Run River City Marathon director Adam White loves everything about Peoria’s only road marathon, but the kids’ mini marathon is his baby.
“Hands-down, the youth run is my favorite part,” said White, owner of Running Central in Peoria Heights.
“We’ve got a problem in our society of sedentary behavior in our youth and our adults, and we are seeing increasing percentages of childhood obesity,” he said. “We need activities and events like this that encourage our young people to want to get up and move.”
In its second year, the Run River City Marathon starts at 7 a.m. May 18 and offers 25K, 5K and marathon relay races, plus the youth run for kids up to age 13, which starts at noon.
Running Central offers a training program that has kids log 25 miles beforehand and then run the final 1.2 miles on race day. Kids receive prizes during training, a race shirt and a medal.
“When they run the last 1.2 at the event, they get the same finisher’s medal that the adults get, which is very rewarding,” White said.
About 150 kids signed up last year, and nearly twice that many have signed up so far this year.
“We originally were going to cap the kids’ race at 300 to try to control costs and for predictability purposes, but the Pekin school system alone is bringing over 250 kids, so we raised the cap to 500,” White said.
“Pekin’s Jefferson Primary School started a marathon training club with 24 students last year and has 52 signed up this year,” said second grade teacher Leanne Cusack. Pekin’s Wilson Intermediate School also started a club this year with 140 members.
“Between the run club meetings and P.E. class, we figure students run about two miles each week,” said Wilson sixth grade teacher Jess Mellican.
“Parents and teachers have been really excited about it,” she added. “The kids are generally pretty excited as well. Some less so when they’re in the middle of their run, but I think they’ll enjoy the experience.”
White said most kids are signed up through school or youth groups, but some have signed up as individuals. The $25 registration fee per youth drops to $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.
“It’s never too late to start,” White said. “I’m not standing there at the finish line asking kids to show me their log. If they’re out there running on May 18, I’m going to reward them for it. We just want to see more youth engaging in a healthier lifestyle and being excited about it, because if they’re excited about what they’re doing, it’s going to spill over into a litany of other healthy lifestyle activities. Kindle that fire. Put some fuel on it. And really show them that people recognize when they’re out there moving and doing positive, healthy things.”
Spectators and volunteers are welcome. All races start by the Caterpillar World Headquarters in downtown Peoria. For more information, visit the website www.runrivercity.com.