Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – 9/19/2010

FAIRBANKS — While some 800 runners were only at the outset of a 26.2-mile slog Saturday morning, 60 young kids were finishing a marathon. The Equinox Kids Marathon is a program in which youths run 25 miles during the course of six weeks, culminating with a 1.2-mile loop on marathon day.

The event, in its eighth year, included 67 students mostly in grades kindergarten through sixth. The un-timed run is designed to attract kids to running, include them in the Equinox festivities and promote healthy lifestyles.

“The idea is they run a mile a day, five days a week, and to get them to realize it doens’t take much. It takes 15 to 20 minutes,” said race director Tracey Martinson, who was running the full marathon during the kids’ race.

“You guys did everything else to get here. Now you get to go charge up the ski hill like everybody else.”

Runners earn miniature plastic feet, attached to a keychain, for every five miles they run. They added a big foot to their metal keychains on race day.

At the finish, kids picked up T-shirts and gift bags with water bottles, coloring books and crayons.

While the race is not timed, that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive.

“Some of the kids are definitely duking it out, trying to get to the finish line,” Martinson said.

Mirabel Burleson, 7, always finishes in the top five, she said before the run.

Like many of the youths, she runs in the school running club that has held meets at Birch Hill, Salcha and other locations.

“I don’t really care about what place I get. I just like to run,” she said.

This was the second marathon for Sierra Lesniak, 6, who did some training runs with her next-door neighbor.

“I like it because it keeps me healthy,” Lesniak said.

Freddy, 9, and his brother Elijah Crabb, 7, walked the course ahead of time Friday to survey the hill climb.

Jason Riggs, 12, is a veteran who was running his sixth kids’ marathon.

“I’m a soccer player, so I run a lot,” he said.

If the program succeeds in nurturing young runners, some of these kids will one day be racing up the same hill but on a much longer course.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – Equinox Marathon s kids race attracts dozens of youths