The Wildest Race Ever by Meghan McCarthy Book Review

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Meghan McCarthy
Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books
Release Date: March 1, 2016

It was 1904 and St. Louis was hosting the World's Fair and America's First Olympics. People traveled from all over the country and the world to watch and participate. One of the strangest things to happen at that years Olympics was the marathon. Forty-two racers registered, thirty-two showed up, and most managed to make it to the finish line one way or another. Unpleasantly warm weather conditions contributed to heat exhaustion in the runners since there weren't enough food and water stations. Cars drove by on the dirt road kicking up dirt and dust that made it hard to see or breathe. One runner from Cuba, showed up in street clothes and seemed more interested in chatting with people along the way than he did with running. One runner was run off the road by stray dogs. Another jumped in a car and drove some of the way before crossing the finish line looking rather refreshed. (He was later disqualified for cheating) And lets not forget the craziest bit, the notion that strychnine would give you strength and so the runners were being given doses of the poison...and still managed to finish the race.

This race was like a series of unfortunate events. It's a wonder anyone managed to finish at all. Make no mistake, most of these people weren't amateurs either. They had qualified to be in the Olympics. The race was simply ill-prepared. The road wasn't closed off to traffic, there weren't enough water stations, and some bad sports medicine added to this bizarre story. It's a wonder any of them managed to finish in such conditions. The cartoony illustrations worked will with this book, capturing the manic bizarre nature of this 1904 race. A lot of great information in the backmatter and will certainly spark the imagination of young Olympic hopefuls.