Swim, Bike, Read: Endurance Sport Books

I’ve really made an effort to read more books over the last few years. It’s something that falls by the wayside so easily when I’m…



I’ve really made an effort to read more books over the last few years. It’s something that falls by the wayside so easily when I’m busy, but making time to read has a lot of benefits including reduced stress levels and improved memory. Of course, I tend to choose books about topics I enjoy, in particular, swimming, cycling and running.

Reading inspirational stories of athletes who have overcome injuries, disabilities and fears never fail to boost my motivation. I reviewed six triathlon books last year and I’ve now added the following titles to my bookshelf:

This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

This Mum Runs follows elite athlete Jo Pavey’s journey from her early days as an Exeter Harrier to representing Great Britain in every Olympic Games from 2000 to 2016. Life really began at 40 for Jo, as she defied all expectations as an older athlete to win the 10,000m gold medal at the 2014 European Championships. Alongside her running career, she also shares insights into her relationship with her husband and coach Gav, and the birth of her two children. Jo’s resilience and down-to-earth nature really shine through in this book. Her career hasn’t been straightforward- she was plagued by injury and missed out on a podium finish to an athlete who was later disqualified as a drugs cheat. Balancing family life with her athletic career is important to Jo- she has to juggle her priorities in the same way as any other working mother. Despite being ghost-written, Jo’s autobiography didn’t come across as impersonal or unemotional.
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Beyond Impossible by Mimi Anderson

In a similar vein to This Mum Runs, Mimi’s Anderson’s story is of an ordinary mum becoming a record-breaking ultrarunner. After struggling with Anorexia throughout her teens and twenties, Mimi takes up running in the hope of attaining slimmer legs. She soon finds a new sense of purpose in running and as the distances increase so does her self-confidence. Mimi discovers a talent for ultra-endurance events and takes on some of the world’s greatest running races, including the Marathon des Sables, Comrades, Badwater, Spartathlon and Grand Union Canal Race. She’s set course records and even won races outright. The book follows her greatest challenge- gaining the Guinness World Record time for a female running from John O’Groats to Land’s End. An incredibly inspiring read, Mimi proves that anything is possible with enough determination and grit.
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Leap In by Alexandra Hemingsley

Leap In tells Alexandra Hemingsley’s story of learning to swim from complete novice to accomplished open water swimmer. Having enjoyed her book ‘Running Like a Girl’ I knew I would enjoy her subsequent journey into the world of swimming. She discovers that swimming presents a whole different set of challenges- learning breathing techniques and hilariously describing her attempt to squeeze into a wetsuit for the first time. The sea is a source of fear for Alexandra, but over time she finds solace and comfort in the rough salty waters. The second half of ‘Leap In’ contains a history of swimming and a guide to the basic techniques and kit.
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Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald

Iron War recounts the intense rivalry between Dave Scott and Mark Allen at the iconic Ironman Hawaii in 1989. The two raced side-by-side for 140.6 miles before the winner crossed the finish line with a victory of just 58 seconds. The book takes a look at the upbringing, personality and backgrounds of the two athletes to discover how they came to dominate the sport of triathlon. Matt Fitzgerald writes so descriptively that you almost feel you are there in Kona watching the race unfold. The story is interspersed with information on sports science and psychology which can be a little heavy but adds to the overall understanding of what drives Scott and Allen. For anyone interested in the history sport of triathlon, the Iron War is a must read.
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Accidental Ironman by Martyn Brunt

Martyn Brunt’s column in 220 Triathlon magazine is always hilarious, so I knew this book would be an entertaining read. Accidental Ironman is full of anecdotes from Brunt’s transition into triathlon, including being lost at sea, trapped in Belgian portaloos, incontinence, driving bans, broken bones and public nudity. The author does come across as condescending and negative at points throughout the book, so the Accidental Ironman is perhaps not the best choice if you are looking for an inspirational read.
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From Blind Man to Ironman by Haseeb Ahmad*

From Blind Man to Ironman is the story of how Leicester-based Haseeb Ahmad overcame his blindness to set the World Record for the fastest Blind Ironman Triathlon. I’d heard Haseeb speak on the Oxygen Addict podcast and was fascinated by how he works with his guides to swim, cycle and run. Haseeb began losing his eyesight at 10 years old and by the age of 20, he was completely blind and faced an uncertain future. Remaining positive and resilient, Haseeb faced every challenge head-on and went to university, got married and began a successful career. He discovered a love of triathlon and qualified for the GB Paratriathlon squad, earning medals at national and international competitions before breaking the world Blind Ironman record.
Buy here

Books marked with * were received as review samples, but all opinions are my own. Contains affiliate links- I earn a small commission which goes towards the running of Paddle Pedal Pace when you purchase via these links.

Have you read any good books recently?


  1. I read the Jo Pavey book and although I really like her, I found it a bit weird at times- there was one bit where she was living in Africa and a neighbour got murdered and it was put in as just an aside point- sort of more mechanical than anything. She’s still very inspiring but I didn’t find it really enthralling.

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