AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas men's and women's athletic departments will host the 2004 Marathon Kids Kickoff Celebration on Saturday, September 18, at the Mike A. Myers Stadium and Soccer Field on the UT campus. The University will serve as the kickoff host site for the sixth consecutive year. Longhorn women's track and field head coach Beverly Kearney is the UT Athletics coordinator for the event, which is entering its ninth year in existence and teaches the value of physical fitness to Central Texas area youth, kindergartners through fifth graders.
Over 35,000 schoolchildren in the greater Austin area currently are involved in the Marathon Kids program; 20,000 are expected to be in attendance for Saturday's Kickoff mile.
Kearney has been a part of Marathon Kids since its inception, and various Longhorn student-athletes from numerous UT teams will run with the children and their families at the kickoff celebration again this year. Each year, every UT athletic team which is not competing on the day of the Marathon Kids event have student-athletes and coaches at this event to work with the young runners and sign autographs.
On Saturday, participants will run the first mile of their five-month, incremental 26.2 mile run, which is the equivalent of a marathon length. This is a free activity for all families involved. In addition to learning the benefits of physical fitness, the Marathon Kids program is designed to get parents and guardians involved with their children, encouraging their children to achieve the Marathon Kids goals. The Marathon Kids program is open to all youths, regardless of fitness level or physical handicaps.
The incremental running program resonates with Central Texas families, and has gathered national attention as a breakthrough children's fitness program. Families from Austin Independent School District (AISD), and the Eanes, Pflugerville, Round Rock, Del Valle, Lake Travis, Buda, and Kyle ISD's continue to flock to participate in the free program. Last year, nearly 30,000 kindergartners through 5th graders participated and earned Finisher t-shirts and Finisher Medals.
At the KickOff Celebration on September 18, Austin Mayor Will Wynn will proclaim "Marathon KidsTM Day!" and run with selected children in the ceremonial flag lap. Also in the opening, ceremonial flag lap will be: Texas Department of Health Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs; selected Longhorn athletes and coaches; Whole Foods representatives; Paul Carrozza of the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and RunTex; and a representative from the Austin Police Department Fitness Team.
Triple Grammy award winner and "Marathon Kid Mom" Shawn Colvin will sing "America the Beautiful". RoTel & the Hot Tomatoes jazz saxophonist Thad Scott will play "The Star Spangled Banner" as the flag lap children and dignitaries complete the opening run. Todd Whitthorne of Cooper Wellness Clinic and member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Physical Fitness will serve as emcee.
As the children cross the Finish Line, they will be given their EARNED free Marathon KidsTM water bottles. During the six month program, all incentives must be EARNED. The children will soon have their own Marathon KidsTM ID cards ©, provided by Whole Foods Market, a new corporate sponsor of the Marathon Kids program. The children earn incentive rewards as they complete portions of their running and nutritious eating. Subway is a supporting sponsor, concentrating on their new "Choose well." campaign for families with regard to fruits and vegetables. They will be one of the "incentive" destinations for children who are working towards completion of the program.
Volunteers at the event come from UT Athletics, UT's Kinesiology and Health Department students, as well as Central Texas physical education teachers, members of AAPER (Association of Physical Education & Recreation), along with community runners from AustinFit, Danskin Triathlon, Freescale Marathon and other fitness enthusiasts. This year, the UT Department of Kinesiology is launching a long-term study of Marathon KidsTM as a childhood obesity intervention.
Marathon Kids is now sponsored by Whole Foods Market, another homegrown, grassroots initiative. Whole Foods Market is the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods and has 160 stores in the United States and the United Kingdom. Marathon Kids moves on to the Dallas and Houston area this Fall with the support of Whole Foods Market.
For more information, go to MarathonKids.com.