When the nearly 20,000 parents and children stepped into Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of The University of Texas on Saturday, they made the choice to say fitness matters. That's the main theme of the annual "Marathon Kids" Kickoff Celebration and mile run, held at Myers on Saturday morning. The Kickoff was the start of what will be an incremental climb to a combined 26.2 mile run, the length of a marathon, while setting the foundation to a life of health and happiness for Central Texas children.
"I'm astounded by the turnout ,and I think it is great that families come out here to share this experience with each other," stated new assistant women's track and field coach Len Klepack, who was at his first Marathon Kids event. "I hope that this can be a stepping stone for these families. I want them to build on this experience and carry over the idea of fitness into their every day lives."
The event got under way with quick motivational talks from various Central Texas community and Texas state leaders. At the singing of "America the Beautiful" by Grammy winner Shawn Colvin, four Texas athletes ran a ceremonial lap with the American flag. Two of the athletes are members of the men's track and field team.
"It was certainly an honor to run with the flag in front of all of these people," said decathlete Dustin Bynum, a freshman. "It is great to see that there is interest in track, and it is important for kids to get outside and be active at a young age."
Freshman sprinter De'Shun Bayne agreed. "I feel fortunate that I can be an example for these kids and I hope that they take the message of fitness from this event and spread it to others in the community."
Marathon Kids helps to raise awareness about fitness and puts The University of Texas at the forefront of that movement. UT women's track and field coach Bev Kearney has been in the forefront of the Marathon Kids program, and brought the program's kickoff celebration to the UT campus six years ago.
"The program has continued to grow and we are definitely helping to bring awareness of fitness back into the whole family," stated UT men's track and field head coach Bubba Thornton. "We feel very fortunate to be able to have an impact on these people, and at the same time, we have a chance to educate those in the community about our university. A lot of these kids will take this experience today and dream about what it would be like to be an athlete at The University of Texas."
"These kids showed a ton of enthusiasm," said junior Sheretta Jones, a veteran of three Marathon Kids events, who, with her UT teammates, run lap after lap with the participants. "It's overwhelming when a kid asks for your autograph. I'm just glad that we can be out here and have a chance to give back to those who support us. It's events like these that help kids stay away from the negative influences in society, and help them move towards the positive ones."
The fitness movement continues to grow throughout the United States, and thanks to events like Marathon Kids, the foundation is being laid for a healthy tomorrow in Central Texas.