A record number of children turned out Friday evening to participate in the annual Kids Fun Run in Mill Race Park, which has grown in popularity since it started four years ago as part of the Mill Race Marathon weekend.

Columbus resident Benjamin Church was among those in attendance as he watched his 8-year-old son Isiah compete within the first- and second-grade division. Church said the Fun Run was his son’s third time participating.

Isiah was one of the 1,286 children registered, an increase of 10 from last year.

“It’s good for the community; it’s just something to do and see everybody and let them participate,” Church said.

Isiah said what he enjoys most about the event is trying to win $500, adding that he also enjoys trying to be more active.

Children were divided into five categories: tots, prekindergarten and kindergarten, first and second grade, third and fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grades.

A late registration surge helped the event surpass last year’s record registration mark. Kim Bennett, registration coordinator, said 986 children pre-registered. However, an additional 300 signed up on the day of the event.

“We were really excited coming into this year’s event, and participation has grown steadily year after year, which has been really exciting,” Bennett said.

Early registration was higher than previous years, Bennett said, who added that the event compares itself to other similar runs across the country. Last year, 1,053 children crossed the finish line in the Fun Run, Bennett added.

The Kids Fun Run has become popular for active-minded children and families, she added.

“I think year after year people are getting more aware of physical fitness and I think the schools do a great job of getting the word out. And I think families are seeing that this is something they can do together and that children can come out on Friday night, the parents can run on Saturday. And we’re so fortunate to have this kind of event in our community and it’s a good draw from local areas as well,” Bennett said.

She also thanked people for making the Kids Fun Run a continued success.

“It’s fun to see them go from a tot to the first, second, third grade and just really getting energized about running and physical fitness. I think that’s really important,” Bennett said.

Columbus resident Kyle Vanzant, whose 3-year-old son Brooks ran in the Kids Fun Run, said he hopes that his two sons who participated take away something positive from the event.

“It’s a good experience for them to understand the activity, it’s fun, activity is exciting and it’s a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “I don’t expect these kids to run for exercise, but it’s good to know that there’s a community out there that likes to be healthy.”

Track the participants

Family and friends of runners can sign up for text messages to track their progress in today’s Mill Race Marathon events.

Visit millracemarathon.com and click on “Athlete Tracker,” then fill out the information requested.

The feature will provide text messages when a runner or walker crosses certain points on the track.

Today's schedule of events

Mill Race Marathon and Half Marathon: 7:30 a.m. today, start and finish on Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.

5K Run/Walk: 8 a.m. today, start and finish on Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Finish on Fourth After Party: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Fourth and Washington Streets near The Commons.

Information: Visit millracemarathon.com

Follow the coverage

Follow marathon progress Saturday at therepublic.com and find coverage in Sunday’s print edition of The Republic.

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Updated runner count

Runners can register for today’s Mill Race Marathon events from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. at The Commons. Registration fees are $35 (5K), $80 (half marathon) and $95 (full marathon). As of 6 p.m. Friday, 5,195 runners were registered for marathon events.

Today's weather forecast

Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-60s when Mill Race Marathon events begin this morning, with the marathon and half marathon starting at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 5K at 8 a.m.

AccuWeather forecasts that temperatures in Columbus will climb to 69 degrees by 9 a.m., then reach 74 by 10 a.m., 79 by 11 a.m. and move into the low 80s during the early afternoon before reaching a high of 87 by 3 p.m.

Conditions are expected to be mostly sunny through the daytime hours.