“The Wildest Race Ever”

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Marathon runners are a rare breed.  If you have ever witnessed or been part of the NYC Marathon or the Boston Marathon or other races,  you’ll know what I mean.  The Olympic Marathon runners are in a class all by themselves.

“The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon” by Meghan McCarthy is a combination of the history of the event and a fun story of what happened on August 30, 1904.9781481406390_p0_v1_s192x300.jpg

The event was held in Saint Louis, Missouri, as part of the World’s Fair.  People experienced their first hot dog, first Dr. Pepper, first ice-cream cone and the first Olympics in America.

Forty-one runners had signed up for the event, but only thirty-two started on the day of the race. There were eleven runners from the United States, including the first American Indian to run in the Olympic Games.

It was ninety-degrees outside, and it had rained several days before washing away some of the roads the runners would travel.  Thousands of people lined the route as the runners got ready to run the 24.85-mile marathon.  Today marathons are 26.2 miles.

Illustrated with cartoon-like drawings, McCarthy follows the runners along the course.  Her text is filled with descriptions of many strange happenings:  one runner was chased by an angry dog, one runner stopped and chatted with people in the crowds, one runner who begged his trainers for water was given strychnine because they thought it would make him run faster.

For any young reader who likes to run or is interested in the Olympics, “The Wildest Race Ever” is a very entertaining book.  McCarthy includes a very good bibliography and some factual information on marathon runners in the book for any readers who wants to learn more about this crazy marathon.

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