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A Search for the First Woman to Run a Marathon in America


$15.99 Paperback ISBN: 978-1-948338-02-8
$2.99 E-Book ISBN: 978-1-948338-04-2
$2.99 Kindle ISBN: 978-1-948338-03-5

About the novel

Based on a real-life legend that a woman “wearing red” slipped into the 1951 Boston Marathon—which would make her the first woman to run a marathon in America—RUNNER IN RED is a period piece set against the backdrop of the 2000 Boston Marathon, the Millennial marathon. Written by Tom Murphy, who co-authored Just Call Me Jock, this fictional mystery novel is also a love story, family drama and uplifting tale of the human spirit that explores the history of women’s running in page-turning fashion. Proceeds from the book support a cure for lung cancer in Murphy’s late wife, Barb (a marathon runner’s) name. In addition, the search for the “mystery runner in red” has inspired an ESSAY COMPETITION to give women a chance to share the joy of running – and tell the positive ways running has contributed to their lives. Scroll down for more on the competition – and a place to enter.

Reviews and Testimonials

Runner in Red
moves faster than a speeding bullet through the streets of Boston,
capturing the essence of an old myth and excitement of a new empowering story of women, passion, courage, and heart.

Kathrine Switzer, first registered woman runner of the Boston Marathon in 1967 and ran it 50 years later, in 2017. Founder, 261 Fearless, which empowers women through running (261fearless. org)

…an entertaining, fast-paced, mystery thriller weaving real-life characters and historically accurate events into a scintillating tale…  This novel is a must read for all fans of running.  

Jack Fultz, winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon and trainer for the Dana Faber charity running programs

Tom Murphy’s Runner in Red is an incredible story with so much local color and facts one could almost believe his book may be more fact than fiction.

Gloria G. Ratti, Vice President Boston Athletic Association

This is a magical story!

Uta Pippig, Three time Boston Marathon women’s champion

Whatever it takes to run a marathon, women have ‘It’ in abundance. The mystery of course is why it took so long to give them an opportunity. Runner in Red is about running, but it’s about so much more—life, relationships, resiliency.

Bob Hodge, third place finisher Boston, 1979, and winner of Beppu Marathon, Japan, 1982

People are going to love this story

Bill Rodgers, four time winner of the Boston and New York City Marathon.


Read more about the story behind Runner in Red


An Introduction to Runner in Red

...It was an on-the-cuff comment by one of Jock’s patients that triggered my long-standing interest in a “what if” that has led to this story that follows. The fellow on the rubdown table asked Jock if he would have chased the “Runner in Red” in 1951, and Jock responded with a throw-away line, “If she woulda been real, I would have protected the rules.” “If she woulda been real,” caught my attention and sent me to the Boston Public Library to research the “Runner in Red.” I learned that the legend was real...


Read an excerpt

...The camera cut to First Avenue and Ellen became visible suddenly, 50 yards behind the women leaders, as they made their way up the boulevard. She was unmistakable in her red top and blonde ponytail, and she was moving fast, eating up large quantities of real estate that separated her from the four in the lead. ...The roar of the million-plus crowd, thickest on the East Side, offered a thunderclap for the first women, which included Ellen now, who continued to inch closer....

About the Author

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Tom Murphy—a life-long runner—taught in Boston schools where he quickly fell in with the road running crowd. With John J. Kelley, the 1957 Boston Marathon winner, Tom wrote Just Call Me Jock in 1982, a history of the Boston Marathon as seen through the eyes of Jock Semple, the colorful race co-director. Tom’s novel, Runner in Red, is a fictional search for the ‘runner wearing red” in 1951 but it is also a love story, moving family drama and life-affirming celebration of the human spirit. In 2006, Tom wrote a book about the aviation heroes on 9/11, called Reclaiming the Sky, which led the president of Fordham University to invite Tom to create an institute, the Human Resiliency Institute, to put healing lessons from the book into programs. The institute’s lead program, (Resiliency) Edge4Vets, teaches vets how to tap their strengths to get jobs. See more at Tom also created a beer, called Barb’s Beer, which works in collaboration with the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and enlists partner restaurants to serve the beer and support GRACE (,) a charity founded by Barb Murphy’s oncologist, Dr. Howard West, one of America’s leading experts working to cure lung cancer. See for details.

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