BY HENRY MILLER
McALLEN — Hearing that there are more than 4,000 runners competing in a marathon probably wouldn’t make you say “wow.”
But when you hear that those 4,000 — or more — runners are school children ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, that’s gotta be a head-turner.
The official kickoff for the fifth annual Let’s Move McAllen Kids Marathon, presented by the McAllen Independent School District, is slated for 8 a.m. Saturday at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Mario Reyna, the health and PE coordinator for McAllen ISD, said the kickoff is more of a commitment run. The annual event, in which school children who register to run collect running miles at school and other functions, was originally part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.
The support from the city of McAllen came in 2015 after the city promoted and was part of the Lets Move-Cities category.
Now runners will collect their miles and finish their final mile on Jan. 19, the day before the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run.
Reyna said that there were already more than 4,000 registered and the final number will depend greatly on whether the weather cooperates Saturday morning. Of those registered, Reyna said about 85 percent are from McAllen ISD, but other school districts and private schools are also getting in on the healthy event.
“Even though most of them have already started logging miles, they can still register here on Saturday,” Reyna said. “We just wanted all the kids to have the most time possible and not stress them out over reaching their goals, so we started early. This event on Saturday is what we like to call the commitment mile.”
Other partners include The Monitor, Telemundo, city of McAllen, H-E-B, Rio Grande Regional Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen.
“It wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for all the support from the business community, the city and so many volunteer groups,” Reyna said. “This is really a community event.”
Reyna said that as the kids run on the track for their mile that they should run just like they do at school and try not to get caught up too much in the hype.
“They get here and they are excited and they just take off sometimes,” he said. “But it’s not a race. My advice is for them to self-regulate and pace themselves. Get here early — we recommend no later than 7:30 a.m. — and wear comfortable attire and a good pair of tennis or running shoes.”
McAllen resident and Mexico Olympian German Medrazo will be the guest speaker. Between Wednesday and Thursday, Reyna said Medrazo had spoken in front of more than 6,500 school children as he toured the district promoting the event. He expects to talk to another 3,500 or more on Friday.
“He has a great story to tell,” Reyna said. “It’s inspirational.”
For more information, visit www.mcallenkidsmarathon.com.