The best children’s books about running

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning picture book author of many types of books, from The Pumpkin Runner to Badger’s Perfect Garden. I’ve always been a reader more than an athlete, but throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed running - running down a dusty Kansas backroad, running to the pasture to call in the cows, running to the stream to climb a cottonwood. When I reached my sixties, I finally decided it was time to run a half-marathon. Partway through the race, I broke my foot! But I persevered. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a little like Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner.


I wrote...

The Pumpkin Runner

By Marsha Diane Arnold, Brad Sneed (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pumpkin Runner

What is my book about?

The Pumpkin Runner is the story of a man who ran for the joy of it. It is based on the real-life adventures of a 61-year-old Australian farmer who, amidst ridicule, entered an ultra-marathon from Sydney to Melbourne. 

The story is a combination of fact and fiction told in the style of a tall tale. Inspired by Cliff Young, the story is fictionalized with the likable character, Joshua Summerhayes. Both had a generous, humble spirit and knew how to persevere. The author gave Joshua a dog to run along with him – spunky Yellow Dog. Everyone believed it was pumpkins that gave Joshua the energy to run, but readers learn that it was much more than that.

The books I picked & why

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

By Kathleen Krull, David Diaz (illustrator),

Book cover of 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?

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

By Kathleen Krull, David Diaz (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wilma Unlimited as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This award-winning true story of Black Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio and eventually went on to win three gold medals, is illustrated by Caldecott medal–winning artist David Diaz.

Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she'd run. And she did run—all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single Olympiad. This dramatic and inspiring true story is illustrated…


The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Quickest Kid in Clarksville as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She'll be riding on a float tomorrow. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma once was. It doesn't matter that Alta's shoes have holes because Wilma came from hard times, too. But what happens when a new girl with shiny new shoes comes along and challenges Alta to a race? Will she still be the quickest kid?
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the power of friendship.


Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

By Kim Chaffee, Ellen Rooney (illustrator),

Book cover of 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. 

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

By Kim Chaffee, Ellen Rooney (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Fearless Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kathrine Switzer changed the world of running. This narrative biography follows Kathrine from running laps as a girl in her backyard to becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with official race numbers in 1967. Her inspirational true story is for anyone willing to challenge the rules.

The compelling collage art adds to the kinetic action of the story. With tension and heart, this biography has the influential power to get readers into running. An excellent choice for sports fans, New Englanders, young dreamers, and competitive girls and boys alike.


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

By Simran Jeet Singh, Baljinder Kaur (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

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

By Simran Jeet Singh, Baljinder Kaur (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fauja Singh Keeps Going as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every step forward is a victory.

Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn't allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn't stop him. Working on his family's farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential.

He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over…


Marathon Mouse

By Amy Dixon, Sam Denlinger (illustrator),

Book cover of 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.

Marathon Mouse

By Amy Dixon, Sam Denlinger (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marathon Mouse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mice of New York City dread the day of the New York City Marathon more than any other-the crowds, the large shoes, the noise. All of them, that is, except for Preston. He and his family live underneath the starting line on the Verrazano Bridge and every year Preston has dreamed of joining all the other runners in the marathon. This year, Preston is determined to make his dream come true, even though his family tells him that mice are not fit to run marathons. He trains hard leading up to the big day and when the race starts,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in marathons, runners, and New York State?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about marathons, runners, and New York State.

Marathons Explore 19 books about marathons
Runners Explore 21 books about runners
New York State Explore 499 books about New York State

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Long Run, Marathon Woman, and The Silence of Great Distance if you like this list.