The 10 Best Books for Black Runners

Book Recommendations for Black Runners

I love reading books to expand my imagination, take me on a journey, or for personal/professional development. So it’s no secret that I also enjoy reading books that teach or inspire me to be a better runner and athlete. 

The thing is, while there are loads of running magazines, articles, and books each year, very few of them are written by Black authors or even catered to Black runners.  

That’s why I compiled this list of books that share the history of black runners, inspire future runners, or share personal journeys of Black athletes like yourselves.

Some of these books aren’t about running but the concepts are transferable to all sports regardless of what you play. 

I hope you chose to pick up one of the books below and maybe it’ll inspire you to write your own one day!

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My Top Picks

  1. Mamba Mentality
  2. 26 Marathons
  3. Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time
  4. The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World

10 Best Books for Black Runners – Reviews

1. 26 Marathons

Four-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi shares all the lessons he has learned from running in 26 marathons including his final marathon, the New York City Marathon in 2017. He gives advice on overcoming adversity, tips for training, and how to prevent and overcome injuries. 

2. Mamba Mentality 

This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include Kobe! He may not be a runner but he was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. How did he achieve G.O.A.T status? Many factors played a role but we can’t deny that his work ethic was one of a kind.

In Mamba Mentality, Kobe reveals the steps he took to prepare mentally and physically to play every game. Readers will feel inspired for his passion and grit for the love of basketball.

3. Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports

In almost every sport we compete in, Blacks have dominated the field compared to any other race. Long-distance running, sprinting, basketball, football – you name it. 

Have you ever wondered why that is? Are we physically superior to our counterparts? Is it genetics? Is it our rich and often traumatic history of learning to push through against all odds that have molded us into becoming some of the world’s best athletes?

In Taboo, Jon Etine talks about all this and more. Along with why this topic is so uncomfortable for Whites to discuss.

4. Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man

So this is actually a fictional children’s book. But I’m adding it to this list because it’s based on the life of a real person and the underlying message is something that all of us can relate to, regardless of age.

Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man discusses the trials of racial inequality and how he overcame so many obstacles just to run track and field. I think it also serves as a friendly reminder that racial injustice is not just in the United States. It’s a global issue.

5. The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World

You’ve probably seen pictures or heard the stories of the Black Power salute on the 1968 Olympic podium. John Carlos was one of the athletes that proudly gave this salute and caused so much political controversy.

In this memoir, John Carlos shares his story and what took place before and after this iconic event.

6. Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games

Running for My Life portrays the story of achieving the impossible. Readers learn about Lomong’s kidnapping, escape from a refugee camp, and his journey to becoming a U.S. Olympic team captain. Given all the trials Lomong went through, he teaches others the importance of pursuing your dreams.

7. Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time

The memoir of Ida Keeling AKA Miss Ida. Your not-so-average runner holding the world record for the fastest time in the 60-meter dash for the 95-99 age group. Running gave Ida the new wave of energy she was looking for at the age of 67. 

In this book, she shares her story of how she grew up during the Depression, raised her children as a single mother, and found her strength through running.

Ida passed away at 106 years old on August 21, 2021.

8. 40 Million Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete

Kanye West rapped about New Slaves. Former New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden writes about the intertwining connections between slaves and modern-day athletes. It’s an interesting read that discusses the evolution of Black athletes and makes you wonder how much power collegiate and professional athletes truly have.

9. Triumph: The Untold Stories of Jesse Owens and Hitlers Olympics

The story of the 1936 Olympic Games where controversy and hostility were the main attractions. Jesse Owens gave a remarkable performance to win four gold medals in the midst of boycotts, drama, and Nazi hostility.

10. Saving Myself One Step at a Time: A Running Memoir

With a very little athletic background and at the prime age of 64, T.J. Bryan decided to become a distance runner. She shares her story of finding joy in running despite despair in her professional career and pushing through barriers as being one of few women of color running long distances. Become inspired as she rediscovers herself and joins a family that supports her.

Conclusion

This list of books for black runners and athletes can help motivate, teach, or take you on a journey through the world of runners.  I hope it helps you diversify your reading collection to learn more about Black culture and the journey of so many Black athletes. 

Bonus: if you’re interested in a running magazine showcasing runners of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities, check out Mid Strike Magazine! Tell them I sent you.

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