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Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon

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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.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published April 2, 2019

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Kim Chaffee

3 books16 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 85 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca B.
40 reviews7 followers
April 5, 2019
Fantastic children's biography about the first woman to race the Boston Marathon. Chaffee's writing is smooth and accessible for kids and Rooney's illustrations are beautiful, the coloring flawless. Definitely recommend this one for a library read aloud or a personal collection.
Profile Image for Marcia.
Author 3 books26 followers
January 15, 2019
This is a gorgeous book and just in time for the next Boston Marathon. The vibrant illustrations pop off the page and the story is very well paced and written. Children of all ages will enjoy and be inspired by this strong and determined female runner who opened the gates for all future women to follow in her footsteps.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
3,921 reviews84 followers
August 27, 2019
I remember seeing the iconic photos of race officials in the 1967 Boston marathon trying to stop Kathrine Switzer and pull her numbers off. Obviously I thought that was ridiculous, but not having read the full story, I also assumed that it had been against the rules for a woman to run. Turns out, nope! Kathrine was well within her rights to run that day. Kudos to the men running near her who helped plow the race official off of the course and allowed her to keep going.

This is a really, really excellent story of determination and persistence. Kathrine just doesn't take no for an answer, and she was instrumental in opening the sport of running up to women. I do wish the author had included those photos in the additional material in the back, because they make the situation feel more real to the reader. My favorite tidbit in the supplemental info: after her race, the Amateur Athletic Union expelled Kathrine for "running the Boston Marathon with men" and "running the Boston Marathon without a chaperone." My my my my my. Look how far we have come!
Profile Image for Sunday.
889 reviews45 followers
May 1, 2020
“Girls weren’t supposed to sweat. Girls weren’t supposed to compete. They were too weak, too fragile, for sports. That’s what most people thought.
But not Kathrine.” (page 3)

Sweat. Compete. Not too weak. Not too fragile for sports. Kathrine Switzer would change most people’s thoughts on this as she determinedly pursued her right to run – in school, in college, in the 1967 Boston Marathon (when they tried to throw her out of the race) and beyond.

Chaffee’s text would read aloud easily and Rooney’s pictures are brilliantly colored, with vivid images of Switzer and the obstacles she faced—developing her endurance as a runner and convincing others that women can run long distances too. Highly recommend reading aloud in kindergarten through third and book talking for any elementary age to pick up and read on their own.

Chaffee has written this book with a clear audience of young readers/listeners in mind. She begins with “PAT-PAT-PAT” and a description of young Kathrine running laps, sweating in the hot summer sun, and marking a tree with a piece of chalk every time she passes by. At key points in the story, Chaffee has chosen key events to describe in detail. She inserts a version of the refrain “Girls weren’t supposed to sweat. Girls weren’t supposed to… That’s what most people thought” as a signal to our students that Switzer was persistent and determined; in a way that says to the reader, “heads up” because Switzer is going to do something else in pursuit of being allowed to compete and, as a result, changing the world's perspective on this issue.

Rooney’s illustrations are delicious. Done in mixed media collage – paper, paint, pencil, and digital media. Honestly, you could give this book to a small group of kindergarten or first grade students (who may not be able to read the text yet) and they would eat it up – AND be able to tell you all about what happened.

Suggestions for INTERACTIVE READ ALOUD – I’d read this aloud for the pure joy of the story. Just let students immerse themselves in listening and being a part of Switzer’s experiences. Then read it aloud again (or part of it) and, along the way, pose a few questions like the following for students to turn and talk in small groups about—
• How do we know that Switzer is determined (committed to achieving a goal) to compete as a runner? What does she do that shows us this?
• How does the author reveal that Switzer was persistent (pursuing a goal despite opposition)?
• Based on this story, what does it take to change other people’s perspectives on an issue? How does fearless play a part in this?
• As students look closely at the two-page spread on pages 5-6 with the text “She thought running was magic” – ask, “How does the illustrator show us that Kathrine Switzer thought running was magic?” (This illustration is bright, vivid, beautiful.)
• As students look closely at the page that begins “Arnie told her how good she…” and ask, “Why do you think Rooney chose to illustrate Switzer as a dark silhouette here?”

Would totally recommend offering these questions to small groups of older readers who read this book (together or independently) and then discuss.

*Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Gonzales, 2019)
*Billie Jean! How Tennis Star Billie Jean King Changed Women’s Sports (Rockliff, 2019)
*Trudy's Big Swim: How Gertrude Ederle Swam the English Channel and Took the World by Storm (Macy, 2017)
*Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams (Cline-Ransome, 2018)
*Yusra Swims (Abery, 2020)
Profile Image for Josh.
Author 1 book76 followers
April 6, 2019
This inspirational true story about Kathrine Switzer is exceptionally well written and bursting with heart. It's a perfect pairing of story, style, and gorgeous illustrations, with a real life character kids will care about and a rewarding finish sure to inspire boys and girls alike, even those who aren't familiar with Switzer's story.
Profile Image for Kirsti Call.
Author 7 books57 followers
April 3, 2019
One of the the most powerful and moving picture book biographies that I've ever read. LOVE the way Kim Chaffee paints the picture of Katherine Switzer's dream to run the Boston Marathon.
Profile Image for Laurie.
864 reviews
March 1, 2020
Interest Level: 3-6; Reading Level: 3.6

Imagine there is something that you love to do but people tell you that you can't do it just because you are a girl. We know that's not fair, but back in the day that is how things were. Katherine loved to run but in the 1960's women did not run and they sure didn't sweat. People would ask her if she was in trouble when she ran. When she went to college there were no women's track teams. She was allowed to train with the guys but she was not allowed to compete. When she learns about the Boston Marathon, a 26 mile race, she knows that she has to run in it, but no woman has even run in it before. She signed up as K.V. Switzer, not using her first name, Katherine. When the race began several men tried to stop her. Katherine knew she had to finish this race to prove that a woman could do it. Does Katherine overcome all odds and stay in the race? Is she able to complete the race to show that a woman can run and finish this historic race? Read this inspiring story to find out these answers.

This story gives me chill bumps! Katherine is such an inspiration to women everywhere! She loved something and did not give up when it was not the "proper" thing to do. She had a goal and she was determined to see it through to the end despite all odds against her. Don't miss this encouraging book!!
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Profile Image for Jenna Grodzicki.
Author 32 books31 followers
April 3, 2019
Her Fearless Run tells the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Kathrine loved to run, even though most people of her time believed women were incapable of long distance running. Young readers will be inspired to follow their dreams after reading Kathrine's story. Ellen Rooney's gorgeous illustrations complement the text perfectly. A must have for any classroom or library.
39 reviews1 follower
April 1, 2019
I was really intrigued by this story of Kathrine Switzer's determination to run during a time period when women did not run in races. I'm so inspired by her drive and commitment to train for the Boston Marathon, and I was equally impressed when I read how she persevered when men were trying to dissuade her from competing and finishing. Bravo to Kim Chaffee. This book will interest many readers for sure!
Profile Image for Carol Baldwin.
Author 1 book32 followers
July 1, 2019
Ever since she was a young girl, Kathrine Switzer loved to run. As a twelve-year-old, she would mark her laps with a piece of chalk on a tree along her route.

The mailman stared. The milkman asked if she was okay. Because in 1959, it was strange to see a girl running.

"Girls weren't supposed to sweat. Girls weren't supposed to complete. They were too weak, too fragile, for sports. That's what most people thought.
But not Kathrine."

Kathrine loved running so much that when she went to college and didn't find a women's running team, she joined the men's team. She learned about the Boston Marathon and decided she wanted to train for it. When she told the volunteer team manager and her coach, Arnie Briggs, her dream he replied, "Women can't do that kind of distance. They can't run that long."

"But I run six or even ten miles with you every night!" Kathrine shot back.

Determined to prove that she could complete the marathon, Kathrine ran despite bitter cold, snowbanks, and swollen toes. She even had to cut triangle wedges out of her sneakers to get them on her feet.

On April 19, 1967, 741 runners registered (a record!) and Kathrine was the only woman with an official number. Even though a race official attempted to push her out of the race, Kathrine ran on.

For a moment, Kathrine wondered if she should quit. She still had twenty-four miles to go.
Suddenly, finishing wasn't just about her. If she quit now, no one would believe that a woman could run a marathon. People would still say women weren't supposed to sweat. Women weren't supposed to complete. They were too weak too fragile. They shouldn't be allowed to run.
When she rounded the final corner and crossed the finish line, reporters surrounded her and asked what made her run the Boston Marathon.

Her answer was simple. "I like to run. Women deserve to run too."

I am giving away this inspirational picture book to one fortunate individual. Share this blog on social media or become a new follower of my blog and I'll enter your name twice. Make sure you tell me what you have done in the comments and leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. (www.carolbaldwinblog.blogspot.com)

Teachers: You can download a classroom guide for use in grades 1-6.
24 reviews1 follower
June 21, 2019
I could almost feel the pavement under my feet. Kathrine's determination was so eloquently portrayed and the use of pat pat pat throughout to gather momentum was beautiful. A lovely depiction of a trailblazing woman who followed her heart despite the limitations placed on women at the time. An important story which shows change happens one brave step at a time.
Profile Image for Reshamad.
282 reviews7 followers
October 13, 2019
Picture book biography on Katherine Switzer and her love/passion for running that led her to challenge not just herself but also those around her to compete in the Boston Marathon.
Katherine competed in the 1967 race and successfully finished the race. There were those who tried to stop her, some blocker her way, others frowned on woman running and "sweating". But nothing would stop Katherine; while she faced skeptics, there were others who encouraged, stood by her side and helped her finish.
A wonderfully inspiring story, a favorite for many readers. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Beth Anderson.
Author 7 books55 followers
June 1, 2019
For a bio on a runner, a marathoner, the pacing of the text is crucial. It has to be steady, strong, and go the distance. The author uses several very effective techniques to allow the reader to feel the Switzer’s push and her ability to keep increasing the distance. The illustrations are vibrant and strong as well, conveying her joy and determination. What a great example for kids of how some people persevere just for the pure exhilaration of challenging oneself.
Profile Image for Lindsay Leslie.
Author 6 books43 followers
January 16, 2019
First of all, this non-fiction picture book makes me want to go for a run ... like right now. How inspirational! I did not know the story of Kathrine Switzer, but I'm glad I do now, and I know children will appreciate Kathrine's barrier-busting moxie. Great back matter and I adore the gorgeous, emotion-evoking illustrations by Ellen Rooney!
Profile Image for Adrienne.
24 reviews3 followers
February 3, 2019
HER FEARLESS RUN is beautifully and thoughtfully written by debut author Kim Chaffee with gorgeous illustrations by Ellen Rooney that are so well suited to the story. Well paced, (no pun intended) it explains this non fiction story about a woman making her mark in an all male world. Excellent back matter round off this biography. Brava!
Profile Image for Sandra Sutter.
Author 2 books10 followers
May 1, 2019
This is a "must-have" book in all homes with parents or caregivers who want to show children that all things are possible with the right attitude, perseverance, and support. It is well-written and beautifully illustrated - telling and showing a remarkable story about a remarkable woman!
Profile Image for Sarah Nelson.
Author 8 books10 followers
August 9, 2020
An inspiring and visually beautiful book about Kathrine Switzer, first official female athlete in the Boston marathon.
Profile Image for V.
686 reviews8 followers
March 17, 2020
Mom's Review
I had been so excited to read Her Fearless Run with the group – it takes place in Boston and is about running. Boston's not too far away from us, and when these kids get together they run, run, run. I thought after reading it, we'd head out back and have our own races, but I have no craft to suggest (I had no ideas and had enlisted another parent's help, but cancelled before we got that far). Plus, it's March, Women's History Month, so all the more reason to seek it out now.

Her Fearless Run is the story of Switzer's love of running, determination to run competitively, and success in completing the Boston Marathon as the first woman runner. Readers will learn how Switzer ignored gender norms to pursue her passion: running. In college, she was permitted to train with the men's team. It was then that she began training with the coach to participate in the Boston Marathon. Because there were no actual rules barring women, Switzer was able to register. When she ran in the marathon, some men tried to physically stop her, but others protected her. It is a story of personal success, women's rights, overcoming obstacles, and persistence. I, for one, am better off knowing about Kathrine Switzer – I am more knowledgable of my state's history and with a woman who changed it.

Son's Review
(Age: 5)
Kathrine Switzer ran marathon. The book is about running.

LEGO Kathrine "K.V." Switzer

One thing T learned:
Kathrine "K.V." Switzer is able to run very fast.

How he felt while reading:
Happy. Because the rules back there were, "Girls can't run. Girls can't compete," but she did run, she did compete.

If T could meet her, he'd encourage her:
Run! Run! Run! Compete! Compete!

What people should expect from Her Fearless Run:
That a girl is running, and some race officials want her out in a part of the story.

Note: A review copy was provided upon request by Page Street Kids in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13k reviews267 followers
February 4, 2020
This one was a 3.5 for me, simply because I wanted more. Having read two picture books about Bobbi Gibb, the woman who ran the Boston Marathon unofficially in 1966, I was eager to read this one as soon as I saw it. After all, who doesn't love books about groundbreaking individuals? The fact that the subject of the book, Kathrine Switzer, simply loved to run and wasn't necessarily trying to change the world had some appeal as well since sometimes change comes in different forms and through different actions. As the book explains, Kathrine enjoyed running even though most of those around her didn't understand why a woman would do so, and although the two universities she attended didn't have a women's running team, she trained and ran with the men. After learning about the Boston Marathon, Kathrine decided to prepare for its 26 mile distance, adding miles to her course over the weeks. She eventually signed up for the event in 1967, using her initials the same way that she did for the newspaper stories she wrote. She had barely gone two miles when race officials tried to pull her off the course. This just made her even more determined to finish the race--not just for herself but for all the other women who had been denied this opportunity. The text follows this determined young woman, and the illustrations often focus on her powerful legs and the strides that helped her reach the finish line. The back matter adds to reader interest since it provides more to the story and the aftermath of Kathrine's race. I'd have liked to know a bit more about her formative years and whether the exploits of other women in sports had any effect on her own decision to run even when it was frowned upon. Readers may enjoy learning even more about her and other runners as well as noting how many women how run the Boston Marathon, something once considered physically impossible for women.
Profile Image for Christina Carter.
242 reviews32 followers
July 8, 2019
The prevailing thought of the day said that girls were too fragile for sports. In which case, competing in an athletic competition would have been simply inconceivable but Katherine Switzer knew better and did not impose such limitations on herself. She was a runner and would prove time and again just what she was capable of. Katherine believed in herself, even in the face of doubters. "She believed she could run any distance if she trained for it," and that's exactly what she did until she was ready to run in the 1967 Boston Marathon. She was, "The only woman with an official number."

Though she was challenged every step of the way, including just after the race, this historic run marked the first of many competitions for Katherine. She was a pioneer who opened up the doors for other women runners, and she still paves the way today through her nonprofit organization, 261 Fearless that provides "opportunities for women to find their strength and self-esteem through running and walking" (from the Author's note).

This book will inspire every reader. It's for everyone that has ever been told that they can't and for anyone who dreams big dreams. Either way, the reader will be compelled to press on to the point of realizing their goals and dreams. It will show them that it takes hard work, commitment, and dedication and that the fruit of such labor makes every second of it worth it.

Kim Chaffee does a great job telling Katherine Switzer's story and I appreciate the additional details in the author's note at the end. Ellen Rooney's mixed media collage style illustrations are such a joy to experience. I am happy to have another great picture book biography to add to my K-5 library.
5,870 reviews130 followers
August 14, 2020
Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon is a biographical children's picture book written by Kim Chaffee and illustrated by Ellen Rooney. It is centered on Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered runner.

Kathrine Virginia Switzer is an American marathon runner, author, and television commentator. In 1967, she became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered competitor.

Chaffee's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. Chaffee's effective telling of Switzer's iconic story emphasizes persistence, ambition, and discipline, but centers on her love of the sport. Backmatter includes an author’s note, bibliography, and a history of women and the Boston Marathon. Rooney’s bright, straightforward illustrations, mixed media render dramatic moments small and large, amplifying the empowering message.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Kathrine Switzer turned heads when she ran – doing laps around her yard at a time when girls weren’t supposed to sweat, competing with the boys’ track team in college, and, in 1967, as the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon.

All in all, Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon is a wonderful biography that goes the distance of a marathon.
Profile Image for TammyJo Eckhart.
Author 17 books119 followers
May 10, 2019
I had heard of Kathrine Switzer before and with Title IX under attack these days I thought this would be a good book to read to my little one as a reminder of how tough things used to be (and could become again). We loved the drawing and colors of the images; there was plenty to look at and talk about. Even the text was laid out artistically to give a sense of intensity that helped me figure out how to read it aloud better. I liked how the facts were set out and balanced with describing the emotions and accompanied the events in a way that was easy for my little to understand.

At the end of the story are two pages of additional information that I really think would be better put into the story itself to help drive home the challenge that Switzer faced. The story as it stands makes it seem like once she ran the Boston Marathon that everything was open to woman yet those additional facts show otherwise. Just 4-6 more illustrated pages could have added so much to this book.
Profile Image for Brenda Kahn.
3,647 reviews53 followers
June 7, 2019
Historic firsts, an interesting concept. I'm glad the description included the qualifier, "to run with numbers" because she was not the first woman to run the Boston marathon. Kudos to the author for including Bobbi Gibbs' feat a year earlier in the back matter. Gibb also ran in 1967 and her time was faster than Switzer's. Other women ran unofficially as well. Gibb ran the following year too. She was named the women's winner for those three years when the Boston Athletic Association finally acknowledged her accomplishment. While both women proved that female marathoning was possible, neither runner was the first woman to run a marathon. In 1896, Melpomene ran alongside men in the first modern Olympic Games. They denied her entry into the stadium for the final mile, so she ran around the entire stadium.

I enjoyed this book and will be adding it to my unit.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ward.
Author 3 books80 followers
June 6, 2019
I'll admit it. I will never utter Kathrine Switzer's simple words: "I like to run." But I do like this book!
It's an amazing story of perserverance, passion and breaking down barriers.

This fascinating, well-researched, non-fiction picture book tells the tale of the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Kathrine was born a runner, but had to fight for every opportunity to do so at a time when running wasn't "fitting for women".

Along with colorful and emotive illustrations, I also enjoyed the fascinating back matter that includes details about Kathrine's efforts to support and encourage women runners as well as little-known facts about the Boston Marathon.

Run, or maybe just walk (like me), to your local bookstore to check out this book!

Profile Image for Melissa.
283 reviews16 followers
May 14, 2019
" In 1967, women weren't supposed to compete in races like the Boston Marathon. But Katherine Switzer didn't let that stop her."

This picture book biography for children tells the story of Katherine Switzer, the first Woman to run in the Boston Marathon when women were't known for running at all or for allowing people to see them physically sweat. I did not know it was a big deal for a Woman to run a marathon back in the 60's but I have to remind myself it was a different era where women's choices were very limited.

It's a quick read with colorful illustrations which help with the story telling which I enjoyed a lot.

Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,323 reviews62 followers
April 29, 2021
Kim Chaffee’s non-fiction picture book relays the story of Kathrine Switzer’s love of running when women were discouraged from participating in most sports, and her successful run of the Boston Marathan, the first woman to officially compete in that notable event. Illustrations by Ellen Rooney beautifully augment the text with bursts of color all over every page. Libraries serving students in grades 1-5 would benefit from having this biography in their collection. Teachers could use it as a mentor text for a variety of literary elements including plot progression and character development.
976 reviews
May 3, 2019
This picture books is a great way to learn about Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a race number. Kathrine loved running from the time she was a girl and her determination carried her all the way to finish the Boston Marathon, against societal expectations. The illustrations are really well done. I enjoyed the author's note at the end which provided historical context. My daughter and I both enjoyed this book.
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