ST. CHARLES – Mary Emma Zimmermann enjoyed a comfortable pace throughout Saturday's CASA Kane County Fox Valley Kids Marathon in downtown St. Charles.
Running alongside her 12-year-old sister, Olivia, 10-year-old Mary Emma logged the final 1.2 miles of her 26.2 miles, summerlong marathon program without feeling the need to overdo it.
"We did kind of more like a jogging, slower run," Mary Emma said. "And then a couple times we took a little walking break, and then got back to the running."
Whatever their pace, children ages 5 to 13 drew big cheers as they came tromping toward the finish line.
The idea is to encourage exercise and healthy habits. The competitive stuff can wait until later.
"They're not in any sports," said the girls' mother, Julie Zimmermann, of St. Charles. "They're more into music and theatre and stuff so they're not really doing regular practices, so it was an opportunity for them to be motivated to get moving a little bit. I would say that was a big part of me wanting them to do it."
The Kids Marathon is part of the third annual Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon, which takes place at 7 a.m. Sunday. The Kids Marathon previously took place on marathon day, but that proved too hectic for families that had multiple runners to support, so it was moved to 5 p.m. Saturday this year. The event had about 275 registrants.
"It was tucked in last year and kind of got lost in the shuffle," said Craig Bixler, co-race director of the Fox Valley Marathon. "It had its own spotlight this year, and it's an event that's worth its own spotlight."
Saturday's race included many of the trappings of the adult marathon – blaring music, a race announcer, medals and plenty of available water.
Kids Marathon race director Anne Russe organized the program, which included regular "Fun Runs" at Wredling Middle School to help the kids build their mileage. Participants also had the option to walk or run elsewhere during the 16-week program.
"We actually logged in some of their miles on vacation," Julie Zimmernamm said. "We were in Acadia National Park in Maine this summer so they did a lot of their miles just hiking and stuff like that. So it was fun, and it was just an added thing to say 'You know, you can put this on your running log for your marathon.'"
Michelle O'Shea came from Plainfield with 9-year-old daughter Claire and 7-year-old son Owen. Her children hit their mileage goals in eclectic fashion.
"It was through hiking, it was through walking around our block, it was through mini-runs that they did with dad," O'Shea said. "It was tallied up in lots of ways."
While children today are known to love video games and computer time, Owen said he prefers days like Saturday.
"I don't really like just to stay indoors," Owen said. "I just like to go outside and run and have fun."