‘Small but mighty’: Kids Fun Run returns with enthusiastic young runners

“I know these guys are small, but they’re mighty.”

Those were the words of Mill Race Marathon race director Randy Stafford as he prepared to unleash a flood of young runners (along with their parents) across Mill Race Park for the first race of the 2022 Kids Fun Run.

About 1,100 kids pre-registered for the event, which features races for children as young as toddlers and as old as sixth grade. As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, an additional 145 children had signed up and the registration tents were still busy. Kids Fun Run committee member Cheryl Wright said that while not every registered youngster shows up to their race, they were hoping to see a turnout of about 1,000.

More than 700 kids registered for the Kids Fun Run in 2021; 590 finished. All children who cross the finish line receive a medal.

One 4-year-old, Aariz Alom, couldn’t contain his excitement and rushed out before the sound-off for his age group.

When asked if Aariz might run the marathon someday, his father, Polash Alom, said “Too early to say, but yeah, we’ll try to encourage him.”

It was Aariz’ first time at the fun run, and several of his classmates from Bei Bambini also planned to participate.

For local schools, student participation is the name of the game when it comes to the Kids Fun Run. Each elementary school with 10 or more participants is awarded a $250 gift certificate for sports and exercise equipment; preschools receive $75.

Additionally, there are awards for schools with the highest participation rates based on student population. There are three categories of population for elementary schools: large, medium and small. The schools with the highest rate in each category receive $700; schools with the second-highest rates receive $500. The preschool with the highest participation rate receives $200.

For Molly Smith, 3, the race was its own reward — as soon as she was finished, she asked if she could do it again.

Since Molly has said she wants to be a “runner girl” when she grows up, going to her first fun run is a good start to a good habit, said mother Hayley Smith.

For Winona Clampitt, 3, this is also her first year at the fun run. Her parents, Jacob and Suzie, think that with all of her energy and competitive spirit, it might be the first of many races.

The couple expressed appreciation for how the event brings the community together and promotes wellness.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Suzie said of the fun run. “I’m impressed by the crowd.”

“I don’t know why more communities don’t do stuff like this,” said Jacob.

Claudio Cardenas likewise said that the Kids Fun Run brings people together and is a good opportunity to be a part of the community. This is his family’s third year in Columbus. When his son, Matias, first participated in the fun run, he was shy and didn’t speak English. Now he’s learned the language and can talk with the other kids who are racing.

Cardenas has run some in the past and plans to run the half-marathon today. Matias, 7, shown some interest in running as well and would sometimes play with his father’s medals.

The fun run is an opportunity for kids to “share the moment,” said Matias’ mother, Claudia.

Wright likewise said that it’s good for the youngsters to have their moment in the sun.

“They get to be the stars,” she said.

Her 9-year-old son, Lennon, has participated for several years now. He enjoys running and said it helps improve other skills. He plans to run the 5K today and also plays soccer.

“It’s (the fun run) just a great opportunity for kids to get moving and find the love of running,” said Wright.