Track & Field Writers Association 2020 Books of the Year

by Christine Bishop

Race called off, feeling down, wondering what to do? You might want to read books by the ten nominees for the Track & Field Writers Association Book of the Year award. Proudly, one of them is by our own columnist, Dr. Russ Ebbets: A Runner’s Guide to 30 Years of Off the Road. The books below are guaranteed to give you pleasure when not racing or walking outdoors during this time of quarantine and social distancing.


A Runner’s Guide to 30 Years of Off the Road, by Russ Ebbets, Amazon.
A Runner's Guide blends local flavor with a personal touch to address universal themes all runners and athletes face. Russ Ebbets draws on a lifetime of experiences detailed through selected essays from 30+ years of training columns in the Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club's Pace Setter Magazine. Whether it be thoughts on training and competition, growth and development or health and history, Ebbets creates a rich mosaic of the sport that offers something for everyone, be they athlete, coach, spectator or parent.


Ten Marathons – Searching for the Soft Ground in a Hard World, by Doug Schneider, pub. Saybrook

A memoir of life lessons learned the hard way – through thirty years of marathon running.
“Reading Doug Schneider's insightful Ten Marathons, I felt as if I had discovered a long-lost sibling or alter ego. He runs and thinks and appreciates life in ways that resonate deeply. This has nothing to do with running the Boston Marathon or crushing your personal best. It has everything to do with opening your eyes wide, breathing deeply, and following the trail around the next bend. Schneider writes that running makes him ‘feel totally alive and in the moment.’ That's how I felt as I savored Ten Marathons. It reminded me of all I love about reading and running.”
Amby Burfoot, winner 1968 Boston Marathon; author, Run Forever

Available in Kindle


The Oval Office – A Four-Time Olympian’s Guide to Professional Track and Field, by Lauryn Williams, Amazon. 

Success as a track and field athlete involves much more than training and beating the competition; it’s about building a brand and a business. Olympic Sprinter Lauryn Williams wished she had a guide to help her navigate the many decisions that came her way throughout her career. Instead, she was left to figure it out on her own. In the Oval Office Lauryn shares her advice for winning on and off the track from her perspective both as an Olympic athlete and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. This book serves as a how-to guide with valuable information about: • Choosing an agent and a coach• Branding yourself• Understanding sponsorships and contracts• Optimizing earnings and savings• Traveling internationally as an athlete you are the CEO and president of your brand. You decide the direction you will go and what kind of success you will achieve. This book offers you the tools to lay a healthy foundation for making the most of a track and field career.
Available in Kindle


Running to the Edge – A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed, by Matthew Futterman, pub. Doubleday.

Visionary American running coach Bob Larsen assembled a mismatched team of elite California runners...the start of his decades-long quest for championships, Olympic glory, and pursuit of "the epic run."

In the dusty hills above San Diego, Bob Larsen became America's greatest running coach. Starting with a ragtag group of high school cross country and track runners, Larsen set out on a decades-long quest to find the secret of running impossibly fast, for longer distances than anyone thought possible. Himself a former farm boy who fell into his track career by accident, Larsen worked through coaching high school, junior college, and college, coaxing talented runners away from more traditional sports as the running craze was in its infancy in the 60s and 70s. On the arid trails and windy roads of California, Larsen relentlessly sought the "secret sauce" of speed and endurance that would catapult American running onto the national stage. 

Running to the Edge is a riveting account of Larsen's journey, and his quest to discover the unorthodox training secrets that would lead American runners (elite and recreational) to breakthroughs never imagined. New York Times Deputy Sports Editor Matthew Futterman interweaves the dramatic stories of Larsen's runners with a fascinating discourse of the science behind human running, as well as a personal running narrative that follows Futterman's own checkered love-affair with the sport. The result is a narrative that will speak to every runner, a story of Larsen's triumphs - from high school cross-country meets to the founding of the cult-favorite 70's running group, the Jamul Toads, from national championships to his long tenure as head coach at UCLA, and from the secret training regimen of world champion athletes like Larsen's protégé, American Meb Keflezighi, to victories at the New York and Boston Marathons as well as the Olympics. 
Available in Kindle, UHLS Overdrive


Race across America: Eddie Gardner and the Great Bunion Derbies, by Charles B. Kastner, Syracuse University Press

On April 23, 1929, the second annual Transcontinental Foot Race across America, known as the Bunion Derby, was in its twenty-fifth day. Eddie "the Sheik" Gardner, an African American runner from Seattle, was leading the race across the Free Bridge over the Mississippi River. Along with the signature outfit that earned him his nickname—a white towel tied around his head, white shorts, and a white shirt—Gardner wore an American flag, a reminder to all who saw him run through the Jim Crow South that he was an American and the leader of the greatest footrace in the world.

Kastner traces Gardner’s remarkable journey from his birth in 1897 in Birmingham, Alabama, to his success in Seattle, Washington, as one of the top long-distance runners in the region, and finally to his participation in two transcontinental footraces where he risked his life, facing a barrage of harassment for having the audacity to compete with white runners. Kastner shows how Gardner’s participation became a way to protest the endemic racism he faced, heralding the future of nonviolent efforts that would be instrumental to the civil rights movement. Shining a bright light on his extraordinary athletic accomplishments and his heroism on the dusty roads of America in the 1920s, Kastner gives Gardner and other black bunioneers the attention they so richly deserve.
Available in Kindle


Amazing Racers – The Story of America’s Greatest Running Team and its Revolutionary Coach, by Marc Bloom, pub. Pegasus.

Fayetteville-Manlius Coach Bill Aris and his amazing accomplishments.

What would one call taking teens with no evident running talent and putting them through breakneck training combined with mantras from the rock n' roll, techniques from Kenya, philosophy from Australia and turning them champions? Is it revolutionary? Or just plain crazy? Bill Aris has heard both, but one thing is indisputable. Everything Aris does with his runners—male and female—is new and extraordinary, and he has created a new American running dynasty. The runners of Fayetteville-Manlius High School, or F-M, have won the last nine out of ten national championships and have the best cumulative record in cross country history. F-M's domination has shocked the sport for its defiance of accepted running principles and limitations. One year, the girls defeated the 2nd-place team in the country by an average of 59 seconds per girl in a 5k race. Another year, the F-M girls’ ran faster than their Kenyan counterparts, who had come to Oregon as a showcase. Across the country, top coaches all whisper, “How do they do it? ”From adopting long-forgotten Spartan creeds to focusing on teenaged developmental psychology and gender-blindness in training, The Running Revolutionaries is a must read for millions of runners and the millions more who strive for better performance.

Available in Kindle, UHLS ILL


Running to Glory – An Unlikely Team, a Challenging Season, and Chasing the American Dream, by Sam McManis, Lyons Press

The runners from Eisenhower High School have every justification to fail. They’re from low income families, many of whom are migrant workers. With little time to devote to their passion, they give everything they have to their quest for the Washington State High School Cross Country Championship.

Running to Glory is a celebration of grit, perseverance, and the American Dream. It follows the cross country team from Eisenhower High in Yakima, Washington, through a tumultuous and challenging season with excitement, suspense and pathos. Despite enormous economic disadvantages, the Eisenhower runners compete with affluent schools in the Seattle-Tacoma area, where parent involvement is strong and funds are readily available.

Their coach Phil English knows how his runners feel. He grew up poor in rural Ireland in the 1960s during The Troubles and emigrated to the U.S. for a college track scholarship. Over 37 years coaching in Yakima, Coach English won 11 state titles, and sent more than 100 kids to college with scholarships for running.

Author Sam McManis crafts a compelling narrative, which follows the team from summer workouts in the blistering sun to the state championship meet in the bitter cold. Readers will discover how these young men and women overcome their environment or succumb to it—on the course and in the classroom.

Available in Kindle, UHLS ILL


Run the Mile You’re In – Finding God in Every Step, by Ryan Hall, pub. Zondervan

Ryan Hall is an Olympic athlete and American record holder in the half marathon (59:43). But as a kid, Ryan hated running. He wanted nothing to do with the sport until one day, he felt compelled to run the 15 miles around his neighborhood lake. He was hooked.

Starting that day, Ryan felt a God-given purpose in running. He knew he could, and would, race with the best runners in the world and that his talent was a gift to serve others. These two truths launched Ryan's 20-year athletic career and guided him through epic failures and exceptional breakthroughs to competing at the highest level.

Along the way, Ryan learned how to focus on his purpose and say no to distractions, to select and strive for the right goals - goals for the heart as well as the body. With God's guidance and millions of miles pounded out on the track, Ryan discovered secrets to dealing with defeat and disappointment, enduring immense pain, building resilience, and ultimately, running as if you've already won.

Now a coach, speaker, and nonprofit partner, Ryan shares the powerful faith behind his athletic achievements and the lessons he learned that helped him push past limits, make space for relationships that enrich life on and off the running trails, and cultivate a positive mind-set.

Journey with Ryan as he reflects on the joys and trials of the running life and discover for yourself the power of a life devoted to your God-given purpose.

Available in Kindle


Hurt Me If You Can – Tales of a High School Runner, by Mathew Baxter

“Through the hours of protests as well as the back and forth decisions on the ruling, I lost my enjoyment for the sport. By the end of it all I didn’t want the medal, I didn’t want the title, and I didn’t want to run another race. It was not the disqualification that killed me, it was the wait where I had to sit around and internalize whether I was a cheat, as I knew others were doing the same.” Hurt Me If You Can is an autobiographical account of Matt Baxter’s journey through high school in New Zealand. As a thirteen-year-old, Matt had little interest in being a runner. Like his peers, he wanted to play the “fun sports,” and running did not fit that mold. It took an unexpected medical event before Matt considered joining his school’s cross country team. He did not know it at the time, but over the next few years running was about to become Matt’s identity. From 2008 to 2012, Matt fought his way through adversity and held onto hope that running was going to take him places. At the same time, Matt was trying to navigate the complexities of being a teenager who loved some aspects of school, and hated others. By his final year, Matt didn’t want to just be labelled as a good runner, he wanted to be remembered as the best that his country had ever produced. It was not going to be an easy task, but Matt was ready for that challenge.

Available in Kindle


Racing Shadows: a Novel, by James Dill, pub. Apprentice House Press

In May of 1984, the summer Olympic Games will return to America. Jeff Dillon prepares to run in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Buffalo, New York. He will face the deepest field ever assembled. It is the pinnacle of his professional running career. Unfortunately, the marathon goddess does not smile on Jeff as he crosses the finish line last, exhausted and depressed. His misery is interrupted by Bill Atlee, an Olympian who won the 1928 marathon trials. Bill offers to coach the struggling runner, an unexpected silver lining on the day.

Jeff returns to graduate school to be coached by Bill and the prospect of a fall come-back race. Through the many miles of training, a secret is revealed, and an agreement struck. Everything points to Jeff’s next marathon. There are questions to be answered and redemption sought by both athlete and coach. The race will provide a second chance to compete, to strive for the podium, and face everything that lies beyond the finish.

Available in Kindle


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