In the fifth year of the steadily growing Arbuckles 2 Ardmore Race for Mercy Marathon, a new wrinkle has been added, aiming to involve more young people.

 

The marathon, half marathon and 5K begin on Sunday, but kids have been racking up miles for several weeks leading up to the final stretch of the Kids Mara­thon.

 

Designed for ages kindergarten through sixth grade, participants will have run, walked or rolled in a wheelchair for 25 miles prior to Sunday’s race. Teachers, coaches and parents have assisted with documenting the mileage, done at the child’s own pace.

 

At 1 p.m. Sunday, the last 1.2 miles will be completed.

 

“We have been wanting to do this for a number of years,” race director Allison Smalley said. “We are trying to help kids become more active and to realize how much fun it is to get out and walk, run and get exercise. Just to be healthier, like all of us need to be.” Several other marathons around the country hold similar events.

 

“It’s done at the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon, and they have had a lot of success with theirs,” Smalley said. “They take a lot of money and a lot of vol­unteers to corral kids. We’re really excited that XTO Energy is helping us on this. Their employees are the volunteers that will be handling the kids mara­thon exclusively.” In the first year of the mara­thon, the number of entrants hasn’t been as large as Smalley would like but she expects it to grow as word spreads after the initial race.

 

“We haven’t had as big a re­sponse as we had hoped,” Smalley said. “With kids, it’s tough to get something new out there. We have around 100 registered. I think, once the kids see all of the neat take-home things that XTO has for them — they have a cool shirt and a great medal — they’ll have a lot of fun that day and I think next year it will be a whole different story. I think a lot of kids will be anxious to take part after they hear about it.” Plainview and Marietta High Schools have tradition-rich cross country programs, and the A2A organizers hope the kids marathon inspires other schools to add distance running programs in the future.

 

A manual was distributed to entrants covering safety guidelines, warmup suggestions and cooldown techniques along with healthy eating and rest tips to have runners in prime shape for the marathon.

 

Entries for the adult races have held steady compared to last year when runners from 30 states competed.

 

Smalley hopes local runners that might not be comfortable with a half or full marathon distance will enter the 5K. With an 8 a.m. start, church and other Sunday activities won't be affected by the shorter portion of the A2A.

 

"We're hoping that runners will get out this last week and register," Smalley said. "We're encouraging our local people to come out to the 5K. They have time to run or walk the 5K and wear their shirts, and get to church on time to show that they supported and participated in this fun community event." Visit www.a2amarathon.com for more information and to register for one of Sunday's races.