Marvelous Marathon Picture Books

Did you know that though the first Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, was run in 1897, women weren’t officially allowed to enter the race until 1972? And, did you know that the oldest person to complete a marathon was 108 years old??? We bought Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon last winter, and it was one of the most requested read alouds in our house throughout the spring…

Because my husband and I both enjoy running (we’ve each done a handful of half marathons and marathon(s)), and because the girls were so interested in this story, I thought I’d gather a list of books to read to celebrate the Boston Marathon in April. And then COVID happened, so those books got pushed to the side. But, the 124th Boston Marathon is being run virtually this week, so I gathered three wonderful marathon books to read with the girls. Keep reading for quick blurbs and affiliate links to each.

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer — Though there are a few picture books about Bobbi Gibb (The Girl Who Ran: The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon is a popular one), this is our favorite. As I mentioned above, it was on repeat for months in our house after we first got it! Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb grew up loving to run, at a time when girls weren’t supposed to run (they didn’t even make running shoes for girls or women!). But after watching the Boston Marathon one year, Bobbi decided she’d run it, too, even though women weren’t allowed to enter. She didn’t let that stop her — instead, in 1966, she hid behind some bushes by the starting line and joined the men when the race started! Bobbi not only ran and finished, but she finished ahead of about 2/3 of the men! Girl Running is short and engaging, yet informative, and has started many conversations about women’s rights and their strengths and capabilities in our house. Pimentel includes a brief Afterword and Selected Bibliography for those wanting more information.

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon by Kim Chaffee, illustrated by Ellen Rooney — A year after Bobbi Gibb completed the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer, did, too… But she entered! Not intending to deceive the race officials, Kathrine registered for the race using her initials, K. V., which she frequently used at school, and even wore makeup and earrings while running the race. Her journey to the finish line wasn’t easy, though. In fact, at one point, a race official even tried to pull her off the course! When asked why she wanted to official run the Boston Marathon, Kathrine replied, “I like to run. Women deserve to run too.” Thought Kathrine ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 (and Bobbi Gibb had already completed it in 1966), race officials still deemed women too weak to run it, and thought it was inappropriate for women to run without a chaperone. Women were finally officially allowed to enter in 1972, five years after Switzer’s run. You’re going to want to read the Author’s Note and the note about “Women and the Boston Marathon” in this one! Switzer has gone on to do amazing things for female runners and athletes.

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person Ever to Run a Marathon by Simran Jeet Singh, illustrated by Baljinder Kaur — Okay, so this one’s not about the Boston Marathon, but when I saw it this summer, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it! I mean, marathons are hard for even the youngest, fittest people in the world… And Fauja Singh his first marathon at 81 and most recently completed one at the ripe young age of 108! This book opens with a note from Fauja Singh himself, and it’s incredibly inspiring. Born incredibly weak, people believed he would never be able to walk. The story spends a lot of time exploring Fauja Singh’s childhood in a village in Punjab, showing us that though his body was weak, his heart and mind were strong… And ultimately, that is what made the difference in his life! The backmatter here is once again worth reading, as it gives more insight into Fauja Singh’s life and Sikh beliefs.

So, what’s the farthest you’ve ever run???

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