170 of Roanoke’s Youngest Athletes Complete Marathon in Long Form

Young marathon participants warm-up before the race.

Young marathon participants warm-up before the race.

by Laura Neff Henderson

One hundred and seventy of Roanoke’s youngest marathoners completed the final mile of the Second Annual YMCA Kids Marathon on Sat., April 16, in conjunction with the National College Blue Ridge Marathon.

The children completed 25.2 miles on their own prior to April 16, finishing the last mile together on race day. The group was scheduled to begin their last mile at the Kirk Family YMCA, threading through the streets of downtown Roanoke, and finishing at the Blue Ridge Marathon Finish line behind the Taubman Museum. The severe weather; however, forced organizers to take the race indoors to the Kirk Avenue YMCA. Younger children used the first floor gymnasium, while older children used the upper level track.

“The rain made it pretty soggy outside, but it didn’t dampen our spirits,” said Bratic. “Parents and volunteers lined both the Y gym and the upstairs track to provide ample cheering for our young runners.”

All participants received a race shirt, race number bib, finisher’s medal and goodie bag.

Perhaps due to the predicted severe thunderstorms and possibility of tornados, about 50 of the 220 registered children did not show up on race day to complete the final mile.

The non-timed, non-competitive event was sponsored by Chick-Fil-A. Registration, which began in January, was open to local students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students from nearly every local elementary school participated in the event with large groups coming from Troutville and Bonsack elementary schools and Trinity Lutheran Church, according to YMCA of the Roanoke Valley Communications Director Kim Bratic.

“The YMCA Kids Marathon is designed to challenge, motivate and inspire future runners.  It’s a great way to encourage kids to develop a healthy lifestyle when it is most important,” said YMCA of Roanoke Valley’s Executive Director Cal Johnson.

Following the marathon, the Kirk Family YMCA hosted the Y’s Healthy Kids Day from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. The free event was open to the community and included an inflatable obstacle course, games, swimming and giveaways. Despite the nasty weather, about 650 parents and children participated – an increase of about 100 over last year’s attendance.