Marathon Kids: The start of a journey and a healthy, active lifestyle
Oct. 4, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas -- The celebrities and Austin-area dignitaries were out in full force on Saturday morning at Mike A. Myers Stadium on The University of Texas campus. Lance Armstrong, Mayor Will Wynn, City of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, RunTex owner Paul Carozza and renowned UT women's track and field head coach Bev Kearney each took a turn at the microphone to begin the festivities.
Then the real VIPs made their way to the track.
Thousands of Central Texas area children ran and walked two laps around the track at Myers Stadium during the 12th annual Marathon Kids Kick Off Celebration. Students in kindergarten through fifth-grade, accompanied by their parents, teachers and school's physical education instructors, ceremonially began the program's mission of running or walking 26.2 miles (the length of a marathon) in increments of a quarter-mile to a half-mile at a time over a six-month period.
Mayor Wynn declared the day "Marathon Kids Day." Armstrong emphasized the importance of the Marathon Kids program in the Austin community as a wonderful introduction to a healthy and active lifestyle. Then the seven-time Tour de France champion assumed his role as an average dad and escorted his twin daughters and Marathon Kids participants, Grace and Isabelle, around the track.
"Part of the mission of Marathon Kids is to get Central Texas children onto a college campus," Marathon Kids founder Kay Morris told the crowd. "We hope to ignite their imagination about someday going to college. We are about higher education for our children. The person who opened the doors for us to have this great event at The University of Texas is Bev Kearney."
Kearney, who has been involved with the Marathon Kids program since its inception, had a simple message for those in attendance.
"On behalf of all the coaches, student-athletes and staff at The University of Texas, welcome to our campus," Kearney said. "Get out here on this track, stay safe and have fun."
In addition to Kearney's presence, hundreds of UT Athletics staff, coaches and student-athletes lined the track to encourage the runners. Longhorn teams who appeared included women's basketball, men's golf, rowing, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's track and field. This marked the ninth year that UT Athletics played host to the kick off event.
The target market for the program is children who are most vulnerable to sedentary lives and type 2 diabetes. In addition to the fitness portion of the program, Marathon Kids also challenges the participating children to eat five fruits and vegetables a day for 26.2 days of every month.
Marathon Kids is a 12-year-old non-profit organization that began as an Austin grassroots initiative. It is now in Austin, Dallas, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Chicago. There are an estimated 150,000-plus children now participating in the Marathon Kids program, and there are over 300 towns in cities along with 14 foreign countries on the program's waiting list.
For more information about Marathon Kids, please visit MarathonKids.org.