opening quotes, as well as brutally honest revelations about the ups and downs of training for a marathon.”


From web editor Sinead Mulhern’s “The outrageous Russian doping scandal that got the country kicked out of Rio has been turned into a must-watch Netflix doc” article: “The new-to-Netflix documentary that details all of this is called Icarus. It’s created by filmmaker Bryan Fogel and stars Grigory Rodchenkov. This movie has it all from Cold War Era politics, to mysterious murders, to a decades-old crafty plan to con the entire world in athletic competition. On top of that, it features interviews with the man who claims to have cheated the Olympic Games.”


Stronger is an American biographical drama film chronicling the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the life of Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs in the attack. Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the film as Bauman adapts to his new life.


Boston is the first feature-length documentary film about the Boston Marathon and chronicles how the event started in the late 1800s to what the world’s most legendary road race has become today. Matt Damon narrates the film and is a must-watch for those interested in the history and memorable moments from the Boston Marathon.

Canadian Running spoke with the director of the film earlier this year. Listen here for the episode.

Big Fit Girl (by Louise Green)

From web editor Sinead Mulhern’s “Big Fit Girl highlights body positive message for all athletes:” “This new fitness book aims to be an empowering read. It emphasizes body positive messages that it’s not just about size and that fuller figures are also powerful when it comes to crushing that workout. Those who pick up this book are likely to reconsider stereotypes and see health and fitness through a new lens.”

Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human (by Vybarr Gregan-Reid)

Below is an excerpt, by Jay Smith, from the November-December 2017 edition of Canadian Running.

Footnotes is a deep-thinking foray into running and its intersections with science, literature and philosophy. Author Vybarr Gregan-Reid teaches within the English department at the University of Kent, with research specializing in novelists Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. He’s also a runner. The result is a heady, cerebral investigation into the simplest of human athletic activities.”

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