I just read three books in a row that all just so happened to have main characters in them to whom running was an important part of who they were. And they were all so great that I just had to share them.
First up: Maybe a Fox, by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. Jules' sister Sylvie's burning wish is to "run faster so that..." but when she disappears, Jules never learns what would complete that sentence. At the same time that Sylvie disappears, a fox is born and she seems to have some connection to Jules' family. After already losing their mother, now Jules and their father are grieving the loss of Sylvie. Will Jules ever learn why Sylvie wanted to run faster? What is the connection between the fox kit and Jules?
Next: Far from Fair, by Elana K. Arnold. Odette Zyskowski runs a mile so fast, the school track coach tries to recruit her for the team. But it's too bad she won't be able to be on the team, because she'll be on a different kind of coach with her family. Her parents have sold their house and replaced it with a set of wheels; they'll be doing "road school" from now on. And on top of leaving the house, friends and school she has known her entire life, she also has to deal with the threat of her parents divorcing and the fact that her beloved grandmother is very ill.
And last but not least: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor. One of Perry's favorite things to do is sprint down the hall and jump into his mom's arms for the swing-around. And with his new cross trainers, he is fast! The only thing unusual about this is that the hall happens to be in Block C of a prison. Perry was born and raised in a minimum security prison and the "rezzes" are like family to him. When an ambitious DA gets wind of Perry's situation, his mom's probation hearing is postponed and Perry is placed in foster care with none other than the ambitious DA himself, who also happens to be the step dad of his best friend in school. A school assignment leads Perry to want to tell the inmates' stories, including his mom's, but her story just doesn't quite add up. What really landed her in prison? Will they be able to continue their lives together on the outside as they both have dreamed?
I highly recommend all three of these books for upper elementary to middle school kids.