McALLEN — There’s still time to register for the McAllen Kids Marathon Kickoff event, which is slated for Saturday and has already drawn as many as 3,000 participants.

The seventh annual event is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday and will be held virtually on the McAllen ISD Facebook page.

To register, visit www.mcallenkidsmarathon.com. The event is open to all kids in grades pre-kinder through eighth grade, and they do not have to be from McAllen to participate.

According to Mark May, spokesman for McAllen ISD, which is one of several co-sponsors including the city of McAllen, The Monitor, Telemundo 40 and Rio Grande Regional Hospital, the event will not be held at any location but will instead feature video messages from local officials as well as highlights from previous years’ events.

Among the officials speaking will be McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, Mayor Jim Darling and Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.

Participants are also being asked to upload a video or photo of the kids participating in their first mile and are encouraged to tag @mcallenisd, and to use the hashtags #MKM2020 and #LetsMove as well as liking the McAllen ISD Facebook page.

Prizes for some of these posts will be provided by the McAllen Boys & Girls Club and Amerprise Financial, with the winners being contacted for further instructions on how to claim their prize.

As per tradition, the first mile of the marathon will be completed at the kickoff event and the subsequent 24 miles should be completed on participants’ own time between the kickoff and the final mile, which is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16. That event, May said, may be held virtually as well.

McAllen ISD Health & PE Coordinator Mario Reyna said the event is continuing this year in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue what has become an annual effort to encourage healthy living.

“The culture of the McAllen Kids Marathon Kickoff the past six years was too strong for us not to continue the event in a virtual format,” Reyna said in a news release. “In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, the McAllen Kids Marathon committee wanted this event to continue.”

Previous events have drawn as many as 3,500 participants. Reyna confirmed that more than 3,000 have thus far registered for Saturday’s event.

“It was always great to see the kids and their parents gathering on a Saturday morning at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium to begin the first leg of the marathon. For health and safety reasons, we will not be able to gather but we are going to do our best to replicate event in a virtual format,” he added.

Gonzalez said in the release that it was important to continue encouraging wellness among children in the region.

“We want to make sure that children understand, the parents understand, to have a healthy body and healthy mind gives you the best opportunity to reach your full potential,” Gonzalez stated. “We want to create that lifestyle in McAllen.

“One of the things our physical education teachers are doing, they’re emphasizing the importance of physical fitness and also working in some of the miles into the curriculum, so as students are going to school in a remote learning environment, they’ll be capturing some of the miles within the school day. This wellness message will be reinforced throughout the school year.”