The best children’s books about running

The Books I Picked & Why

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

By Kathleen Krull, David Diaz

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Why this book?

The beginning of Wilma Unlimited pulls you in as it describes a tiny girl who weighed just four pounds at birth. As a child Wilma was sickly, contracting both scarlet fever and polio. The story is beautifully written with stunning illustrations. Information about the 1940s, segregation, and the love and support of a mother who had 22 children, is seamlessly woven in. Who could put down a story about a girl who once wore a heavy steel brace on her leg, but, through perseverance, went on to win three gold medals in track-and-field at the 1960 Olympics?


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The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

Why this book?

This is another book about Wilma Rudolph, but this one focuses on how Wilma inspired two young girls in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma’s birthplace. Alta is The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, but worries about Charmaine, the new girl with brand-new, “stripes down the sides” shoes. The author’s writing is fast-paced with a rhythm to it, perfect for a running book about winning, losing, and friendship. Yes, friendship, as when Wilma Rudolph arrives for a parade to celebrate her Olympic wins, the girls finally agree to carry Alta's big banner to the parade in a relay race like Wilma won at the Olympics.


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Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

By Kim Chaffee, Ellen Rooney

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

Why this book?

Running was magic to Kathrine Switzer. But she grew up in a time when most people thought women were too fragile to run a race, especially a 26.2-mile marathon. The illustrations are vibrant and the text well-written, with a “Pat, Pat, Pat” refrain which expands as Kathrine runs faster and faster. The story revolves around how Kathrine entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 when it was a race for men only. She was almost stopped during the race by an angry Race Director, who also believed women should not run a marathon. Kathrine persevered and finished! Since 2008, more than 10,000 women have officially entered to run the Boston Marathon. 


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Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon

By Simran Jeet Singh, Baljinder Kaur

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon

Why this book?

One of the things I love most about this book is the foreword, which was written by Fauja himself – Fauja, the oldest person ever to run a marathon. Fauja was unable to walk until he was five years old and after he walked, he was still very weak. People were always teasing him and telling him he couldn’t do things. There’s a wonderful refrain that runs through the book: “But Fauja did not listen and Fauja did not stop.” At 89, he completed his first marathon. He ran marathons from London to New York to Toronto. The book ends with the Toronto Marathon, in which Fauja set a new world record as the oldest person to run a marathon.


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Marathon Mouse

By Amy Dixon, Sam Denlinger

Marathon Mouse

Why this book?

Marathon Mouse is a fun story for our littlest runners. Most of the mice living under the bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island didn’t like the commotion of Marathon Day. But Preston did. Preston braved the crowds and big shoes to run the Marathon himself. And near the finish line, his family, who had told him races weren’t for mice, were there cheering him on.

Marathon Mouse is the only one of my book recommendations about an animal marathon runner. But, as with the books here about people, Preston, the Marathon Mouse, has perseverance and determination and feels joy when he’s running.


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