On April 15th, Lindsay Flanagan, Des Linden, Sarah Crouch, and Becky Wade will stand on the line for the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon. As runners on the 2019 Boston Marathon U.S. Elite team, these women are some of the fittest, fiercest, and most inspiring athletes in the country.
While journalists and athletes are wondering what these elite runners are feeding their bodies in preparation, I’m wondering what they are feeding their minds.
“I’ve always thought that running, reading, and writing are very complementary,” says Becky Wade, champion of the California International Marathon and three time participant in the Olympic Trials. As the author of Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe, Wade knows all about the relationship between running and reading.
She isn’t the only one polishing off books between workouts: Des Linden, 2018 Boston Marathon Champion and self-proclaimed book nerd, revealed in a recent article by Runner’s World that she strives towards finishing four books a month.
Lindsay Flanagan, who placed 11th in 2017, enjoys reading for its relaxing qualities after training sessions. It helps her mentally approach marathon running as well. Sarah Crouch, who placed 11th in 2016, turns to fiction for its transportive qualities.
“I love the boundless landscape of fiction, particularly literary fiction that is character driven,” Crouch says when asked what makes her pick up a book, “There is nothing better than a story that is so beautifully crafted by the author that every person, place and scene is utterly vivid and believable in my mind. It’s pure escape.”
Digging deeper into their reading lists, I find that Crouch’s penchant for fiction over nonfiction is rarer than expected.
In Linden’s list of favorite books, four of the five are fascinating nonfiction titles. In her search for something to read, Flanagan prefers nonfiction and gravitates towards inspirational and relatable reads. Although she covers fiction as well, Wade is motivated by books that inspire, including titles on psychology, self-improvement, and the newest releases by other runners.
This connection between distance running and nonfiction reading makes complete sense. As Wade points out in her own life, many of the themes found in nonfiction are important in how they “apply to everything I do—running, writing, trying to be a good wife and sister and friend.”
Just as wise coaches often lead the greatest athletes, readers are coached by the material they choose.
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As their tapering season begins, both Flanagan and Wade find themselves with more time to read.
“My reading definitely increases,” Flanagan says, “as I’m starting my marathon taper. I like to do something productive, like read, during this extra time instead of getting sucked into the social media vortex.”
Similarly, Wade shares, “I get the most reading done while travelling for a running trip. I can’t think of a better activity to stay off my legs and to stay mentally occupied. Reading leaves me in the best state of mind when I have a bunch of down time and just need to relax.”
With the race fast approaching, here are the titles these Boston Marathon Elite are reading while they rest up.
Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
“This read is perfect for endurance athletes, or really anyone that has ever found themselves completely consumed by the obsessive desire to be the best they can possibly be. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion to be so wrapped up in my passion of running that it was all I could think about. Brad and Steve do a great job of showing how to productively channel this passion in order to avoid burnout, something that’s sadly all too common in athletics. It’s so relatable and I’m excited to finish it up!”
Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden
“As a professional runner, I find myself constantly looking for ways to improve my recovery between workouts. Christie takes a deeper look at all the different recovery modalities on the market today and shares scientific research—something that’s lacking when it come to recovery techniques—on which ones work and which ones don’t do quite as much as we think.”
Becoming by Michelle Obama
“The thing I appreciate the most about Becoming is Michelle’s honesty—she doesn’t hold back and we get a real glimpse at her life, both the good and bad.”
Des Linden is reading:
The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Antonio J. Mendez
Just finished “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio Mendez.
Not sure what’s next. Would take a fiction suggestion.😬
— des_linden (@des_linden) April 2, 2019
Sarah Crouch is reading:
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
“Completely non-running related, I just finished Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker and it completely blew my brain apart. Robbins is a whimsical genius.”
Becky Wade is reading:
26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career by Meb Keflezighi and Scott Douglas
“I would have read [26 Marathons] as soon as it came out, but it was especially relevant going into Boston. It was so cool to read a behind-the-scenes account of Meb’s 26 marathons. What I really liked about it was his honest portrayal when his preparation or race execution didn’t go perfectly, or when there were unforeseen challenges that he had to respond to.”
“A fun, tongue in cheek punctuation book. I surprisingly loved it and laughed out loud a few times. It was also a nice little refresher in proper punctuation. I’d definitely recommend it.”
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
“I just started reading Bad Blood. Bad Blood is about Elizabeth Holmes’s Theranos scandal. It’s a pretty interesting look into the huge elaborate fraud of Theranos…and I’ve already watched the documentary and listened to the whole podcast.”
As these four athletes race through pages and over pavement, I am fascinated by their endurance. Come wind, come rain, come hard training, their commitment to running and expanding their minds is endless.
Toward the end of our conversation, Becky Wade tells me, “There is an unusual number of people who are very passionate about [running, reading, and writing]. I think part of that is because those communities draw the same kind of reflective, curious, passionate people.”
And isn’t that the truth, fellow readers and runners?